The Sound of Waves

The Sound of Waves Summary and Analysis of Chapter VIII


Two days after Hiroshi leaves for the school excursion, the island is hit with a ferocious storm. Shinji wakes very early in the morning, listening to the rain and wind and surf outside his house. He doesn’t want to wake his sleeping mother, so he lays there thinking about how excited he is for the storm. Normally a storm depresses him because it means he cannot fish, but today he’s glad because it means he can sneak off to keep his appointment with Hatsue. He finally leaps up and gets dressed, his movements waking and frightening his mother, who urges him to return to bed.

His mother is surprised at Shinji's cheerful singing and constant glances at the clock. She doesn’t understand what has gotten into him. Shinji is excited to meet Hatsue, and since he has a "heart unaccustomed to doubting, he never wondered for an instant whether the girl would brave such a storm to keep their rendezvous."

He tires of waiting, putting on a raincoat and leaving his house. Walking along the beach, he watches the roaring waves and driving rain. He notices a small, perfect pink shell in the sand and picks it up, planning on giving it to Hatsue. He returns home, and then leaves again after lunch. His mother wonders at his behavior, but resigns herself to the fact that men go out and women stay in. Their place is in the dark house, cooking and gathering water. It is also in the dark depths of the ocean as they dive for the food at the bottom of the sea. She knows "the interior of a house dark even at noon, the somber pangs of childbirth, the gloom at the bottom of the sea –- these were the series of interrelated worlds in which she lived her life." She remembers the story of a fellow diving woman –- a widow with a newborn child –- who dove deeply one day, and then when she came up dropped dead. The other women spoke of her seeing something terrifying in the depths, but Shinji's mother scoffs at that, continuing to try to dive deeper every day. She never sees anything. She also reflects upon the smoothness of her own thighs and thinks she might be able to have four or five more children, but immediately feels contrite at her immoral thoughts.

Shinji hurries up to the lighthouse. The rage of nature doesn’t deter or dismay him; on the contrary, he feels a perfect accord with the present fury of nature. He arrives at the vacant tower and from the second story watches the "storm...reigning in supreme dominion." He goes to the ground floor and finds some firewood bundles. He lights a fire and then strips off his trousers so they can dry. He sits before the fire and waits for Hatsue.

As he warms up he surrenders to the "euphoria created by his trusting devotion itself." In this state of contentment he falls asleep. When he wakes he wonders if he is dreaming because there is a naked girl –- Hatsue -– standing in front of the fire. He doesn’t want her to notice that he is awake, so he keeps his eyes open only a slit. He watches her beautiful body as she dries her wet clothing. As a diver, she is used to drying herself naked before a fire, and she feels safe because she believes he is asleep.

Her body is young and clearly virginal. Shinji continues to watch until she finally notices him, and utters in fright that he should keep his eyes shut. He immediately obeys her, but opens them again after a few seconds. She is still unclothed, holding her chemise. Even though she orders him to close his eyes again, he refuses. He rises to his feet and stands before her. He asks her why she is running away and she says because she is ashamed. He asks how she might not be ashamed anymore, and in sweetness and naiveté, she replies that she would not be ashamed if he was also naked.

He is surprised, but complies, stripping down to his loincloth. He asks her if she is still ashamed now, and, "without realizing the enormity of what she was saying, the girl gave an amazing explanation," saying that she is still ashamed because he is not fully unclothed. She drops her chemise and he takes off the loincloth and they stand before each other, completely naked.

The two become aware of the violent storm outside, and Hatsue becomes afraid. She backs up a few steps but hits the wall. She calls for Shinji to jump across the fire to her, and he does so right away. His chest touches her breasts. They are in each other's arms and begin to embrace, but she stops him, explaining that this is bad to do before they are married. He is disappointed until she tells him that he is the one she wants to marry. Shinji "had a haphazard respect for moral things" and refrains from insisting. They kiss, but this frustrates him. As they sit together and listen to the storm, "to Shinji it seemed as though this unceasing feeling of intoxication, and the confused booming of the sea outside, and the noise of the storm among the treetops were all beating with nature's violent rhythm." He feels pure happiness.

