Contrast in The Sailor who fell from Grace with the Sea Analysis

Table of Content

“The Sailor who fell from grace with the sea” is a story set in contemporary Japan, where cultural conflict is widespread. The narrative centers on three characters’ tragic lives and is split into two sections: “Summer” and “Winter”. The contrasting settings of land and sea are also vividly portrayed, highlighting the stark contrasts between Western and Eastern cultures.

In order to express his personal views and explore important themes, such as love and death, parent-child relationships, and the pursuit of glory, Yukio Mishima creates contrasting heroes that drive the plot. The complex nature of the characters makes it essential to analyze the concept of contrast from this perspective. To do so, it is necessary to examine the psychology and actions of the three main characters: Noburu, Fusako, and Ryuji.

This essay could be plagiarized. Get your custom essay
“Dirty Pretty Things” Acts of Desperation: The State of Being Desperate
128 writers

ready to help you now

Get original paper

Without paying upfront

Presented as a young child who has not yet reached adolescence, Noburu strives to embody the ideals of a traditional man. In order to fulfill this desire, he aligns himself with a gang of rebellious youths who seek to uphold the long-standing customs of Japan. The gang, led by a bitterly unpredictable chief, appears to resist the moral vacuum of modern society, but ironically, they are the first to succumb to a world devoid of values. By becoming entangled in their ideas and beliefs, the protagonist stands in stark contrast to the other main characters, who possess more flexible perspectives on tradition. While Noburu, inherently nihilistic, grapples with living a traditional life rooted in principles of honor and even develops peculiar notions for his tender age – such as refusing to cry: “he never cried, not even in his dreams, for heart hardness was a point of pride” – his mother and Ryuji are more inclined to express their emotions and embrace a Westernized lifestyle.

The debate surrounding whether Noburu acts as a nemesis is closely connected to the theme of contrast in the novel. Despite fighting for a noble cause, his idea of what is noble greatly differs from that of the other two protagonists. Unlike the two mature characters who pursue glory or happiness through love, Noburu holds a pessimistic view that honor can only be attained through death. Noburu, who is not entirely mentally stable, embodies a contrast in himself. While he strives to display only tough and masculine qualities, he also harbors deep affection for his mother and the world she inhabits, believing that its destruction would signify the end of the world.

Completely contrasting her son’s disposition, with simpler desires and flexible cultural views, Fusako is a stark contrast to Noburu, which is evident in the environments they reside in. While Fusako’s bedroom exudes femininity with “trembling corners” and a lingering scent, Noburu’s room is plain and familiar, lacking any mystery. As a modern and liberated Japanese woman, Fusako embodies little regard for tradition, living in a Westernized manner as her “house had been requisitioned by the Occupation Army”. Despite being a visibly modern and somewhat flat character in the story, Fusako, like Noburu, showcases aspects of contrast in her personality.

Mishima skillfully uses clothing to develop his heroine’s character and highlight the contrasting elements within her. Throughout the book, Fusako mostly wears western-style clothing. However, in the final encounter with Ryuji in the first part of the book, “Summer”, she deliberately chooses to wear a cotton yukata as a last glimpse of herself in a traditional kimono for Ryuji. The intention behind this action is debatable, whether it was for Ryuji’s benefit or to emphasize her uniqueness. Nonetheless, Fusako’s decision to embrace tradition and culture she previously rejected demonstrates her contrasting actions and character. Metaphorically, in relation to the novel’s theme of land and sea, the female protagonist represents the land. Her longing for stability and safety makes her become the embodiment of the “prison” that Ryuji despises, yet ironically loves through his affection for Fusako.

Ryuji, the protagonist of the novel, finds himself caught between tradition and modernism, which are embodied by the other heroes. This contrast makes Ryuji stand out the most among the protagonists. He is heavily influenced by the differences of the other characters, constantly trying to please them. Ryuji is an idealist who is constantly seeking glory. He believes that there is a special destiny reserved for him, a unique kind of glory that ordinary men are not allowed to experience. He merges his concept of glory with those of the other main characters. Like Fusako, who believes that true happiness can only be found through love, Ryuji desires love and is determined to achieve his vision of glory through it. However, he also shares some similarities with Noburu, who believes that honor and glory can only be obtained through death.

Confirming that he is, in some way, the perfect merging of the other character’s guiding beliefs, he has come to understand that his love for Fusako will lead to his demise: “the kiss was death; the very death in love he always dreamed of”. This foreshadows the tragic ending of the novel. Despite his misconception of Noburu’s stoic teachings and his willingness to appease the other two protagonists, he ultimately becomes a tragic hero. Ironically, he is the only character in the book who fully comprehends his destiny: “Glory, as anyone knows, is bitter stuff”. Throughout the novel, Ryuji has demonstrated that he not only has the temperament to combine conflicting philosophies, but he also fears the conflicting nature of things. For instance, he struggles to choose between land and sea, love and adventure, a pitiful existence and glory.

All in all, the author uses complex and dissimilar characters to convey his impressions on the cultural environment in modern Japan and express his individuality. Upon closer examination, Mishima’s contrasting personality is reflected in his heroic characters, making them vividly real. By drawing from personal experiences and expressing private beliefs through his protagonists, Mishima’s characters transcend the pages of a book and become human beings with emotions. The author’s use of contrasting factors is what gives these characters an extraordinary sense of reality.

Cite this page

Contrast in The Sailor who fell from Grace with the Sea Analysis. (2017, Nov 13). Retrieved from

Remember! This essay was written by a student

You can get a custom paper by one of our expert writers

Order custom paper Without paying upfront