The Sound of Waves

The Sound of Waves Summary and Analysis of Chapters III & IV


That evening Shinji goes to a meeting of the Young Men's Association, a gathering of the young single men on the island. They debate schooling and health and derive pleasure from the communality and shared burdens of being full-grown men. The sea is loud outside and the night seems very close.

One young boy cuts another’s hair, another reads a novel, while yet another reads a comic book. Others laugh and insult each other jocosely. There is also talk of the girl Hatsue, which Shinji immediately listens in upon. He does not hear much since a commotion from the other side of the room interrupts the discussion.

He wonders why he can’t get the girl out of his mind -- why his cheeks become flushed and his heart beats faster when someone mentions her name. When he puts his hand to his flaming cheek, "it was a blow to his pride to realize the existence of things within himself that he had never so much as suspected, and rising anger made his cheeks even more flaming hot."

The young men await their leader, Yasuo Kawamoto. Yasuo is the son of a leading family in the village and is, even at eighteen, already an excellent leader. He is overweight and has bright red cheeks. He finally arrives and starts the meeting, but is clearly in a hurry as he passes through subjects such as cleaning the sewers to get rid of rats on the behest of the Village Assembly. Most of the boys are not in the mood for weighty discussion and turn to a teasing discussion of one of the boy’s love of the French poet Verlaine.

After the meeting ends, Shinji asks one of his friends why Yasuo was in such a hurry. His friend replies that Yasuo was on his way to a party that Uncle Teru Miyata is giving to celebrate his daughter's return. Shinji moves away from his friends and takes a solitary walk to the stone steps near the shrine. He imagines the flickering lights of the lamps at the party throwing shadows upon Hatsue's lovely face. He effortlessly climbs the steps to the shrine and tosses a coin into the offertory chest. He kneels to offer a prayer, asking the deity for protection for his mother and brother and to let him become a prosperous and skilled fisherman. Finally, he also asks that "some day let even such a person as me be granted a good-natured beautiful bride...say someone like Terukichi Miyata's returned daughter..." The wind rises up and Shinji wonders if his prayer was too selfish.

In chapter four, Shinji's mother asks him to go to the top of the mountain where she and other village women had gathered firewood to retrieve her bundle, which is labelled with a red rag. Four days have passed since the young men's meeting. Shinji takes the wooden frame for the firewood and heads up the path past the lighthouse. The mountain is completely silent and still. He reaches the top of the mountain, the highest point on Uta-jima. There is no view since the plants are all overgrown. He moves on to the tower, a place where soldiers used to watch during target practice for the guns fired from the far side of the Irako Cape.

Shinji goes inside the ruins and finds the bundle of firewood his mother had gathered. He hears a noise from above him and decides to investigate. He climbs to the second story, which looks out desolately to the sea, and then moves on to the third floor. There he hears someone sobbing and quickens his footsteps to find the source of the noise.

Hatsue, weeping on the roof, is startled by the appearance of Shinji. Her embarrassment and his shock at the fortuitous meeting leave them both speechless. Shinji finally says, "You're Hatsue-san, aren't you?" She nods. He asks her if she was crying and she concedes that it was her. He asks her why she was crying and she surprises him by answering promptly and honestly. She explains that she was on her way to etiquette lessons for young women at the lighthouse given by the lighthouse keeper's wife, but as she was early she decided to climb the mountain but is now lost.

Shinji notices the shadow of a peregrine above their heads and believes it is a sign of luck. He volunteers to walk with Hatsue down to the lighthouse. Even though there are still tears on her face, Hatsue is relieved at his suggestion. She asks him what this building was for and he replies that it used to be a target-observation tower. He then points out Black Isle across the water, which was where "Policeman Suzuki was fishing when the waves washed him away and drowned him."

Shinji is remarkably happy to be there with her, but Hatsue knows it is time to make their way to the lighthouse. She stands up to leave. Shinji notices a black smudge on her sweater; Hatsue notices it as well and begins wiping the smudge away. Shinji is transfixed by her "two gently swelling mounds" and how playful they seem. As they walk down the steps, Hatsue laughs at him for how dark he is, how burnt by the sun his skin is.

On the way down Hatsue asks his name, and even though he answers, he requests that she not tell anyone they met because the villagers love to gossip. This mere fact changes their simple meeting to a "thing of secrecy" between the two of them. They reach the lighthouse and he leaves her there, and then takes a roundabout way back to the village.


In chapter four Shinji and Hatsue have their first real meeting. He is climbing to the tower to retrieve his mother's firewood and discovers Hatsue crying because she is lost. Shinji believes in the power of the island god and of signs and omens, and takes a peregrine flying above the two for a good sign; he decides to volunteer to walk Hatsue back to the lighthouse where she was taking etiquette lessons. There is a blatant moment of sexual arousal for the young and untutored Shinji when he watches Hatsue rub her sweater that lay over her breasts to try and remove a smudge. Mishima is not graphic with his description of Shinji's reaction to this moment; he treats the subject in a natural, simple, and pure manner.

Once again, Shinji is perturbed at the changes that are occurring within him. While at a meeting of the Young Men's Association, the social club for the young men of the island, Hatsue's name and arrival at the island are mentioned several times, leading to Shinji's fevered blushing and concomitant shame at his reaction -– "The hot flesh felt like that of some complete stranger. It was a blow to his pride to realize the existence of things within himself that he had never so much as suspected, and rising anger made his cheeks even more flaming hot" (22). This is not merely a love story; it is a first love story. Shinji's feelings are truly new to him, and he is surprised at their novelty and their intensity. For a young man whose life was routine and simple, this disturbance is even more marked and disconcerting. The force of love is opening up far more than he realized within his mind.

The character of Yasuo, one of the few "villains" of the tale, is introduced in chapter three. At this point he is not altogether horrible; he is merely heavy and red-faced with a measure of arrogance that derives from his position of wealth. The leader of the Young Men's Association, Yasuo is generally well-liked, even by Shinji at this juncture. Mishima mentions more than once in the novel that Yasuo does not speak with the island dialect; here he writes that "he spoke glibly, without any trace of the dialect" (22), and later, when Yasuo encounters the lighthouse keeper's daughter Chiyoko on a boat returning to Uta-jima, he writes that the boy "took great pride in showing this girl from a Tokyo university how well he could speak, without any trace of the island dialect" (59). Yasuo is familiar with the unknown and the outside world. He takes pride at appearing to be worldly. He is different from Shinji in several ways that become clear as the novel proceeds, and worldliness is one of their most salient divergences.

Yasuo and Uncle Terukichi represent the wealthy denizens of the island whereas Shinji is one of its poorer inhabitants. There is a distinct tension between social class on the island, which forms the central conflict between the lovers Shinji and Hatsue. He is poor and she is not, and both tradition as well as family members are prepared to stand in the way. Concern for the putative onslaught of gossip leads the two lovers to keep their meetings secret, even from the very beginning when romantic attachment was not yet secured, and the meeting was truly an innocent accident.

As for Hatsue, she remains a less-developed character in the novel. The narrative is rarely told from her perspective (a notable exception is in chapter nine). However, her character and personality are revealed in several small snippets. Here she appears girlish and sweet, especially when she is terrified and weeping because she is lost. She is also frank and open, as when she tells Shinji why she is crying. She has a sense of humor, teasing Shinji about his dark sunburned skin. She is curious, inquiring about the purpose of the ruined tower she and Shinji were touring on their way to the lighthouse. Further analyses will take up other aspects of her character.