The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea

Context

The entire novel is an allegory for the situation following Japan’s defeat after World War 2. This can be seen by the characters and their representation of the different components of Japan that had surfaced following the war. Noboru and his ‘gang’ represent old Japanese traditions and values. Noboru’s mother, Fusako, represents westernisation of the Japanese culture. The sea represented glory, and Ryuji’s attraction towards this notion was in itself a metaphor for Japan’s quest in the war. Some of the gang's inhumane actions symbolise how some of the decisions made by the Japanese in the war were also inhumane. Thirteen year old boys killing a baby cat goes against usual human nature, and in the war there were kamikaze bombings, where a person would kill themselves for a desperate offensive attack and a glorious death. At the end of the novel, Mishima explores the choices that Ryuji has made. Ryuji seems to regret his decision to give up the sea and ‘majestic, acclaimed, heroic death’, which is likened to glory. Instead, he has been ‘abandoned’, condemned to ‘a life bereft of motion’. The ‘life bereft of motion’ refers to the surrender of Japan to western values, and the ‘majestic, acclaimed, heroic death’ refers to sticking by Japanese traditions and values. Through these melancholy destinies that Ryuji has chosen from, Mishima expresses his thoughts on how the Japanese seem to be condemned to a glorified death or bottomless limbo.


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