Thoughts: The Key to the Mind and Soul
IB Extended Paper
In the novels The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea, by Yukio Mishima, and Wonderful Fool, by Shusaku Endo, the authors write in a way which allows the characters to speak directly to the reader through thoughts. This device lets the reader know exactly what the character is experiencing. Mishima and Endo’s use of direct thought communication proves to be a beneficial aspect that aids the reader in understanding these works of literature. Both authors use this literary technique to clearly express to the readers the true thoughts and feelings of the characters; in turn allowing the reader to realize and understand the changes that each character undergoes, and ultimately comprehend the rebirth that the characters experience.
In The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea, Mishima chooses to have the character Ryuji express his true ideas and sentiments through a direct statement of thought. After spending his first night with Fusako, Ryuji reflects on his glory the next morning while alone. “There’s just one thing I’m destined for and that’s glory; that’s right glory!” (Mishima 16).
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).
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Through his contemplation of glory, the reader is allowed a glimpse into Ryuji’s true thoughts on his destiny and purpose in life. Ryuji’s ideas are used to convey to the reader exactly what he is feeling; this is important because the reader can now understand Ryuji’s beliefs and comprehend the enormity of change, from a life at sea to a life at land, he will soon experience.
The change Ryuji undergoes later in the novel is expressed to the reader through Mishima’s employment of the technique of sharing Ryuji’s thoughts. Ryuji’s change is a result of his having to choose between a life at sea, where he feels his glory awaits him, or a life on land with Fusako. Ryuji’s introspection on his life and glory are conveyed to the reader through his expression of boredom and disillusionment. At dawn of New Year’s Day, Ryuji stands at the dock with Fusako and thinks about his being, “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).
The reader now has a clear picture of Ryuji’s emotions towards his current situation and an understanding of Ryuji’s discovery of what he wants; a life on land. Ryuji’s lack of interest in the life of a sailor is conveyed to the reader through Mishima’s application of the literary technique of allowing the character’s thoughts to be clear. Ryuji’s contemplation on the subject of leaving the sea is important because it permits the reader to understand why Ryuji takes the course of action he later follows. Similarly, it aids the reader in realizing the change Ryuji has undergone.
Ryuji’s final opinion on his life and his true ideas about himself are brought to the reader’s attention in his ponderance over the decision to leave his life at sea. While waiting with the gang on the afternoon of his murder, Ryuji thinks, “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).
Ryuji’s regret is now apparent to the reader through Mishima’s employment of communication directly to the reader through narrative thought. Mishima gives the reader insight into Ryuji and his realization that he had abandoned the foundation of his life. Mishima’s decision to relate Ryuji’s thoughts directly to the reader is important here because it conveys to the reader a final irony of the book; Ryuji truly does love the sea and regrets his decision to exclude it from his life. This rebirth that Ryuji experiences, his reentrance into the sea, would not have been obvious to the reader had Mishima not specifically expressed Ryuji’s thoughts.
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Similarly, in Wonderful Fool, Endo’s character Tomoe experiences a rebirth that is made clear to the reader through her thoughts. At the beginning of the novel, Tomoe’s impression of Gaston is clearly related to the reader through the many perceptions Tomoe has about Gaston. Upon first seeing Gaston with Takamori on the boat, Tomoe’s reaction is “Horse!” (Endo 38).
This expression of disgust is later followed by, “It did not seem too much to ask that this descendant of Napoleon, if not exactly another Charles Boyer, should at least be elegant, fairly good-looking, and radiate a kind of manly charm. But on each count Gaston rated zero” (Endo 39).
Tomoe half hoped and half expected Gaston to be, “a strong, well-built, courageous young man who would sweep her off her feet” (Endo 236).
Gaston’s contradiction of Tomoe’s dreams lead to her resentment of his appearances. Tomoe also resented Gaston’s weakness and ignorance, as is exemplified by a thought she had after a night in Tokyo with Gaston and Takamori. “To cry like that…a big man like him. Doesn’t he have any self-respect? To let them beat him up without even trying to defend himself…,” “That foreigner’s a fool, a complete idiot. I hate him,” and “I’ve had my fill of him. I can’t waste all my time on this stubborn fool. Fool- that’s what he is! An absolute idiot!” (Endo 66, 122, 175).
In her various impressions of Gaston, Endo clearly expresses to the reader Tomoe’s true opinions of Gaston. The strength of Tomoe’s assertions cause the reader to realize the extreme nature of the change she undergoes later in the novel.
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Tomoe’s change in opinion of Gaston is communicated to the reader through a passage consisting of Endo’s employment of the usage of Tomoe’s thoughts. After Gaston left for Takasaki, Tomoe thought, “He’s not a fool. Or, if he is, he’s a wonderful fool . . . A man who loves others with an open-hearted simplicity, who trusts others . . . even if he is deceived or even betrayed – such man in the present day world is bound to be written off as a fool. And so he is. But not just any fool. He is a wonderful fool” (Endo 180).
With Tomoe’s changed thoughts about Gaston, the reader is allowed to see that she has finally come to accept and appreciate Gaston for who he really is, a wonderful fool. This gives the reader insight into both Tomoe and Gaston. Tomoe can now be viewed as a more perceptive individual as a result of the change she undergoes. Gaston is also presented to the reader in a changed light; his character is now defined to the audience as more innocent and caring, as opposed to inane and useless.
The authors’ expression of the character’s thoughts also enlighten the reader through the settings in which they are placed. In every instance, Tomoe and 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. Tomoe’s ideas are shown initially with Gaston and Takamori in and around Tokyo and later when she is alone at the station in Ueno. The seemingly haphazard selection of setting has an ulterior motive; to reveal to the reader the randomness and disarray in the character’s lives, thus making clear the need for the rebirth they both ultimately experience.
The literary device of character’s voices is very important in expressing the true thoughts and feeling of the characters in the novel to the reader. If it were not for this insight, the reader would at times be lost and confused on how the characters felt about certain issues. 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, disillusionment, and finally his ultimate regret of his decision. In Wonderful Fool, the reader knows Tomoe’s first impression of Gaston as an idiot and is able to realize when her opinion changes from one of loathing to one of admiration and respect. As a result of these changes, Tomoe and Ryuji both experience a rebirth of sorts; Tomoe discovers the truth about Gaston and Ryuji discovers what he wants out of life. Had the authors not employed the technique of direct thought narrative, the reader would not have been able to realize the character’s thoughts, recognize their changes, nor understand their rebirths. The author’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 characters experience a rebirth.
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