The Sound of Waves Summary and Analysis
Shinji has lived a peaceful existence up until now, but he becomes afflicted with constant thoughts of Hatsue and doubts that there is anything about him that might appeal to her—his strength, swimming abilities, and good health are not enough. Making matters worse is the fact that he never seems to encounter her like he did at the tower. He never finds her alone anymore, but whenever he commits himself to putting her out of his mind completely, he catches sight of her that very day. He has no model for this situation and becomes frustrated because he has no idea of how he should have acted the day he met her near the tower.
On the monthly commemoration of his father's death, Shinji, Hiroshi, and their mother prepare to visit his grave. They carry incense and flowers and walk to the cemetery. The morning is cold and breezy; Shinji notes that the gravestones look like "so many white sails of boats anchored in a busy harbor." His mother lays down the flowers and lights the incense, then kneels before the grave and weeps.
There is a saying in the village, "Never have aboard one woman or one priest." The night Shinji’s father died, his boat had broken this rule because they had the body of a woman on board that they were taking to Toshi-jima. While out at sea, the black smoke coming from the engine caught the attention of an aircraft carrier. The carrier bombed the boat and shot it with a machine gun. Shinji's father's head was split open and other men were killed or injured. A few saved themselves. The woman's dead body remained unscathed.
Shinji remarks aloud that his father used to beat him during fishing for sand launce. Sand launce fishing requires great skill and patience. Hiroshi doesn’t pay attention because he’s thinking about a school excursion that he’ll be going on in ten days. Shinji saved money to help pay for it because he was never able to afford excursions when he was a student. After the visitation to the grave site, the family returns home and Shinji heads to the beach. He hears someone call out, "They say Yasuo Kawamoto's to marry Hatsue." Shinji feels his "spirits [become] pitch-black."
The next day, after fishing on the Taihei-maru, Shinji and Ryuji pick up their paychecks. Shinji puts his money in an envelope with his name on it and tucks it into his jumper. On his way home, he notices some men having trouble pulling a boat up onto the sand, so he goes over and assists them. Hatsue is there helping as well, but he is too upset to look upon her. As soon as he finishes helping, he walks away and resists the urge to look back.
When he gets home Shinji plans to hand his mother the money silently, which was his wont. He realizes, however, that he has lost the envelope, and that he must have dropped it on the beach. He rushes out the door without a word. A few minutes later, a girl knocks on the door and explains to Shinji's mother that she found the envelope with Shinji's name on it.
At the beach, Shinji looks through the sand for the envelope, very angry that he cannot find it. Hatsue approaches, finding him in the shadow of a boat. She explains to him what happened, specifying that she asked about the location of his house without raising suspicion because she had the envelope with his name on it. He is very relieved, and "all the day's torment disappeared, and his spirits revived within him."
He has enough courage to ask her if it is true that she is going to marry Yasuo. To his surprise, she bursts out laughing. Her laughter is so powerful that she drops to the sand. Shinji asks her what is the matter and she grows serious, telling him that it was a lie—she is not going to marry Yasuo. Hatsue remarks that she laughed so hard it hurts, and then points to her breast and says that is where it hurts.
Shinji puts his hand on her breast. Their lips meet briefly. Shinji stands up abruptly, feeling guilty for this "first experience in his life." He looks out to the ocean and announces that he will be taking fish to the lighthouse the next night. Hatsue replies that she will also be going there the next night. The two part, and as Shinji walks away, he informs Hatsue he can still see her shadow behind a boat. She darts away quickly.
The island of Uta-jima is further revealed to be an idyllic, pastoral locale –- there is no theft on the island whatsoever. Shinji, his brother, and his mother leave their house unlocked when they go to the gravesite of Shinji's father. This assertion that there is no theft upon the island rings true in the context of the story, but as this would be impossible in any true sense, the island that Mishima creates is clearly not an accurate representation of the "real" world and is thus idealized for the sake of the story.
One interesting thing to note in this chapter is the allusion to the outside world in regards to the Second World War. One of the reasons this novel has been so lauded by critics is its timeless quality; indeed, the San Francisco Chronicle review said that it is "of such classic design its action might take place at any point across a thousand years." The characters and the setting do not necessarily suggest any particular point in history, but every once in a while there are allusions to the outside world.
Shinji tells Hatsue that the tower was used for target observation and to watch where the cannon shells fell. In this chapter Shinji's father and several others on a boat sailing to Toshi-jima were killed when a plane from an aircraft carrier spotted their craft in the water and bombed them. Later in the novel when Shinji is an apprentice on a ship, there is talk of the Korean War just ending and the continuous American presence in the Pacific. By having these small moments of machinated violence invade the intense peace and natural quality of the island, the novel shows how disruptive these wars could be to such small communities.
Another conspicuous component of this chapter is death. As mentioned in previous analyses, Mishima's treatment of death is simple and lyrical; the deaths mentioned thus far have been small sea creatures. Here, Shinji's father's death, as well as others on his ship, is dealt with in a more blatant fashion but still retains its poeticism through the simplicity and elegance of Mishima's prose. Despite reading about the various places bullets struck the men and the sea turning into a lake of blood, there is still a sense of remove and of timelessness that is evinced. The deaths that occur are even said to be related to an old legend that warned against having a woman or a priest onboard, further exemplifying the surreal, removed nature of death—rather than blaming the war, or the mistakes of the engineman creating smoke that showed their position, the people of the island blame an old superstition.
All of the deaths that have occurred in this novel are also related to the sea. Death and the sea are inextricably intertwined; both are natural and unavoidable to residents of Uta-jima. Nearly every person in the novel makes their living upon or from the sea -– Shinji is a fisherman, Hatsue and Shinji's mother are diving women, Jukichi is a fisherman, Terukichi owns coastal freighters -– and every one of them has experienced the death of loved ones and will die themselves. The rhythm of life on the island is permeated with the melody of the sea and of death. For example, while on the Taihei-maru, Shinji observes that "in the pale light of daybreak the gravestones looked like so many white sails of boats anchored in a busy harbor. They were sails that would never again be filled with wind, sails that, too long unused and heavily drooping, had been turned into stone just as they were" (35).
The Sound of Waves Essays and Related Content
- The Sound of Waves: Major Themes
- The Sound of Waves: Questions
- The Sound of Waves: Purchase the Novel and Related Material
- Yukio Mishima: Biography
- The Sound of Waves Summary
- About The Sound of Waves
- Character List
- Glossary of Terms
- Major Themes
- Quotes and Analysis
- Summary and Analysis of Chapter I
- Summary and Analysis of Chapter II
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters III & IV
- Summary and Analysis of Chapter V
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters VI & VII
- Summary and Analysis of Chapter VIII
- Summary and Analysis of Chapter IX
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters X & XI
- Summary and Analysis of Chapter XII
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters XIII & XIV
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters XV & XVI
- Related Links on The Sound of Waves
- Suggested Essay Questions
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 1
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 2
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 3
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 4
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 5
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