Yukio Mishima’s 1954 novel, The Sound of Waves, narrates the story of Hatsue and Shinji’s search for love in a rural fishing community where tradition is very important. Throughout the novel, Mishima portrays the theme of nature through the representation of both the protagonist’s – Shinji and Hatsue, the importance of nature in the tradition of the village and how nature is significant in the love story of Hatsue and Shinji that proceeds throughout the novel.
Throughout the novel, Mishima presents Yasuo as a representation of civilization and thus a foil to Shinji who is a representation of nature, and therefore highlights the goodness in Shinji’s character. For instance, Mishima describes Yasuo as a boy who was “the proud and bragging owner of a watch with a luminous dial. ” The choice of the word “luminous” connotes something bright and attractive, and thus symbolizes an object from the city. Similarly, Mishima describes Shinji as a boy that was “endowed with the marvelous ability of being able to sense what time it was instinctively. The choice of the word “instinctively” highlights Shinji’s natural instinct in telling the time by looking at nature, and therefore reinforces his alliance with nature.
The contrast between the antagonist and protagonist shows that Yasuo needs civilized objects to tell the time and Shinji uses the natural environment to tell the time, and therefore emphasizes that Shinji is depicted as a source of goodness throughout the novel. Mishima also utilizes the characters of Chiyoko and Hatsue throughout the novel to further emphasize the theme of nature, represented by Hatuse, and the theme of civilization, represented by Chiyoko.
For example, when Hatsue walks on the island, her “clogs mak[e] very clear light sounds”, but when Chiyoko walks on the island, her “clogs sunk into the cold sand. ” The fact that Hatsue is taking dainty steps shows that she is aware of damaging the earth beneath her. Also, the word choices “clear” and “light” are positive and therefore connote Hatsue’s larger alliance with nature. Chiyoko, on the other hand is represented as much more forceful and aggressive.
The visual and auditory imagery used to represent this suggests that she is unaware of the earth beneath her, and thus reinforce that she is from the city due to her disrespect to nature. Nature is also presented as something that is very important in the rural community of the village. This is seen when Shinji describes the importance of nature, especially the sea as it is the “place where he earned his living, a rippling field where, instead of waving heads of rice or wheat, the white and formless harvest of waves was forever swaying above the unrelieved blueness of a sensitive and yielding soil. The choice of diction in “earned his living” emphasizes Shinji’s reliance on the sea, as well as the importance of the presence of the sea in order for him to survive, therefore highlight the significance of nature in the passage. Additionally, the metaphor of “rippling field” shows his passion for the sea, as though a farmer loves his field, and thus emphasize the need for nature in the village. Also, the metaphor of a “formless harvest of waves” also emphasizes that the waves will always be here for the villagers to rely on, and therefore highlight their trust in nature in providing them life.
Finally, nature is portrayed as an important aspect of the love story between Hatsue and Shinji. For example, at the end of the novel, after all the troubles Shinji and Hatsue have been through, nature finally accepts then and “too again smiled on them” The personification of nature smiling upon them suggests that nature is accepting them after all the tests that nature has given them, thus emphasizing that their relationship with nature. The choice of diction “again” shows that nature has always been on their side, and again highlights their alliance with nature.
Also, because they have been “accepted” by nature suggests that because they are a representation of nature, they will always win. In conclusion, the theme of nature throughout the novel is portrayed as a important aspect in presenting the antagonist’s and protagonist’s, the tradition of the village and the love story between Hatsue and Shinji. Mishima utilizes the theme of nature to reinforce continuously that it is always nature that wins and is morally correct and good.