Sailor Who Fell From Grace
In the novel, The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea, by Yukio Mishima, Mishima writes in a way that allows the characters to speak directly to the reader through their inner most thoughts and emotions. Instead of a third person narrative where the reader is use to that type of context. It feels as if the character is talking to you personally. By doing this, Mishima is allowing his characters to let the readers know what mind state each character is going through. Mishima’s use of communication is a good addition that lets the reader get to know the novel and characters better. There are three main characters in this novel, and they all use direct communication for their readers. One character in particular is Ryuji, a sailor who has been at sea majority of his life. He finally has come back on land, and falls in love with a woman. She however has a son and is not willing to leave land to travel the seas with Ryuji. Ryuji goes through a sea of emotions, and the reader will be right along side him the whole way through the novel.
In The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea, Mishima chooses to have all his characters speak directly to the reader. For example, the character Ryuji, (Fusako’s boyfriend) expresses his true thoughts in a pretty straight forward statement. It is almost similar to a soliloquy, but worded so as the character is talking to the reader, not themselves. Ryuji is a sailor who spent most of his life in the ocean, but now has stopped on land and maybe for sure this time. He is currently dating Noboru’s mom, Fusako. After spending his first night with Fusako, Ryuji states, “There’s just one thing I’m destined for and that’s glory; that’s right glory! He had no idea what kind of glory he wanted, or was suited for.” (Mishima 16). Ryuji is telling the reader that he is destined for glory however he does not know how he wants or how it will be given to him. He goes on to think, “[…] there must be a special destiny in store for me; a glittering, special-order kind no ordinary man would be permitted” (Mishima 17). Through these statements, Mishima allows readers to identify with Ryuji’s expectations here on out with his future with Fusako. This is important because the reader can understand Ryuji’s beliefs and expectations for change, from his life at sea alone, to a life at land with someone.
The change Ryuji undergoes throughout the novel is seen to the reader through Mishima’s way of sharing Ryuji’s thoughts. Ryuji changes in the novel as a result of his having to choose between a life at sea, or a life on land with Fusako. The narrator states, “Ryuji hated the immobility of the land, the eternally unchanging surfaces. But a ship was another kind of prison.” (Mishima 16) This quote shows the confusion Ryuji is currently in because of the situation he is faced with. It is no doubt that Ryuji is in love with Fusako, just that whether he goes to sea without her, or stay on land with her is the tough part. In another scene in the book, Ryuji is standing at the pier/ dock with Fusako and thinks about his current situation, “tired to death of the squalor and the boredom in a sailor’s life . . . There was no glory to be found, not anywhere in the world” (Mishima 111). Ryuji in this part of the book is fighting with himself with a pros and cons list, and he questions himself why he wants to give up the sea. In one quote he says, “[…] and he was unable to distinguish the most exalted feelings from the meanest and that not mattering really since he could hold the sea responsible—are you going to give up the luminous freedom?” (Mishima 111) After his long inner fight with himself, Ryuji finally comes to his final conclusion. “I won’t be sailing for a while. As a matter of fact…” (Mishima 113). The audience now has a clear idea of Ryuji’s emotions towards his current situation and finally an understanding of what he wants, and that is a life on land with Fusako as his wife, and Noboru as his son-in-law. Mishima makes it clear that Ryuji is finally ready to settle down, and the sea does not appeal to him anymore, even though he battled within himself for a long time.
We, the reader are led to believe that Ryuji had made his final decision, and he is happy about it. However, later in the novel while Ryuji was waiting with the gang on the afternoon of his murder, Ryuji thinks that, “I could have been a man sailing away forever. He had been fed up with all of it, glutted, and yet now, slowly, he was awakening again to the immensity of what he had abandoned” (Mishima 179). Now we see that Ryuji is starting to take back what he originally thought was a great idea. However, the reader sees his regret with ease instead of trying to analyze how he feels. The reader also sees Ryuji’s death soon surfacing because the narrator states, “Waves, as tepid as blood, inside an atoll. The tropical sun blaring across the sky like the call of a brass trumpet. The many colored sea. Sharks…” (Mishima 181) The sharks are representing the gang that will murder him. However, Ryuji is in such a state of regret and I believe depression, that Ryuji may know what is going on or he is absorbed him his thoughts, death would not matter because life on land is like death to him. Mishima’s decision to relate Ryuji’s thoughts to the reader is important in this part of the book because it shows the reader the final irony of the book for Ryuji. Ryuji is a true sailor at heart and truly does love the sea and regrets his decision to exclude it from his life.
The authors’ expression of the character’s thoughts also enlighten the reader through the settings in which they are placed. In every instance, Ryuji’s thoughts are revealed in random places so that no connection can be drawn between the setting and their thoughts. Ryuji’s thoughts occur first while he is alone in bed at Fusako’s house, then when he is with Fusako at dawn near the dock, and finally when he is with the gang in the afternoon at the dry dock.
In Ryuji’s final scene the reader can feel the devastation that Ryuji feels. Ryuji is thinking what his life would have been like if he were still at the sea not realizing that the gang is preparing to murder him, and Noboru is in on it. However, it seems that Ryuji is already dying internally because of how much he regrets and wishes to take back his decision to stay on land when his passion was with the sea all this time . On the last page, Ryuji states, “A vision of death now eternally beyond his reach, majestic, acclaimed, heroic death unfurled its rapture across his brain. And if the world had been provided for just this radiant death, then why shouldn’t the world also perish for it!” ( Mishima 180) This quote is saying that Ryuji is now 100% regretful of his decision to marry Fusako and to stay on land. His life was to be at the sea, and he realizes this a few moments before his death.
However sad this may be, it is in a way good for Ryuji. All his life he did not know what he wanted in life, he depended on fate, and he was never sure of what was best for him and the current situation. Now in the final scene, Ryuji comes to a close with himself, and finally knows what he wants in life. Unfortuantely, this realization comes a few moments before death.
The literary devices used for Ryuji’s voice is very important in expressing the true thoughts and feelings of the character because it allows the reader to be on the same page as the character instead of guessing how he feels. This literary device is also used to express to the reader when the character’s thoughts and opinions have changed. The reader knows Ryuji’s initial thoughts on glory, then his changed thoughts, confusion, and finally his ultimate regret of his decision to stay with Fusako. If Mishima did not have the technique of direct thought narrative, the reader would have had trouble analyzing the character’s inner most feelings, able to see the character’s thoughts, or recognize their changes. Mishima’s use of communication through the thoughts of the characters allows first for the recognition of character’s ideas and thoughts, second, when these thoughts and opinions change, and third, why the character finally realizes his regret in decision.
1) Mishima, Yukio. The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With The Sea Trans. John Nathan. New York. First Vintage International Edition, 1994.