The Sound of Waves

The Sound of Waves Summary and Analysis of Chapters VI & VII


The next day Shinji carries two scorpion-fish up to the lighthouse. On his way he stops at the shrine to give thanks to the deity for answering his prayer. He looks out over the Gulf of Ise and feels a "consummate accord between himself and this opulence of nature that surrounded him. He inhaled deeply, and it was as though a part of the unseen something that constitutes nature had permeated the core of his being." He walks slowly to the lighthouse, not wanting the happy meeting between himself and Hatsue to come and go too quickly.

The lighthouse keeper and his wife have become very fond of Hatsue. She is a thoughtful, charming young girl who is a delight to be around. They have one daughter themselves, but she is off at college in Tokyo, so the girls who attend the etiquette classes became like surrogate daughters. The lighthouse keeper may seem like a gruff man, but he really has a gentle heart. He loves company at the isolated lighthouse. His wife possesses an encyclopedic knowledge of nearly everything and relishes arguing with her husband and talking with people incessantly. Her husband loves her despite her loquaciousness, which other men on the island would find off-putting in their wives. Their living quarters are neat and bright.

Hatsue arrives that evening and brings a gift of sea-cucumbers. The mistress gives her some advice on her outfit as soon as she walks in. As it is only Hatsue and not a whole class of girls, the mistress is more relaxed and congenial. She and her husband often ask Hatsue if she is in love with anyone. She blushes and is quiet, but perks up when she goes into the kitchen to help prepare dinner. She sings a bit of the song that accompanies the Lantern Festival dancing.

Footsteps sound outside the door and Shinji announces his presence. He is invited in, and he and Hatsue exchange glances. The mistress notices and exclaims that it is clear the two of them have already met. She tells Shinji they've had a letter from their daughter, Chiyoko. In the same breath she muses that it is quite clear that Chiyoko has feelings for Shinji, and that she will be coming home soon. Hatsue turns to the sink and refuses to look at Shinji. Shinji retreats into the darkness and runs away, causing the mistress to laugh at his bashfulness.

Shinji waits for Hatsue near Woman's Slope. The small promontory below cuts into the water and sends it rushing about in turmoil. The stars finally come out when the last light disappears. Shinji hears Hatsue coming and thinks it would be amusing to hide and jump out at her as a joke. However, he can’t bring himself to do that and makes his presence known by humming that same song she had been singing. Hatsue doesn’t seem to notice him, though, and keeps walking. He follows her into the dark pathway and manages to get in front of her. This so startles her that she drops her flashlight and falls to the ground.

Shinji helps her up, filled with shame about how he wanted to frighten her as a joke. He helps brush off the dirt from her but is careful not to repeat any of the caresses from the previous day. Hatsue rests upon him and finally reaches down to grab her flashlight. She cheerfully laughs at how it had fallen. Shinji asks why she was so mad, and she responds that it was the talk of Chiyoko. Shinji is quick to tell her that there is nothing to it.

Shinji takes the flashlight and guides Hatsue along the path. He talks to fill the silence, expounding upon his desire to go into the shipping business with his brother, but that he plans to never forget their island. He believes it has the most beautiful scenery in all of Japan (all Uta-jima residents are firmly convinced of this). He thinks it is essential to help out all of the people who live here. He believes the sea brings only good and right things to the island, and that was why there are no thieves on the island, and why people are not mean or double-faced.

Even though he isn’t particularly eloquent in this speech, Hatsue listens with an expression of genuine interest on her face. Seeing this, Shinji is filled with joy. He still chooses not to kiss her or even hold her hand, believing that the previous night's kiss had been something out of their control, something achieved with a force outside of their persons.

As they emerge from the back of the shrine they gasp, for the village was "suddenly ablaze with brilliant light. It was exactly like the opening of some spectacular, soundless festival: every window shone with a bright and indomitable light..." The electric generator has been repaired. They part ways and walk into the newly lit village.

In chapter seven, the day of Hiroshi's school excursion has come. This is the opportunity for the youths of Uta-jima to see the outside world for the first time. They only have their imaginations and their books, and this excursion helps them to see how insufficient their daydreams are when confronted with the reality of the world outside the island.

The women of the island are used to putting their own lives in danger as they dive into the depths of the ocean for abalone, but it is very hard for them to say goodbye to their sons. The boys wave goodbye to their mothers but as soon as they are out of hearing distance, they call their mothers silly and stupid names and jostle each other. Hiroshi and Shinji's mother goes back to her house and weeps, thinking of the day when both her sons will leave her for the sea.

The students are let off the boat at the Toba pier opposite of Mikimoto's "Pearl Island." Chiyoko, the lighthouse keeper’s daughter, is on the ship returning to Uta-jima. She is very shy and dislikes having to make small talk with the islanders. She wears no make-up and has plain features, and although she isn’t truly ugly, she believes this is the case, and fixates on it with as much vanity as a beautiful girl.

