The Sound of Waves

The Sound of Waves Summary and Analysis of Chapter IX


A message from Hiroshi, away on his trip, arrives for the family. Hiroshi has paid extra for express postage, which angers his mother. His letter talks excitedly about how he has seen a motion picture, but there is no mention of any of the historic sites he has seen. However, at the end of the letter Hiroshi mentions how he would like his mother to sit on the comfortable seats in the movie theater; this brings tears to her eyes. She abuses Shinji for not being as smart as his brother, but Shinji knows what she means by smart is "nothing more or less than his ability to make her shed happy tears."

At the bathhouse that evening Shinji notices Yasuo waiting outside and smiles at him. Yasuo gives him a blank look and turns away. Shinji isn’t offended, but does think it odd.

Chiyoko had gone to see Yasuo and told him about Hatsue and Shinji; the news was "a staggering blow to Yasuo's pride" and "he brooded about it all night." When Shinji sees him near the bathhouse, he is reading the roster for drawing water. There is a dearth of fresh water on the island, so during the dry months each family has a specific time to draw water, rotating each week. Yasuo notes that Hatsue's turn will be at two in the morning and decides to wait for her there and seduce her. Seeing Shinji reminds him of the insult he feels to his pride.

Yasuo thinks about Shinji and Hatsue, and concludes that Shinji could not have won the girl by deceit since he was such a truthful person. Therefore, he must have won her affection first and this was even more galling. He also believes that Shinji could not have been a virgin if he had seduced Hatsue, but this belief comes from Yasuo's own experiences.

Yasuo waits up, peering at his expensive and luminous watch that he assumes makes women like him. He finally sneaks out of his house onto the dark island, where there are only four streetlamps. He walks quietly past the school and cherry trees, heading up the stone steps that lead to the spring. He hides behind a lamppost and waits for Hatsue.

Hatsue finally appears, robust and healthy, carrying the water buckets on wooden poles. Yasuo's mind fills with inappropriate thoughts about her body. His luminescent watch attracts the notice of a group of hornets, and one lands on his wrist and stings him. He shouts, revealing his presence to Hatsue. When he explains that he was just trying to give her a scare, she believes him; "the girl did not yet realize how very attractive she was. Perhaps if she had thought about it deeply enough, but just now she accepted Yasuo's explanation that he had actually hidden here for no other reason than to frighten her."

Yasuo stands before her and tries to adopt the manner he assumes Shinji used when with her. He tells her that she will be sorry if she doesn’t listen to him, unless she wants everyone to know about her and Shinji. He grabs her arm, and she protests that she has done nothing wrong. He tells her he knows what happened upon the mountain and she blushes, struggling to escape. Yasuo won’t let go, knowing that he has to finish what he started, or else she will tell her father. He believes that if he manages to rape her, she won’t dare tell anyone.

He pins her to the ground but she spits in his face. He becomes more aroused and angry and continues to hold her down, until another hornet stings him on the nape of his neck. He panics but manages to grab Hatsue again, until the hornet stings his buttocks and he lets her go yet again. Hatsue has more success escaping this time, running into a grove of trees and grabbing a heavy rock to defend herself. Hatsue thinks some mysterious god has rescued her, until she sees the hornet and figures out what actually happened.

Yasuo calls for her after he shakes off the hornet and she rustles some ferns to show him that she is above him. She refuses to come down and he whines in fear about her father, promising that he will do anything if she agrees not to tell him. She finally agrees on the condition he carry her water. She follows him silently down the hill, staying a safe distance behind him through the sleeping village.


Yukio Mishima's place within and contributions to Japanese literature have been discussed in several significant pieces of critical writing. His literary influences are well known; he studied and was influenced by the European writers Racine, Raymond Radiguet, Francois Mauriac, the Marquis de Sade, Baudelaire, etc. He enjoyed the Greek idealization of physical perfection and immersed himself in the Greek myths and tales. He was also fiercely Japanese in his philosophy and cultural identity, especially in his later years. As for his prose, many critics believe it equals and sometimes even surpasses that of the best modern European writers.

Mishima must also be considered in regards to the Japanese "I-novelists" from the modern era. In his journal article on Mishima and his writings and suicide, Hisaaki Yamanouchi endeavors to compare the two. He explains what I-novels were like: "First, it is a straight autobiographical confession by a hero who is none other than the author himself. Secondly, the hero is in search of a peculiarly personal ideal or moral vision, which is at odds with the bourgeois standard of life. Thirdly, as a result the hero becomes inevitably alienated from and eventually defeated by society. Fourthly, the hero sometimes revenges himself on society with deliberate immorality..."

The I-novelist's hero is concerned ultimately with the realization of the modern ego, but this was difficult to do. Most of the time the attempt to master art or life led to the servitude of art to life. Yamanouchi saw the history of modern Japanese fiction as "summed up as the process by which initial romantic aspiration towards the fulfillment of the ego came to be suppressed under the heavy burden of society."

One of the most preeminent novelists who wrote in this manner was Dazai Osamu. Osamu was a member of the Japanese School of Romanticism, of which Mishima was a member. Mishima thus came face-to-face with Dazai and the latter's sentimentality, morbidity, and self-interestedness. He was quite derisive of the way in which Dazai's art failed as a result of his confusion between said art and his own life. All of this led to Mishima's estrangement from the principles of I-novels; one of the most salient ways this was accomplished was in how he "allowed room in his work for the gloom of his mind's abyss, but made every effort to make the created world of his work independent of his life." Mishima's fiction was separate from his life and both were able to develop and flourish in a healthier fashion than if they were more inextricably linked.

As for the particular contents of this chapter, here Chiyoko's wounded ego leads her to tell Yasuo what she observed; Yasuo in turn becomes enraged and jealous and conceives of a horrific plan to rape Hatsue while she draws water in the still of the night. Yasuo is a spoiled, selfish character who is easily swayed by material goods and is desirous of objects that denote stature; in this case he desires Hatsue because she is the daughter of a rich man. It is a grievous incomprehensibility that Shinji has won her first, and without resorting to deceit. Amazingly enough, however, Yasuo fails in his attempt to rape Hatsue. The reader is no doubt sure of his imminent victory but nature intervenes in the form of a very persistent hornet. Thus, the assertion in previous analyses that nature seems to favor the relationship between Shinji and Hatsue is reinforced by the fact that an insect dweller on the island thwarts Yasuo's evil plan.