Yōko Ogawa’s Subversion of the “Normal Life” in The Housekeeper and the Professor

  • Ella Cuskelly University of Victoria


In The Housekeeper and the Professor (2009), Yōko Ogawa explores domesticity and the everyday for an unconventional family. The everyday that Ogawa creates, however, is an intentional subversion of Japanese cultural expectations of a “normal life.” These “normal life” ideals are supposed to be the only path to happiness; however, Ogawa’s novel shows that there is more than one way to achieve fulfilment, despite the social pressure exerted through these ideals. In my analysis of Ogawa’s novel, I engage with Ofra Goldstein-Gidoni’s work on the Japanese “normal life.” I argue that Ogawa breaks cultural expectations and subverts traditionally gendered associations of domestic duty. These subversions demonstrate that the culturally expected and patriarchally motivated “normal life” is not the only way to achieve fulfilment—manifested through the eclectic family in The Housekeeper and the Professor.