In the Box by Taeko Kōno
In the short story In the Box by Taeko Kōno we have the theme of revenge, control, struggle, anger, gratitude and connection. Narrated in the first person by an unnamed narrator (male) the reader realizes after reading the story that Kōno may be exploring the theme of revenge. The narrator is angry that the woman in the lift did not thank him when she requested a floor. This not only made the narrator angry but it also annoyed him. So much so that he presses every button between the third and ninth floor. This may seem to be petty to some readers but the setting of the story, a confined space, suggests that people’s emotions may be heightened and as such will react as they might not otherwise act. Which may be the point that Kōno is attempting to make. She may be suggesting that when confined or in a position of very little control. A person might act differently to how they normally would.
The theme of struggle is also evident in the story. The woman in the lift is physically struggling with the package she has while the narrator is struggling emotionally when it comes to the woman’s attitude. Both have something in common but neither realize it. If anything the narrator is trying to control his environment by taking the lead when it comes to the woman and himself being in the lift. He knows the woman is struggling but he also does the same thing with other people who use the lift. He asks them what floor they want.
The fact that the narrator does not press the close door button is symbolically important. It allows for the incident with the woman to occupy his mind. He literally has not closed his mind to the woman and his perception that she is ungrateful. The lack of physical description of either character could suggest that the incident in the lift is black and white. There is no room for any other interpretation in the narrator’s mind. He believes he is right. He uses the times he has pressed the close door button to upset the woman. Who may or may not have more on her mind. Apart from saying what floor she would like the woman says very little else. If anything the narrator has over-reacted to the circumstances he finds himself in.
The end of the story is interesting as the narrator, who appears to be swayed by the woman leaning back in the lift, has a change of opinion. He is now thinking of the woman as though there is the possibility of a romance. This may be important as Kōno may be suggesting that the narrator, or men in general, only think about their own needs. Firstly the narrator thought only of how he felt when the woman did not thank him. Forgetting she was struggling with the package and secondly he now thinks he has the opportunity to be romantically involved with the woman. If anything the narrator’s attempt to make a connection with the woman shows him as being arrogant and overly confident about himself.