Sunday, September 12, 2010

Comparison of After the Quake and Hotel World

(This was written for an English class.)

The books After the Quake and Hotel World each consist of disjointed segments based around an underlying setting. After the Quake is a collection of short stories taking place after the Kobe earthquake, while Hotel World has the semblance of a plot that is played out through separate chapters each focusing on the story of a specific character related to the Global Hotel. Both books use a setting that exists separate from the main plot of the story, and yet that affects the characters’ psyches to drive the plot forward.

After the Quake uses the Kobe earthquake to create a setting based on a point in time rather than as a physical location. The earthquake is an event of great devastation that emotionally affects the book’s characters and sets the stage for change, such as with Satsuki in the story Thailand, who is led to undergo a spiritual reassessment of her as an indirect result of the quake. In contrast, the Global Hotel of Hotel World is a physical location that connects the book’s characters by their proximity to it. The hotel and its institution is a constant force that exists from the beginning to end of the story. Even though Else doesn’t have much involvement in the hotel itself, she staked out a claim on the grounds to use to beg, and ultimately is invited inside by Lise. The characters’ stories don’t progress because of the hotel itself, but they do so beside the presence of it.

The Global Hotel of Hotel World is a constant entity that functions as a façade of a beautiful sterile environment presented for the comfort of the wealthy. Lise’s introspection reveals a grittier truth where the hotel staff show contempt for their customers and dirty their food without even regard for individual personality. Lise and other members of the staff are nice, but are looser than the hotel management would prefer, which Lise regards as a sort of classist oppression she fights against by using the hotel to help out the homeless woman Else. After the Quake is a lot more abstract in regards to its setting, but keeps each story as about a person who is shaken up by the quake and undergoes serious introspection. In a similarity with Hotel World, the After the Quake short story Super-Frog Saves Tokyo looks past the literal interpretation of an earthquake and offers a fantastical interpretation as part of a question about the nature of reality. Katagiri has a vision of being visited by a giant frog named Frog, who tells him that the giant worm named Worm was angered by the Kobe earthquake and wants to create his own to devastate Tokyo. This can be interpreted as part of Katagiri’s psyche trying to come to terms with the Kobe earthquake by imagining an earthquake as the product of a monster, a physical entity that he can help defeat. The ensuing battle occurs in his imagination, and the story ends with the question if what occurs in the imagination isn’t just as real as in the physical realm.

In conclusion, the books After the Quake and Hotel World both feature stagnant underlying settings, each with a nature that may not be all as it first appears. Perhaps the most blatant difference between the two is that After the Quake focuses on entirely separate individuals, while Hotel World has character connections that go beyond a simple relation to the hotel. Regardless, the earthquake and the hotel are both settings that offer a chance for characters to look at themselves and reveal insightful introspection.

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