I, who had taken so much trouble to join my friend, was left alone.
In the beginning of the story, the narrator is traveling on summer vacation with his friend, when that friend is unexpectedly called back home because his mother falls sick, just as the narrator himself will later be called back home due to his father's sickness. Yet another parallel may be found in the narrator's friend being pressured into a marriage, a situation that, it will be revealed, Sensei also went through. More importantly, this friend is the only one with whom the narrator spends time over the course of the book, and the narrator's separation from him is the incident that begins the story.
Even in his relationship with me, he was in constant dread of being coldly analyzed.
As the narrator gets to know Sensei better, he asks him more direct questions, trying to pry into Sensei's background in order to learn from him. For the most part, Sensei is reluctant to give many details, but tries to impart the lessons he has learned to the narrator, who is ever dissatisfied at not knowing the full picture. However, the narrator approaches his relationship with Sensei with a very respectful and understanding attitude, treating him as another human being instead of an interesting thing to be analyzed. Sensei probably dreaded others analyzing out of his sense of guilt.
The grave stood like some monstrous thing, forever separating us.
Even though the narrator does not learn the full significance of the grave at Zoshigaya until he reads Sensei's testament, he feels very early on that the alienation between him and Sensei is centered on it. When he follows Sensei to the cemetery and then receives deflecting answers to his questions about it, he experiences for the first time an inability to understand Sensei.
Sensei's wife was not so modern a woman as to take pride and pleasure in being able to display her mental prowess. She valued far more that things which lies buried in the bottom of one's heart.
Since the title of the novel translates to 'heart', it would seem especially important to examine the discussions of heart. In this conversation between the narrator and Sensei's wife, the narrator's rationalism, associated with the city and Western modernism, is opposed to Sensei's wife's intuition, which is associated with the countryside and Japanese traditionalism. Although he is much more so a rational than intuitive person, at least in his own estimation, the narrator respects Sensei's wife's way of thinking.
The gulf between us was too great.
In the narrator's second visit to his home in the book, when his father's health is seriously declining, he finds his urban disposition at odds with his parents' country simplemindedness. Feeling that he prefers Tokyo to his home and Sensei to his father, the narrator longs to return to the city, but just before he able to do so in September, his father's sickness takes a turn for the worse, forcing him to stay. During that time, he becomes very lonely.
"By the time this letter reaches you, I shall probably have left this world -- I shall in all likelihood be dead."
The narrator is already in a high-strung emotional state when he opens Sensei's letter, due to the imminent death of his father, but he becomes even more confused and excited when he reads these terrible words at the end of the letter. That he suddenly leaves for Tokyo seems to suggest that he values Sensei more than his father. We the readers already know from all the times the narrator has mentioned Sensei's death earlier on in the story that the narrator, whose intention was probably to stop Sensei from killing himself, was unsuccessful. In the end, Sensei was just as doomed to die as the narrator's father, and the two may have died around the same time.
"Aren't you cold?" "Yes I am. But I don't need a fire."
In this poignant scene, Ojosan asks K whether he needs something to comfort him. As K's confession of his love for Ojosan will later show, he does not find love a comfort but rather, as an rigid ascetic, a temptation which torments him by pointing out his inability to hold to his idealistic principles.
"How I wish," he said, "that you could understand my suffering."
After his argument with Sensei on their summer vacation in which Sensei criticizes K for not acting in a human way, K states the fundamental problem: the impossibility of mutual understanding. Indeed, it is the problem which Sensei himself will face with the narrator, and just as Sensei could only understand that K's suffering was rooted in his loneliness after K had killed himself, the narrator only receives the testament after Sensei has likewise killed himself.
"Anyone who has no spiritual aspirations is an idiot."
Sensei repeats this line of K's back against his friend in order to hurt him. In order to account for the emotional force of this statement, one must remember that K aspired to be a great man; his egoism was bound so tightly to greatness and perfection that, unable to attain it, he say no further reason to leave. In this, Sensei underestimated or at least failed to estimate the impact of his words.
"I will commit junshi if you like; but in my case, it will be through loyalty to the spirit of the Meiji era."
After Sensei hears of Emperor Meiji's death, he feels as though his age has passed, rendering him and his generation anachronisms. Symbolically, it is his wife, the image of a traditional Japanese wife, who reminds him of the idea of junshi, albeit jokingly. Although General Nogi commits junshi not too long after Meiji's death, junshi itself was already by then a rather anachronistic practice, but Sensei finds in it the solution to his struggles.
Kokoro Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Kokoro is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
Although the novel deals with many timeless issues, it is very much grounded in the historical context of the late Meiji era. After the Emperor Meiji dies, those who grew up in the era of his rule and the modernization that characterized it find...
The narrator of the novel is a young university student who has made friends with an older man he simply refers to as sensei (teacher). Since they come together from different generations, there is learning going on, especially for the narrator...