Factory Town by Minoru Betsuyaku
In Factory Town by Minoru Betsuyaku we have the theme of the environment, competition, innocence, capitalism, consumerism and progress. Narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator the reader realizes after reading the story that Betsuyaku may be exploring the theme of the environment. At first the townspeople are open and even excited by the idea that a new factory has opened in the town. They believe that the factory is going to produce something that is amazing and will be of benefit to those who live in town. There is also a sense of scepticism from some of the tradesmen who live in the town. They are afraid that there will be competition to their livelihoods. This may be important as it suggests that the tradesmen are thinking about their own wallet rather than anything else. Perhaps too the tradesmen and townspeople are innocent. They do not see anything wrong with a new factory and the pollution it is pumping out. If anything they look at the new factory as being something that is progressive.
Which may be the point that Betsuyaku is making. He may be suggesting that humanity looks at things like progress with rose-tinted glasses. Man may assume something is good but in reality and like the factory this is not necessarily the case. The two chimney pots of the factory may also have some symbolic relevance. The first chimney pot allows for the reader, just like the townspeople, to assume something positive is happening. However when the second chimney pot is installed and the soot and grey clouds come it is clear that all is not well in the town. If anything the townspeople have let their own innocence when it comes to world affairs and progress turn against them. They have not realized that the factories main goal is to make a profit from the cough drops that it is selling. The two chimney pots do nothing but cause problems and potential illness for the townspeople.
There may be further symbolism in the story which might be important. From going to imagining great things for the factory the townspeople have yet to realize that they are being hoodwinked. Though the mayor, a person of authority, is called upon to find out what the factory is producing, the mayor is not really in authority. All power rests with the father and his two sons who work in the factory. They have a cure for the coughs and illnesses they have created. They are both the problem and solution to what is happening in the town. The smoke is causing the townspeople to cough and the cough tablets are the solution. The townspeople have become victims of the success of the factory.
The factory itself can be seen to represent a solution to the problems it is causing. Which is not really productive. Without the factory there would be no need for the cough tablets. The townspeople have ended up becoming consumers for a problem the factory and the father and his two sons is causing. All in the name of supposed progress. The only ones making any progress is the father and his two sons who are making a product that there is no need for. Which may be the point that Betsuyaku is making. He may be suggesting that not all industry, if any, is good for people. After all the townspeople were happy when there was no factory. They lived their lives relying on the land and sea for products. Now they have a real problem in their town.