Snow Country

Snow Country Essay Questions

  1. 1

    The story is told most from the perspective, or at least in the style, of Shimamura. What aspects of Komako or Yoko are obscured because of this?

    With his heightened aesthetic sense and dilettante's lack of seriousness, Shimamura pays much more attention to appearances and fantasies of appearances instead of considering the feelings of those around him. Because of this, Komako is in his eyes simplified into the image of a yielding, sensual geisha, exactly the restrictive role that she tries to escape in their relationship; likewise Yuko is idealized into a pure, chaste maiden, however mentally unstable she may be.

  2. 2

    Shimamura's three visits to the hot spring occur at different times of the year. What do the seasons and the passing of seasons signify in the story?

    Shimamura's first visit occurs during the beginning of the spring mountain-climbing season, which seems the perfect time to fall in love. His second visit happens during winter, when the snow country is bright with its deep snow; during this time, his relationship with Komako deepens. The third and final visit begins in early autumn but, longer than the others, lasts until the beginning of winter when snow begins to fall; thus during this time the romance develops against the backdrop of the fading of autumn's splendor, from the mountain's colors changing to the insects dying. In a word, the spiritual and emotional in the novel are closely linked with the external and natural.

  3. 3

    Many scholars have remarked upon the similarity of Kawabata's style to the terse and poignant traditional Japanese verse form of haiku. In what ways does such a style differ from the standard style of Western authors?

    Even though there may be points in the novel when a character screams or cries, on the whole it relies much more upon implied emotions and concealed actions to move the story instead of employing either attention-grabbing actions or detailed psychological descriptions. As much if not more attention is given to natural and seasonal descriptions, which at times lend the novel a broken pace instead of one smooth rhythm from beginning to end.

  4. 4

    What is the significance of sickness in this novel?

    Although we the readers never hear a word from Yukio or learn much about him, his early appearance and role as the sick man being taken care of by a motherly Yoko gives him an important position in the novel. Though it is not stated very explicitly, Shimamura identifies himself with Yukio, not because he has any affliction like the latter's tuberculosis, but because of the "emptiness" that he so often mentions. When Shimamura reflects on Komako's love and finds it tragically futile, he thinks so recognizing that he himself is unable to truly love, a sort of sickness or impotence in itself. However many times he tries to warm himself in Komako's embrace, which is in a way also motherly, his core remains cold.

  5. 5

    In what way is Yoko a burden for Komako?

    Early on Shimamura intuits that Komako and Yoko must share some sort of connection or similarity, and this guess bears itself out: Yoko is the image of the chaste, caring young mother that Shimamura sees within Komako when he tells her, "You're a good girl." Komako, however, struggles against that identity in order to realize her love as a complete woman instead of a doll-like girl, and so the continued nearby presence of Yoko haunts her with her inability to transcend.