The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea Themes
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Written by Louise Ko
The Achievement & Pursuit of Glory
Glory is undoubtedly a central theme throughout the novel - Ryuji is eventually murdered for his seemingly 'abandonment' of his pursuit of glory. Yet, glory in the novel is not a simple concept to grasp. Although mentioned constantly, it is never explicitly defined nor described. Even Ryuji, who felt destined for glory, felt that "he had no idea what kind of glory he wanted or what kind he was suited for". Glory is left an abstract element, conforming to the reader's interpretation of what glory is.
Despite not clearly outlined, glory runs throughout the novel. Noboru idolizes Ryuji because he is seen to be pursuing glory, therefore is a dignified hero. This is evident through the earlier depictions of Ryuji, where he is strongly connoted with the color of gold. Mishima writes: "The reflection of the moonlight in the background traced a ridge of gold across his shoulders and conjured into gold, the artery bulging in his neck. It was authentic gold of flesh, gold of moonlight and glistening sweat". In Japanese culture, gold denotes strength, wisdom and power. As such, Ryuji is seen as strong and heroic, as someone who has glory. Combined with the detailed descriptions of Ryuji's muscular build, Mishima portrays a hyper-masculine presence. This reflects upon Mishima's personal views on glory and how it is deeply connected with masculinity. In his personal life, Mishima attempted to further his pursuit of glory through hyper-masculinity and his stringent workout routine for bodybuilding.
Noboru's aim is to "preserve glory". When he idolizes Ryuji, he states early in the book that "I'd do anything to stop that, no matter how awful" to maintain Ryuji's glory, honor and heroic status. This subsequently foreshadows the later murder of Ryuji as Noboru kills him to preserve his glory. His idea is that Ryuji's honor and glory can only be preserved if he dies in his pursuit of glory. This corresponds to 'Bushido' (translated to "code of the warrior"), which is a significant component of Japanese culture during feudal Japan. Bushido outlines that ideally, a samurai should die in battle or if that was not possible, he should die serving his lord or his cause to maintain his honor. Therefore, by killing Ryuji as he reminisces over his adventures at sea and his pursuit of glory, Noboru is offering Ryuji a glorified death as Ryuji can be considered dying while pursuing his glory, albeit mentally.
Noboru and his gang despises emotion. They practice "absolute dispassion" to rid themselves of emotion. Noboru has "never cried, not even in his dreams, for hard-heartedness was a point of pride". Noboru and his gang attempt to destroy all traces of emotion they feel through various ruthless activities. They capture and kill a small kitten, as well as look at photos depicting sex in "every concievable position" and a "remarkable selection of pre-coital techniques" to rid themselves of any emotional response. Mishima writes that "Noboru had been trained in such a way that practically nothing sexual, not even the scene the night before, could surprise him".
At the same time, the chief insists that it is acts such as killing that "fill the world's gratest ollows" and would enable them to "achieve real power over existence". They feel that "matchless inhumanity was a point of pride with every one of them". As such, the lack of emotion is connoted with power, whereas to show emotion is to be vulnerable.
Although not explicably stated in the novel, it is also suggested Noboru may feel this way to cope with the loss of his father. He may wish to detach himself from feelings of sadness through practicing "absolute dispassion".
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Study Guide for The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea
The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea study guide contains a biography of Yukio Mishima, literature essays, a complete e-text, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis.
Essays for The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea
The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea literature essays are academic essays for citation. These papers were written primarily by students and provide critical analysis of The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea.