Study Guide

Seven Samurai Society and Class

Society and Class

GISAKU: You must find hungry samurai...even bears come out of the forest when they are hungry.

Gisaku doesn't have any power over any samurai, since he's a peasant. But he does figure out a way to get the higher caste to do what the lower caste needs. That's thinking on your feet!

RIKICHI: Well...let's go see old Gisaku.

KAMBEI: Gisaku?

MOSUKE: He makes all out decisions for us.

HEIHACHI: The village patriarch?

RIKICHI AND MOSUKE: Yes, sir, yes.

HEIHACHI: So we're to have an audience. What an honor.

Heihachi's commenting on the topsy-turvy status of social class here. Normally, they would be the ones granting an audience. But they've fallen on hard times, and if they came here to help the villagers, it means treating a peasant like a superior. Again, that's a serious no-no in Japanese culture.

KIKUCHIYO: Oh, you're all splendid. Standing there like a line of scarecrows. Only, remember, these bandits aren't crows…and they're not sparrows either. Hey you, stop chewing your cud.

Kikuchiyo could maybe give them all a break, since they're not used to acting like warriors. This is another example of how necessity can sometimes force people to break out of the limits of their class.

KIKUCHIYO: What's this?

YOHEI: Why, it's a spear.

KIKUCHIYO: I know that, idiot. I'm asking you where you got it. Well, speak up. Found it growing on a bush? I know. You don't get spears like that unless you take them…from dead samurai. If you have this one, then you must have others. Where are they?

Farmers killing samurai—a scary reminder that class differences are still pretty strong, and can even be dangerous if the samurai aren't careful.

GISAKU: They are just foolish you see. They are farmers; they're afraid. Afraid of everything: rains, droughts, winds. They wake up afraid, they go to bed afraid. Today is no different.

KAMBEI: But why are they afraid of us? What do they think we'll do to them?

Kambei is beginning to understand how things feel in a different class. He didn't used to worry about peasants' fears because they would never dare attack a samurai. But now that they might, he'd better figure out their motivations or he and his buddies could be in big trouble.

HEIHACHI: Haven't you ever seen anyone cut firewood before?

GOROBEI: You seem to enjoy it.

HEIHACHI: That's just the way I am. Yah!

Heihachi's blowing off the fact that he's doing peasants' work, something he normally wouldn't touch with a ten-foot peasant-prodder. The fact that he takes it in stride confirms his humility—which ironically makes him a very good samurai.

RIKICHI: Come out! What's the matter with you? Welcome your guests!

The farmers are scared, which is typical of their class. Again, the film notes that some things never change.

SHICHIROJI: Know how they got these? They were taken from samurai!

KIKUCHIYO: I know that.

SHICHIROJI: Then how dare you...

KAMBEI: That's enough now.

SHICHIROJI: But...

KAMBEI: I understand. But someone who has never been hunted down after the battle by bamboo spears wouldn't understand.

Kambei has to brush off the class differences creating the conflict here. That's because they need the farmers, but also to remind his fellow samurai what it must feel like to be a farmer.

SHINO: I wish I'd been born into a samurai family.

KATSUSHIRO: I know. A farmer's life is very hard. I've been lucky.

SHINO: I mean...you're a real samurai and I'm just a farmer's daughter, so...

Just so we're clear: these two are being kept apart solely because of class. You poor kids. This is gonna hurt. A lot.

KIKUCHIYO: But there's only six. What about me?

HEIHACHI: You're so special that I made you a triangle.

The banner is supposed to present unity, but even there they can't resist pointing out who is a real samurai and who is not.

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