In the midst of this uncertainty only the one hand, and in particular the forefinger, even now seemed damp from her touch, seemed to be pulling him back to her from afar.
While on the train to the hot spring, Shimamura tries without too much success to recall his memories of Komako, whom he is coming to visit. However, he is able to remember her in a very visceral and sexual way; even if the finger is not in some way suggestive or linked to the penis, its connection to touch and the dampness that he feels places it in a realm entirely different from the imagistic fantasies he has about occidental ballet or Yoko's eye reflected in the window.
An affair of the moment, no more. Nothing beautiful about it. You know that--it couldn't last.
The day after first meeting Komako, Shimamura quite brazenly asks her to find him a geisha to satisfy his sexual desire, since he has determined that he would only be as a friend with Komako. Against her protestations, he argues that what he wants to do with a geisha is nothing more than the one-time satisfaction of an appetite, as opposed to the somewhat more substantial friendship he hopes to have with her, but it is apparent that Komako's relationship with him cannot rise above this limitation.
I won't have any regrets. I'll never have any regrets. But I'm not that sort of woman. It can't last. Didn't you say so yourself?
Komako says this just before finally surrendering herself to Shimamura and her love for him, referring to what Shimamura had said earlier about the impossibility of being able to sustain a relationship with a geisha. However, in order to preserve her dignity, she wants to make it clear to him that she is following her genuine feelings and not the whims or lust of a professional woman in sleeping with him.
A chill swept over Shimamura. The goose flesh seemed to rise even to his cheeks.
When Shimamura listens to Komako playing the samisen, he finds himself confronted by the raw force of her personality, concealed neither by her geisha powder nor her skin, which even without powder is a kind of barrier that only inspires the thought of cleanliness in Shimamura's mind. The voice of her instrument and her own voice startle him just as her cries of his name the night she first slept with him had done.
He had not considered the possibility that the two had simply met on the train. The man was perhaps a traveling salesman.
While sitting on the train leaving the hot spring at the end of his second visit there, Shimamura notices a man and woman talking in a very close manner and, just as he had intuited that Yoko and Yukio were not a couple on the train ride that opens the novel, he assumes that they are a couple. However, when the man gets off the train and tells the woman very indefinitely that they may meet again, Shimamura realizes the truth of the situation and, perhaps more than simply being touched as he so often is by something he finds poignantly sad, he nearly weeps. It may be that he feels the development of a deeper emotional attachment to Komako.
Do you understand how I feel?
On Shimamura's third visit, Komako pushes him several times to see if he understands or even cares about her emotions, worries, and hopes. He unworriedly deflects her questions, but, as she expected and is quick to point out, is not able to answer them. Nevertheless, Komako's mood changes from the accusatory back to the docile, or at least such is what she shows to him.
Back to work. I'm all business. Business, business.
During Shimamura's third visit to the hot spring, Komako frequently stops by on the way to some party before rushing off to entertain her guests. Even though she seems admirably tireless in her work, she is in fact painfully aware of her lack of future prospects working as a mountain geisha day after day.
The thread was spun in the snow, and the cloth woven in the snow, washed in the snow, and bleached in the snow. Everything, from the first spinning of the thread to the last finishing touches, was done in the snow.
From an old book that he reads, Shimamura becomes very interested in the idea of Chijimi cloth, the product of a traditional folk art made in the lonely darkness of winter by young women who have no other way to spend their energies and, in a way, their feelings. That the precious object into which they pour themselves is bought at second-hand stores by men like Shimamura looking for a pretty kimono strikes him as sad; and indeed it is a symbol for Komako's futile expenditure of her love upon him.
You're a good woman.
During this climactic moment, the first time that not only Komako but Shimamura too is drunk, Shimamura makes the subtle yet crucial mistake of switching from calling Komako a "good girl" to a "good woman." She does not fail to pick up on the change and realizes, as she had feared before, that he is only "laughing" at her; that is to say, instead of understanding her love for him as a genuine feeling, he has underestimated it and treated it as the lust of a woman, something which he matched with his own shallow lust for her. The first address suggests intimacy and informality, while the second contains the sort of distance that characterizes the relationship between a prostitute and her client.
This girl is insane. She's insane.
Komako says this to the crowd surrounding her and Yoko, whom she carries seemingly lifeless from the fire at the end of the novel. From all the previous times that Komako has noted Yoko's mental instability, she seems to be referring to the girl in her arms, but since she says this in a "half-mad voice," the condition seems to apply to her as well. As Shimamura had intuited in the novel's beginning, the two seem to be bound together, perhaps even superimposed, in a way they share a similar psychic suffering.
Snow Country Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Snow Country is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.