He gives her the shell he found earlier and she is pleased. They get dressed and kiss more, then leave the tower. Since the storm is still raging, they think it is safe to walk down from the tower together.

In the lighthouse, Chiyoko is bored and frustrated. The day before, the etiquette girls had come and Chiyoko saw Hatsue and her true beauty. The day of the storm, Chiyoko's boredom leads her to study English literature. Her mother always lingers near her and tries to indulge her own thirst for knowledge. She lives vicariously through Chiyoko, but doesn’t know of her daughter's unhappiness.

Chiyoko longed for Tokyo where nature is subdued and doesn’t completely control people’s lives. She looks outside the window and suddenly glimpses Hatsue and Shinji coming down the path in each other's arms. She hides her emotions well, but her face is a "plaster-of-Paris mask of self-preoccupied virginity." She returns to her desk and thinks about the seagull she saw on her return to Uta-jima, believing that this is what it augured.


This chapter is rich with information regarding the distinction between the lives of men and women on the island of Uta-jima. Mishima himself does not come across to the reader as misogynist when he writes about such gender disparities, but questions regarding the male and female characters he created in the Sound of Waves and what they might suggest about the author's personal views on gender and sex will be discussed elsewhere in this study guide.

It is Shinji's mother who provides the clearest information regarding what life was like for women on the island. Alone in her house, she ruminates, "Men go out fishing. They board their coasting ships and carry cargo to all sorts of ports. Women, not destined for that wide world, cook rice, draw water, gather seaweed, and when summer comes dive into the water, down to the sea's deep bottom...all this she knew. The interior of a house dark even at noon, the somber pains of childbirth, the gloom at the bottom of the sea –- these were the series of interrelated worlds in which she lived her life" (68). Only the male schoolchildren are permitted to venture off the island on the school excursion and the girl children stay behind. Men do their work out upon the open sea and venture away from Uta-jima. They meet in public spaces such as the bathhouse and speak of elevated topics such as politics.

In contrast, a woman's life on Uta-jima is shrouded in the dark. Her house is dim and her work consists of diving into the depths of the ocean. A woman's life is painful, as in childbirth, and often demeaning, as when only women are responsible for the tedious job of drawing water. The quest for knowledge among most of the women is nonexistent—the only two exceptions are Chiyoko and her mother, who are both often seen as tiresome by men on the island. Generally, the women on the island do not have any opportunities to participate in activities seen outside the scope of the traditional feminine sphere.

As for men, those opportunities include venturing outside the small island to engage in the "unknown," as Shinji refers to it. Shinji and Ryuji spend their days out at sea with Jukichi, the master fisherman. Yasuo spends time off of the island as well, and Uncle Terukichi Miyata's job and wealth derives from the outside world. The men are publicly present more often; if they are young they meet at the Young Men's Association, if they are any age they discuss politics and current events at the bathhouse. They do not perform household tasks such as cooking or drawing water.

In the few examples of relationships between the sexes present in the novel, there are several disconcerting allusions to the antiquated gender disparities mentioned above. Although the relationship between Shinji and Hatsue seems progressive, his stated desire for what he wanted in a bride -– "Some day let even a person as me be granted a good-natured beautiful bride..." (25) -– is typical and ultimately demeaning. Shinji fell in love with Hatsue at first sight for her looks alone. He does not care about whether or not his bride is intellectually stimulating, and there is no hint that he wants an equal partner in a marriage. His desire for Hatsue, while charming and believable, is unsettling because of its superficiality and rootedness in the prevailing gender norms. Yasuo, of course, is far worse. For him women are to be bought (as when he pays for sex) or subjected to his will (when he tries to rape Hatsue). He considers them dumb and easily swayed by his material wealth. And of course, Terukichi is heavy-handed in his control of his daughter's life. It is not pleasant to be a woman on Uta-jima.