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Shusaku Endo has had a long career in literary works. He has written some very compelling novels that dive deep down into the journey of spiritual learning. He has fixated most of his writings on two main crossing issues such as eastern and western cultures specifically between Japanese culture and Christianity. His novels have sited a wide range of issues of cultural and spiritual identity, alienation, and personal pledge to faith. The story he wrote "Deep River" is a fascinating journey of revelation for the characters involved, especially the relationship between Mitsuko has with Otsu.
Otsu and Mitsuko first meet in college, Otsu is an awkward religious student and Mitsuko is a woman who has no real passion for life. She decides she wants to steal Otsu away from the god he believes in. She invites Otsu to a party to ask him about his beliefs, to my surprise he comes clean saying he is unsure of what he believes in. Mitsuko forces Otsu to drink and won't stop forcing him until he forsakes god, but he drinks till he throws up, never giving up on god. No it sounds like these two would never see each other again after something like that. To your dismay Mitsuko can't leave Otsu be, she says he must falsify his belief in god. She then gives him the opportunity to be her boyfriend if he gives up his faith. I honestly can't believe anyone would force that upon someone. To my dismay they end up having sex and dating for several months until she breaks his heart. Otsu now depressed, leaves and doesn't return, although they do of course, meet again. Mitsuko has a problem because she feels no passion in life; she goes through her life and this story with a horrible feeling of emptiness in herself
On Mitsuko's Honeymoon instead of spending time with her new husband she hears Otsu is in France and searches him out. They meet up and come up with a new word for god "onion" because to Mitsuko the term god means nothing. Otsu is on the complete opposite page, saying god is everything everywhere. The French actually say he is a heretic for his beliefs that other religions are also true and that god uses both sin and suffering for the greater good. Otsu is opposed by his teachers because of this statement he gives "evil lurks within good, and good thingsâ€¦good things can lie within evil as well" (65). I believe what Endo is trying to express be that god has the power to convert every sin into some kind of good. Later in the story another quote comes up, "god has many faces. I don't think god exists exclusively in the churches and chapels of Europe. I think he is also among the Jews and the Buddhists and the Hindus" (121). Otsu wants to live a life of selfless sacrifice for all people, which at the time Mitsuko finds to be a waste of time. I believe the reason she seeks out Otsu so many times in the story even though she doesn't really know what it she is searching for she is searching for god which in the end brings love. Otsu signifies a belief in unity of all. He believes in combining all faiths and caring for all mankind, generating an enormous social assembly of love.
Even with being called a heretic, Otsu never revokes his beliefs and maintains a strong faith and trust in Jesus. While talking to Mitsuko he decides to tell her he has dedicated his existence to chasing only one thing: "the love of that onion", "Love is all the onion has imparted to us. The thing we are most lacking in our modern world is love; love is the thing no one believes in anymore; love is what everyone mockingly laughs at, and that is why someone like me wants to follow my onion with dumb sincerity" (119). Otsu follows his beliefs to India at the river Ganges. This is a place that is very sacred to the Hindus, they travel here when they are dying with the hope to have their bodies cremated and their ashes spread into the holy river. Otsu goes here to sacrifice himself so he can help these people make the dying journey. He literally carries the people to the river who can barely walk.
Sacrifice is the focus of Otsu's faith. Jesus is the number one symbol of sacrifice. He gave up his life for mankind's sins. Jesus symbolically lugs all of the anguishes of mankind on his shoulders when he is made to carry his own cross to death. Otsu imitates the carrying of suffering by plainly transporting the deceased and dying on his back to the River Ganges. Otsu sees more than just the task he is doing, he feels something pure and necessary in putting the suffering of others on his shoulders, by sacrificing himself. Mitsuko sees what Otsu is doing as a waste of his own life, because he is getting nothing out of it in her eyes. Otsu knows he will not change the world or cure suffering, he is doing this act of sacrifice for the good of the people, if there is a benefit that comes from it then Otsu knows the act will not be the true good act of sacrifice.
By the end of the story you start to get the feeling that Mitsuko finally understands the belief of sacrifice and love for others. She decides to bathe in the holy river joining the Hindus with her own prayer, which she still believes is a lie, she still has that emptiness until she sees the ultimate sacrifice.
Sacrifice is to give and receive nothing in return except for happiness in you. To love is to sacrifice; Otsu makes sacrifices for people trying to turn their sorrow into love. The end of the story brings the biggest sacrifice, when Otsu becomes mortally wounded, while saving Sanjo, who is a person who most wouldn't sacrifice for because of his cultural insensitiveness. But because Otsu and his beliefs he saves the man and in the end giving his life. This act makes his sacrifice even greater, he is not sacrificing for a loved one or a family member but for a stranger who does not know or appreciate what Otsu does for him. Otsu has Christ-like, selfless love that rises above all cultural, racial, and religious prejudices to embrace all of humanity, just like the river Ganges, which he saw as a deep and flowing river of love " accepting all, rejecting neither the ugliest of men nor the filthiest" (185). This is when we finally understand what lies at the heart of Christianity; Love and sacrifice for others. Otsu's sacrifice is one of pure love for mankind, deaf, blind and dumb to how pointless it may be.