Symbolism In The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With The Sea

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The Plague of Progress: Mishima’s Characterization and Views of Westernization A common misconception is that change always equates to progress, yet sometimes change can strip a society of its fundamental characteristics. Japan endured similar events, surrounding World War II that resulted in an increasingly Westernized country that lost it’s integrity and beliefs. In this allegorical novel, The Sailor who fell from Grace with the Sea, Yukio Mishima uses the characters Fusako, Ryuji and Noboru whom symbolize the different states of Japan to illustrate the plague of Westernization and convey the value of tradition in Japan. Primarily, Fusako embodies modern Japan with her obsession with foreign goods and focus on economic growth, which conveys …show more content…
A recurring motif that Mishima uses in the novel is the sea, which is viewed as powerful, independent and glorious much like traditional Japan. Due to Ryuji’s close association with the sea and antipathy for land, Noboru admires him. This is evident through Mishima’s use of strong diction and imagery when describing Ryuji, detailing the “ridge of gold across his shoulders” (12) and how “his flesh looked like a suit of armour” (11). The use of gold incites images of glory and achievement while the simile comparing his skin to armour indicates strength and honour. This portrayal of Ryuji indicates that Mishima values both Ryuji and present Japan because of their links to traditional Japanese culture and the possibility for glory. Despite, Noboru’s dispassion for almost all elements of life, he upholds Ryuji as glorious exclaiming that “the sailor is terrific” (49). Since Noboru perceives Ryuji as a hero, it serves to indicate that Mishima believes present Japan has the potential to be triumphant if it remains loyal to tradition, much as Ryuji is heroic because of his relationship with the sea. However, as the novel continues, Ryuji becomes entrapped by the lures of land and his portrayal changes drastically. The marriage between Ryuji and Fusako - or between current Japan and Westernized Japan - is portrayed as emasculating for Ryuji. He …show more content…
Noboru is a member of the gang of young boys who despise society and reject the morals imposed by the West. They refuse to conform to the standards set by foreign powers and alternatively live by the samurai code. Noboru learns that through killing he is “breaking the endless chain of society’s loathsome taboos” (47). Mishima himself lived by the Bushido code and Noboru represents his own perspective, as he uses specific diction to glorify the death of the kitten. Before it’s death it was a “mottled mewing kitten”, yet in death it is “dazzling” (56). Through Noboru’s refusal to accept the ideals of modern Japan, Mishima emphasizes the defiance and strength of tradition. Also, Noboru functions as the moral compass in the novel that is skewed to convey the value of tradition and ultimately Mishima’s beliefs regarding the samurai code. When they establish that “the sea is permissible” (54), they are distinguishing which things are permissible in the context of upholding Japanese culture. Initially, it is Noboru who sees Ryuji’s potential “to attain the glory that was rightfully his” (15) but Noboru monitors Ryuji’s mistakes and offences. When he finally reports Ryuji’s betrayal to the gang he is making a difficult decision, but no longer idolizes Ryuji, because his values are more important. Mishima uses Noboru’s developing perspective

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