In my reading, the story The Spider’s Thread has three themes. First, at its basic level, it talks about the cold-heartedness of the central character, Kandata, which practically reinforce what some scholars would say as the usual theme of Ryunosuke in almost all, if not all, of his works, that is the darker side of man. Second, it talks about man’s pursuit of “paradise,” and lastly, the wide gap of the two kinds of people found in society—the powerful or the dominant ones and the weak or the lesser ones, of which, I think, is the general theme of the story.
To begin with, the usual theme of the author is depicted in this particular story. The descriptions given to the central character and to hell are pieces of proof of this. Kandata, on one hand, is pictured as a murderer and robber, among others, showing the evil tendencies and capabilities of man. On the other hand, hell, being Kandata’s final destination after life, is given an equally gloomy and pitiful description, a place of complete darkness and utter chaos that even the most savage and merciless among the lot cannot last a minute longer; if only to be consistent with the dominating atmosphere in the story.
Furthermore, man’s “pursuit of paradise,” is another theme to delve into. Paradise being man’s resting place or final stop after his long journey, labor, and hardship on Earth. The opening lines of the story give emphasis to this, for each line talks about the beauty and magnificence of paradise, as if inviting man to be, indeed, there. The thread being lowered, too, is quite significant in pursuing this theme. It somehow suggests that the Greater Being above welcomes man, if man chooses to be there, that is if man does benevolent deeds.
Lastly, is the wide gap between two beings—the Buddha and Kandata—emphasized in the story, the Buddha, who dwells in “paradise,” being the powerful being and Kandata, who dwells in “hell,” being the lesser being. Of which can be likened to the real context and situation of society today, that the ones situated above are the very people who decide the fate of the ones situated below. Suggestive of this is, again, the lowering of the thread from “paradise” to “hell.” The thread further suggests that the people from below only have that slim and thin chance of reaching the point where only the select few enjoy. However, if and when that slim and thin chance is reached, the powerful simply cuts the thread, leaving the ones who climb the thread to whirl rapidly down, back to where they started: Hell.