The Sound of Waves

The Sound of Waves Summary and Analysis of Chapters X & XI


Shinji's brother returns home from his trip. He is too excited to settle down even once back at his home, and quickly tires of the questions about what historic sites he saw. He has brought back deep impressions, but ones that he can barely express. At home he is comfortable with the familiar sights and very quickly the memories of the strange things he has seen and heard start to fade. He finally gives a brief account of his trip that satisfies his mother. Everything goes back to normal, and "his became again an existence in which everything was understood without the need for words."

There are still a few days before the end of summer vacation, and Hiroshi and his friends decide to take advantage of this time. They play their role-playing games at Benton Promontory, which has an entrance to a mysterious cave.

The boys, Hiroshi, Katchan, and Sochan, take a candle and crawl through the opening of the cave in their quest for make believe treasure. Sochan's hair is festooned with cobwebs when they get to the depths of the cave, so the other boys deem him the chief. Inside the cave the roar of the sea echoes off the limestone walls.

They alternate characters freely while playing their game, switching from enemies to allies and back again. Hiroshi and Katchan ask their chief what the loud noise is. They eat a snack and pretend it is an offering to the angry god who made the loud noise of the sea. The roar of the waves quiets for a moment, and then a spray of water bursts through a shaft in the rock, looking like a "white phantom" and rocking the cavern. The boys are afraid but try to pretend that they are not.

They ask their chief, Sochan, why the god is so angry, and in order to answer their question he innocently repeats a bit of gossip he heard, but doesn’t really understand: "It is because of an immorality. It is because of an unrighteousness." When pressed for more, he says that Shinji and Hatsue have done omeko, angering the god. Hiroshi is furious, although he doesn’t fully understand, and starts to fight with Sochan. When they both drop their candles, extinguishing the flames, they realize that it is dangerous to fight in the cave, and decide to climb out.

By the time they get to the cave’s entrance, they are friendly again, but Hiroshi still feels his spirits oppressed by the news about his brother. When he gets home, his mother is alone in the house and he asks her what omeko is. She angrily tells him to never say that word again, especially not to Shinji. Although she is not one to judge other people's actions, especially young people's "amorous affairs," she whispers to Shinji that night, asking him if he knows about the stories being spread. He tells her he did not sleep with Hatsue and she believes him, but counsels him to be wary of other people's gossipy tendencies.

Things do not improve on the island. Shinji's mother arrives at a meeting of the women's only club, and the talk stops as soon as she enters the room. The same thing happens when Shinji goes to the Young Men's Association. Shinji does not know about Yasuo's attempted rape of Hatsue, and Yasuo is very friendly with him.

Out on the Taihei-maru, Ryuji bursts out that he is angry about all the stories being spread about the island concerning Shinji and Hatsue. Jukichi, normally silent, agrees and says he is irritated with Yasuo's jealousy and is on Shinji's side.

The rumor that Chiyoko and Yasuo spread has not yet reached the ears of Terukichi Miyata. One night, however, Terukichi is at the bathhouse, because even the richest denizens of the island do not have private baths. He behaves, as is his wont, in a way that shows the other men that "old though he was, his vigor was undiminished." His body is hale and firm, his white hair wild, his skin ruddy, his muscles hard.

Terukichi is indeed "the personification of all Uta-jima's toil and determination and ambition and strength." He raised his family from poverty to wealth in a single generation, never took public office, understands the weather, fishing, navigation, history, and tradition, and is stubborn and pugnacious. He is an old man "who, while still living, could act like a bronze statue erected to his own memory –- and without appearing ridiculous."

He strides into the bathhouse completely naked, stepping into the water and immersing himself. Two young men don’t notice him come in, and continue speaking of how stupid Terukichi is not to know that Shinji stole his daughter right out from under his nose. The men around Terukichi are visibly nervous as they watch the old man listen to this foolish talk.

Silently, with his face boiling red in anger, Hatsue's venerable father gets out of the pool, fills two basins with cold water, and dumps them over the youths. He then kicks them in the backs; they start to fight back until they see who it is. Terukichi drags them by their necks to the edge of the pool, then shoves them underwater and knocks their heads together. Then, without washing himself, he leaves the room without even a mere glance at the other amazed bathers.

In chapter eleven, the next day finds Shinji, Ryuji, and Jukichi eating lunch on the Taihei-maru, and Jukichi hands Shinji a small note folded up. He explains that as he passed Hatsue's house, she ran out and gave him the little note. Jukichi first thought it was for him and was irritated when he opened it and saw that it was for Shinji, but knew that he had to pass it along to the young man. Shinji opens the letter, reading Hatsue's sweet words.

She writes that her father forbade her from seeing Shinji and won’t listen to any of her explanations. She is not allowed to leave her house from the time when the boats return in the afternoon to when they leave in the morning. She plans on writing a letter to Shinji every day, but can’t trust the postmaster, so her plan is to leave it under the lid on the water jar in front of her kitchen and hope that he will send a friend to come pick it up. She implores him to go on with a bold heart and that she is praying for his safety.

He is affected deeply by her words and feels sorrow at their separation, as well as happiness at the proof of her love for him. Jukichi grabs the note and reads it aloud; he doesn’t do it to be mean, but Shinji is perturbed at the travesty made of the words of the girl whom he loves. Shinji finally confides in his friends and confesses that he and Hatsue have actually not made love. Jukichi good-naturedly mocks him for this, and Ryuji, young and inexperienced, is a bit confused by it. Shinji begins to feel better, however, and "the gentle waves that rocked the boat also claimed his heart." Ryuji volunteers to pick up the letters.

Every day out upon the water the men read Hatsue's letters. They are all angry at her second letter, which explains what happened with Yasuo. She told her father but he has not done a single thing about it, even remaining on friendly terms with Yasuo and his family. Hatsue promises she will never drop her guard when Yasuo is around.

