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Title: Shōgun
Author: James Clavell
Publication Date: 1975
Genre: Historical Fictionexternal image shogun.jpg
Total Pages: 1152
Date Checked Out:14/03/11


Why did I choose this book?
I chose this book because I really love books set in medieval Japan. The cultural difference between here and there are just so wide-spread, and I always find that the way they think and see things is so striking, that all books around Japan are like a roller-coaster ride for me! Already as a kid I was fascinated by the stories of Japan and also their really delicate paintings.
Not to forget, Ashlee got me stuck on Japanese anime lately, so that is another reason why I am reading something with Japanese customs. Also, the fact that Ms. Flynn recommended it to me as well as Ms. Déu made me decide to take this book.


Plan for Reading
I will read this book at home in my bed, trying very hard not to freeze. Most likely this book will be read by me mostly at night or in the early morning and about an hour a day (minimum).


Characterization of John Blackthorne

-- Pilot-Major of the Erasmus--


Loyal - “To do what you are told. To eat dung if need be. “Tell him to go to hell. Tell him I piss on him…” (Blackthorne is refusing to betray his crew) “Instantly two samurai went down into the pit and brought out Croocq, the boy. They dragged him to the cauldron, trussed him while other brought firewood and water. They put the terrified boy into the brimming cauldron and ignited the wood.” Pg. 107 Thus Blackthorne relents.
--> No matter how much the samurai beat Blackthorne or threatened him with his life, he did not give in. There was no way he would live in luxury while his men starved in a pit. Thus he insulted the samurai greatly. It was not until they pulled out the little boy that Blackthorne gave in, again showing his love and loyalty. I think this scene clearly proves that no matter what, Blackthorne will only give in if other’s lives are in danger, not his own.

Shrewd and Cognizant – “Keep calm and get your brain working he told himself…” “Blackthorne was concentrating on the priest as he spoke to the daimyo, seeking a clue, a way through this reef… How can you use the evil b? How do you talk direct to him? How’re you going to work the priest? How discredit him? What’s the bait? Come on think!” pg. 53 “Blackthorne knew this was another trial. With what of all limitless possibilities should he start with? Whom should he talk to?” pg. 256
--> Blackthorne is smart enough to actually prolong the interrogation until he actually knows how to manipulate the priest and the daimyo to his advantage. This takes a lot of observational skills and of course shrewdness. If it had not been for his quick thinking, he and his crew would be dead. At the very best he figured that the Lord did not like the priest along with Jesuits and smashed the cross.
The other example is also an interrogation by another Daimyo, here Blackthorne again has to figure out which way he should tread and how.

Violent -- with a reputation -- “Blackthorne was leaning against a corner, staring up at the trapdoor. The crew had left him alone and stayed clear of him uneasily, as best they could, recognizing from long experience his mood, and the brooding, explosive violence that always lurked just below the quiet exterior.” pg. 59
--> His men avoid him the best they can, not wishing to unleash that anger which burns under the surface. This gives us a hint to the dangerous side of this man. We can guess that it will also gain him some respect with the brutal samurai.

Brooding - Sits alone in the corner thinking to himself, both in the trapdoor (same quote as above) “Blackthorne was leaning against a corner, staring up at the trapdoor. The crew had left him alone and stayed clear of him uneasily, as best they could, recognizing from long experience his mood, and the brooding, explosive violence that always lurked just below the quiet exterior.” pg. 59 and also once when he is in another prison.
--> Linked to his violent side, Blackthorne is often caught in the book, just cooking with anger, practically smothering the air around him. I believe that while many people may be violent, his is very scary in a way because it is hidden by this calm mask. It’s not until he starts brooding that the violence and danger of Blackthorne come forth. This also makes him an Archetype.

Strong Willed -- almost leaning towards stubborn; tough in character -- “He could see Blackthorne’s eyes and he felt the hatred. It will take much to break that man’s spirit, he thought.” pg. 64; “You will not be afraid,” he said aloud (to himself) and got out.” pg. 186
--> Even the Daimyo says so himself, it will take much to break Blackthorne’s spirit. No, does not exist in Blackthorne’s vocabulary. Not to forget, with his strong will, Blackthorne will most often keep a poker face, and play out the bad guys. This drive to make things happen his way, often keep his crew in order.

Curious - Easily frustrated by the language barrier thus quickly learn Japanese. “Oh, how do you say ‘thank you’, Father? ‘Domo,’ or sometime even ‘arigato’.” Pg. 224 “Blackthorne’s spirit had been revived, his curiosity agog with what the priest had said. What guns? What gold? What trade? What Black ship? A million? What invasion?” pg. 224
--> Blackthorne is one of the few people in the 1600s who actually learn Japanese perfectly and that is only through his relentless curiosity. Without the language he cannot understand Japan, but he wants to. Thus he ask questions, non-stop.


Knowledgeable** --thus has a thirst for knowledge--(dates, facts, and piloting) “Pope Alexander VI set the first line of demarcation in 1493. Blackthorne commenced, blessing Alban Caradoc who had hammered so many facts into him when he was young…” pg. 262 (He continues talking about all facts, dates, times, and names.
-->This acquired knowledge though the ages, linked to his curiosity, often saves Blackthorne’s hide. Where it not for his pool of knowledge, Toranaga (Lord of the Eight Provinces) would have killed him by now. Facts are stated from him like a history textbook.


Summary of John Blackthorne
John Blackthorne is a man not to be underestimated. Stranded in the fast moving Japanese Islands, he soon becomes entangled in political games. Were it not for his shrewdness and curiosity, Blackthorne would be dead. As a character, Blackthorne is perceived as violent with a calm outside mask, yet a brooding inside. Even his crew, to whom Blackthorne is most loyal, avoid his anger at all costs. Although I am not far enough in the book yet, I believe this violence will be the undoing of a few Daimyo in Japan. This mix of rage, along with a calculating mind, is a weapon of survival but also of devastation.
Behind all of this hard interior, is yet a small loving bit. Especially seen in his feelings for his men. Although he is going through many hardships and beatings, he does not betray them, nor does he wish for any of them to get killed.
And, as if that where not enough, Blackthorne also is very strong willed, and can go head to head with any Lord, no matter how much more power they have. What I believe the Daimyo of Japan will do, is miscalculate Blackthorne. They saw him as a barbarian, yet he had more knowledge about the outside world then they do. His curiosity drives him to learn Spanish, Portugese, and then even Japanese. Blackthorne questions the world around him. To be honest, he is an enemy to be reckoned with.
The only weakness I can see within Blackthorne’s hard exterior and character, is his love for beauty and women. Like so many famous characters, it is in a way his tragic flaw, and could be his downfall.