Kokoro Summary and Analysis of "My Parents and I"


When the narrator returns home, he is surprised to find that his father's health has not worsened since he last came home. In fact, the man seems quite full of life. However, the narrator finds his own intellectual and urban disposition, the influence of his university education in Tokyo, in a conflict of understanding with his parents' simple provincialism. He feels melancholic and lonely, and yearns for the city. The news of the current Emperor Meiji's sickness and then death strangely brings about a parallel decline in the narrator's father.

His impending death makes his family call for relatives to pay their final respects, and the narrator's mother urges him to put his father's mind to rest by finding a job through Sensei. The narrator writes Sensei but does not receive a reply. July and August pass with the narrator's father declining but still hanging on to life; come September, the narrator plans to return to Tokyo to ask Sensei about the job. However, only a few days before his planned departure, his father takes another turn for the worse, so he stays home in idleness and the oppressive busyness of visitors to his father. The news of General Nogi's ritual suicide to follow Emperor Meiji comes as another monumental event which shakes the household.

Around the same time, the narrator receives a telegram from Sensei asking him to come to Tokyo, and then another saying that such would be unnecessary. The narrator's father, nearing his end, becomes delirious and then falls into a coma. At last, the narrator receives a letter from Sensei, but it is much larger than he had expected. Reading through it in an increasingly feverish mind, the narrator seizes upon the final words of the letter, in which Sensei says that he will likely be dead by the time the narrator reads his letter, and then impulsively leaves his home and boards a train for Tokyo.


The beginning of the chapter, in which the narrator returns home after graduation with his crumpled diploma, is a particularly emotionally poignant scene. Considering his father's pride in his graduation effusive and indicative of a lack of worldly knowledge, the narrator complains that, "I began at last to dislike my father's naïve provincialism" (82). However, his mother's and father's simple explanation that perhaps his father, in his aged and ailing state, took some of the pride as consolation for himself stuns the narrator into shame. Contrary to his dealings with Sensei, the narrator tends to be more blunt and inflexible with his parents, and so such an incident causes him to become more mature by making him realize that emotional complexity exists in all human beings, not only melancholic souls like Sensei.

In fact, other than the similarity they share as father figures for the narrator, the narrator's father and Sensei are similar in their relationships with their wives and their slow, fatal sicknesses. Similar to Sensei's troubling discussion with his wife at the end of the previous chapter about what she would do after he had died, the narrator's father asks his wife, "What will you do when I'm dead? Do you intend to live all lone in this house?" (85) One important element to recognize is the house, which for a traditional Japanese family living in the countryside held a very privileged position in the memory of the family's ancestry and thus its continued identity. Naturally, this residence finds itself in conflict with the modern allure of Tokyo; the narrator, although rather heavily preferring Tokyo, is at least faced with this conflict in the face of his father's death. Also, the problem of widowhood also holds great importance for the traditional Japanese. After all, it is one of the main reasons why Sensei does not kill himself earlier, and Okusan herself is a widow.

While secluded and isolated in his home, where he feels he is not understood by his family and must moreover deal with his father's impending death, the narrator yearns for Sensei in Tokyo: "There was but one light shining, and that came from Sensei's house. I could not know then that this light too would be swallowed up by the silent whirlpool, and that I would be left in a world of total darkness" (92). This demonstrates his pessimistic or at least doubtful view of both his own and his country's future, the culmination of the story's anxiety towards Sensei before Sensei's suicide is revealed at the end of the chapter.

Much of this pessimism comes from the major events of the time: the death of Emperor Meiji, who had rapidly modernized Japan, and the ritual suicide of General Nogi to follow the emperor into death. The narrator's father intuitively feels a connection between himself and these deaths, saying that, "It does look as if His Majesty's illness is not unlike mine," and then once the emperor has died, "Oh, His Majesty is gone at last. I too…" (90-91). As we learn in the next chapter, Sensei's approach to death will follow a very similar trajectory tracking the emperor and Nogi. Although the narrator's father has been had kidney disease and Sensei his suicidal melancholy for the entire story, it is not until death of the leaders of their time that they take sudden and dramatic turns to death.