Yasuo Kawamoto, returning to Uta-jima from a trip to Toba on behalf of his father's Co-operative, meets Chiyoko on the boat. He feels pride at showing Chiyoko how he speaks without any trace of the island dialect. She believes that he is assuming she fancies him, which saddens her because she wants a boy to look at her and say "I love her," not "She loves me."

The two sit on the deck together as the boat departs. Yasuo wants to brag about how he paid for sex with a woman on Toba, but is smart enough to know that Uta-jima and its inhabitants are too moral to countenance such behavior, even if it is common in other fishing villages. Chiyoko, meanwhile, is watching a seagull to see if it will fly higher than the tower receding into the distance. If it does, she tells herself, it will be a sign that something good will happen to her. To her delight, it actually does.

She inquires of Yasuo if there was any news on the island, and he responds with the news of the electric generator being fixed and Hatsue's arrival, and the likelihood of him marrying her. Chiyoko is a bit perturbed at this girl being described as a beauty because of her own insecurities. The boat finally nears their island and they stood up to watch it arise before them, "shaped like some amorphous, mysterious helmet."


Nature herself often seems like an actual character in this novel, full of idiosyncrasies and whims, ready to assert her dominance in the lives of the other characters. She provides employment and amusement for the dwellers of the island and shapes their responses to each other. She creates the physical space in which the dwellers live and move about. She is sometimes placid, sometimes dangerous. Shinji feels a particular closeness with nature. As he heads out into the stormy weather to meet Hatsue, he "felt a consummate accord between himself and this opulence of nature that surrounded him. He inhaled deeply, and it was as though a part of the unseen something that constitutes nature had permeated the core of his was doubtless because nature itself satisfied his need that Shinji felt no particular lack of music in his everyday life" (45) .

Even when the weather is tempestuous and perilous Shinji is not afraid; rather, he embraces the display of mood and might and does not let it deter him from his endeavors. His entire life is lived as close to nature as possible: he spends his days upon the sea, his tiny house is only a flimsy barrier between human beings and the vastness of the outside, his amusement consists of walks about the island, and the outside world beyond the island holds no interest for him.

Nature even seems to bless the relationship between Shinji and Hatsue. Firstly, she does not keep the lovers apart; when Shinji goes to meet Hatsue, as the previous quote expresses, he feels a harmony with the vast, wild world around him. Secondly, Hatsue and Shinji meet outside in the deserted, solitary areas of the island that are either free of manmade objects or have been reclaimed by nature (the tower). There is even a sense that their first kiss, which Shinji describes as something "that seemed not to have been an act of their own volition" (54), was possibly prompted by a benevolent and powerful natural force. And, although the electric generator does not belong to nature per se, there is still a sense of overarching approval by outside forces when Shinji and Hatsue return from their romantic walk and see the brilliant lights of the village shining out into the night once more.

Also of note in chapter seven is the arrival of Chiyoko, as well as the continual references to the isolation of the island. Mishima writes of Hiroshi and the other school children preparing for their excursion off the island; this excursion represents the first time the schoolchildren will ever encounter the outside world beyond its portrayal in books and stories. Most significantly, when they return most of them will eventually forget the remarkable things they saw, for "at the end of long lives spent on the island they would no longer even so much as remember the existence of such things as streetcars clanging back and forth along the streets of a city." When Chiyoko and Yasuo near the island from their trip from the mainland, they observe that "as always, Uta-jima rose from the level of the sea shaped like some amorphous, mysterious helmet" (63). This helmet is a barrier to the outside world; it keeps the inhabitants ignorant and blissful, mired in their traditions and rural lifestyles, resistant to modernity and technology.

From this outside world comes Chiyoko, the daughter of the lighthouse keeper and his wife. Chiyoko is a compelling character in the responses she elicits from readers –- pity, disgust, sympathy, and eventually approval. She is a shy and gloomy young woman, convinced that she has an ugly, commonplace face. This is not necessarily true, but her strength of conviction regarding her putative ugliness cements it as fact. Even her father begins to inadvertently support her belief in her homeliness. She is depressed that boys always assume that she is in love with them, and desires that for once a boy would look at her and think that he loved her, not the opposite. She has strong feelings for Shinji and is immediately jealous when Yasuo informs her the beautiful Hatsue has moved back to the island. Despite her university schooling, Chiyoko does not seem particularly worldly; rather, her diffidence and gloominess make her seem simpler than she actually is. Her desire to believe in signs and portents adds to this perception. Of course, the Chiyoko that Mishima's lucid prose outlines is extremely realistic and believable –- a romantic, shy, depressed, and insecure young woman who only wants to be loved and found beautiful. At this point in the novel, she has garnered the pity and sympathy of readers; this will change, however, when her melancholy and jealousy get the best of her.