Shinji has a moment of rare anger, stating, "It's all because I'm poor." He is immediately embarrassed at giving vent to such a complaint, but thankfully is able to hold back the tears that spring to his eyes.

Jukichi sits back to smoke one of his cigarettes. The old man possesses years of experience and wisdom, and counsels his two young fishermen. He tells them that they should refrain from giving Yasuo a beating even though that is what they want to do; he tells them it will do no good, and patience is more important. He believes everything will turn out all right, because "right's sure to win in the end."

As for Chiyoko, she feels immense guilt when she hears that Hatsue is forbidden to see Shinji. She knows Shinji does not know she started the rumor, but she still can’t look him in the eye. She decides she must apologize to him, even though she doesn’t know how she can possibly confess. Her moroseness is quite apparent to her parents, who don’t understand.

As her time to return to Tokyo draws near, Chiyoko decides to go find Shinji early in the morning. She walks down to the beach and tries to pick him from amongst the men dressed alike and pushing their boats out. For a moment she feels shame when she realizes these people are working hard for their daily bread, and her problems seem so silly and sentimental. Nevertheless, she finally locates Shinji.

Nervously, she tells him she has come to say goodbye. She can’t get out a confession or an apology. She also realizes "her wanting to beg his pardon was actually nothing but a mask to conceal her long-felt desire to have him be kind to her." Spontaneously, she bursts out with a question: "Shinji –- am I so ugly?" He is surprised but answers immediately with "What makes you say that? You're pretty." She knows he is telling the truth because Shinji's inability to flatter or lie is well-known. His boat begins to move away and he waves to the happy girl on the shore.

When her parents bid her goodbye, they are amazed to see the change in her spirits. Her ship, the Kamikaze-maru, sets out to sea. Chiyoko can’t help but repeat the refrain "He said I'm pretty!" over and over again in delight. She decides it is okay that he loves someone else, and that she must find a way to atone to him for her earlier wicked act. Chiyoko repeats to herself, "He told me I'm pretty."


Hiroshi exemplifies the tendencies of the island denizens to remain isolated from the outside world. Even though he experienced the modern wonders of Japan, he could barely comprehend them and preferred to be in a world where his senses and intellect were unchallenged. He needed the unchangeable comfort and ease of the life he had always known. Most of the inhabitants of Uta-jima felt similarly. The idea of the island as an "amorphous, mysterious helmet" (63) is reinforced; both history and modernity are excluded from this secluded, timeless, and enigmatic isle.

Of course, the island is not entirely able to avoid the permeation of outside influences. In this chapter Hiroshi and his two friends, Sochan and Katchan, decide to play their newest favorite game –- cowboys and Indians. Hiroshi and his friends "had finally seen the Western movies that until that time they had only heard about, and the new game of cowboys and Indians had now become a great favorite with them" (97). Their game is barely rooted in any real history or fact, as it is derived from American films that valorized the time period and elided the realities of existence on the American frontier in the 19th century. Nevertheless, this cultural export from the West is exciting and novel to the young boys on Uta-jma, just as boys in the West delight in tales of the samurai. Of course, even when something from the outside world manages to penetrate Uta-jima's barrier, it is a mere simulacra of reality.

The character of Terukichi Miyata is further fleshed out in this chapter, and to fascinating effect. The old man is strong and vigorous, unafraid of displaying his nude body at the bathhouse. His limbs are healthy and his muscles hardened, and he has piercing eyes and a "stubborn forehead" (106), with wild, unruly white hair. His form embodies self-discipline and fortitude.

It is not merely his physical appearance that garners the respect of the island dwellers, however; his life's story is also one that commands reverence and admiration. Mishima writes that Terukichi is "the personification of all Uta-jima's toil and determination and ambition and strength" (106). He always declines public office and does not wield an arbitrary power. He makes accurate weather predictions and has vast knowledge of fishing, history, and the traditions of the island. His possesses "uncompromising stubbornness...ludicrous pretensions, and...pugnacity" (106); all of these traits and behaviors combine to make him like a statue erected to his own memory. Terukichi's knowledge of the way in which nature works contributes to this idea of him being a personification of the island, as does his temperament. The island is equally craggy, fortitudinous, powerful, timeless, and filled with history and tradition. He has sublime and peaceful moments as well as moments of rage and power. He provides a living for many people with his freighters, as the island also provides a living for its inhabitants through fishing, diving, etc.

Chapter eleven features a conspicuous allusion to the differences between class on the island. Terukichi takes action against Hatsue's improper relationship with Shinji by forbidding her to see him. Speaking in a moment of rare emotion, Shinji blurts out to Ryuji and Jukichi that it is all due to him being poor. Not one to publicize such feelings, however, Shinji feels shame at his honest utterance. Of course, his words are not incorrect; Terukichi appears to want a separation between the two lovers because of their different stations. It is unknown but likely that he is also disturbed that the rumors suggested Hatsue lost her virginity, and that he feels embarrassed because he was the last to know these rumors about his own daughter.

Chiyoko assures her redemption in this chapter by evincing guilt for the problems her rumor-spreading created, and for her assertion that she will try to ameliorate the lamentable state of affairs for Hatsue and Shinji. Even though she intends to apologize to Shinji she is unable to do so, but her simple, spontaneous question posed to him –- "Am I ugly?" –- gives her the boost to her self-esteem that she needs when he responds that she is pretty. Chiyoko proves herself further in chapter fifteen when she refuses to return home from the university unless her mother tries to secure happiness for the young couple. By this time Terukichi has already relented, but Chiyoko has secured the reader's approbation for her acknowledgement of guilt and attempts to atone for her mistakes.