The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea

The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea Analysis

The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea is a novel by Yukio Mishima written in 1963. On the surface, the novel appears to detail the story of a pair of lovers and a group of young children gone awry. However, the novel is much deeper than that. When studied thoroughly, it can be seen that the novel is an allegory on Mishima's personal views on the political position of Japan after the world war II. Each of the characters are symbolic representations of abstract notions.

Fusako represents a modernized post-WW2 Japan, where the country witnessed an increased popularity with foreign goods and westernization. She embodies the acceptance of western culture as Japan became more modern and strayed away from its traditional cultures and norms in favor of new practices. She represents a modern age in Japan, especially following Emperor Hirohito's renouncement of his claim of divinity.

Ryuji represents Japan in between the stage of complete westernization and its roots in its cultural traditions. He represents the uncertainty of Japan's direction immediately after the war. He aspires for glory, but is unsure how this 'glory' is defined. As he ages, he questions whether this glory will ever come and if he will ever encounter it. Instead, he finds comfort in Fusako, enough so that he believes it is better than continuing his quest for the uncertainty of 'glory'.

Noboru and his gang represents 'old' Japan - the traditional Japanese culture and customs. Noboru and his gang's perspectives are similar to the bushido traditions. Bushido (translated to "code of the warrior") is a set of complex rules and traditions to preserve honor and glory to a country of individual. At the same time, Noboru embodies Mishima's perspectives and values. Therefore, Noboru also represents an alternative to the direction in which Mishima saw Japan heading to.

Ryuji's marriage to Fusako and his return to land after a life at sea represents his capitulation towards her western ways. It represents his giving up his quest of glory. In context, Mishima details how post-WW2 Japan has succumbed to westernization, and in the process, has given up its glory. Mishima was outspoken on the outcome of WW2, expressing disgust at Japan's surrender in WW2. Therefore, he is seen reflected in Noboru, who identified Ryuji's marriage to Fusako as a betrayal to Ryuji's glory and dignity.

Therefore, the novel offers insight into two alternate realities of Japan - submission and acceptance of westernization and modernization; or through 'death', whereby 'old Japan' - Noboru - overthrows 'current Japan' - Ryuji - to re-establish deep-rooted traditions of bushido. Ultimately in the novel, Noboru overthrows Ryuji, which runs contradictory to acceptance of modernization in present day Japan. Thereby, the novel reveals an alternate reality - possibly one that Mishima preferred - to the progression of post-WW2 Japan.

Similarly, this 'alternate reality' may also be Mishima's proposal of his own ideologies. Mishima was an outspoken and highly-committed devotee of bushido - to the extent to which he committed suicide by Seppuku, a traditional and gruesome bushido tradition. He believed in tradition and culture. Before his death, Mishima even went to the extent of attempting to inspire a coup to restore the Emperor's power. Therefore, it would come to no surprise that the rise to power of 'old Japan' - Noboru - would be is favored reality.

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