Hiroshi returns home to the island full of stories about his trip to the city—but as he tries to share his experiences with his family, he finds he has a hard time describing the wonders of the “real” world. As excited as he is, Hiroshi is grateful to be home. Over the next several days, as summer vacation winds down, Hiroshi spends a lot of time reenacting Western movie plots with his friends on the southern tip of the island, near the entrance to a large, dark cave. The boys explore the cave, full of wonder and excitement, and incorporate the strange echoing of the waves coming in from the sea into their games.
This passage shows how, even for the island’s young people, nature defines their daily lives. Nature is a force that the island’s children understand and respect intuitively as they work to incorporate nature’s unpredictability into their lives at every turn.
To placate the wrath of the sea-god that they believe is sending the waves, they offer up small bits of crackers and buns their mothers have packed them for the day. When the waves keep coming into the cave, stronger than ever, one of Hiroshi’s friends, Sochan, suggests the sea-god has sent the waves because of an immorality in their midst—he says that the god is angry about what Shinji did to Hatsue by sleeping with her. Hiroshi hits Sochan and the two begin fighting until their friend Katchan breaks them up. The two boys apologize and resume their game—but even after they leave the cave for the afternoon, the words still weigh on Hiroshi.
This passage illustrates the widely-held belief on Uta-jima that nature punishes those who defy its lessons. Hiroshi doesn’t know exactly what it is Sochan is talking about—but he knows that the rumors about his brother make him feel sad and defenseless. Hiroshi is worried about what will happen to Shinji given the malicious gossip swirling throughout town.
That night, when Hiroshi gets home, he asks his mother what his friend Sochan meant about Shinji and Hatsue sleeping together. Shinji is not yet home from work. Hiroshi’s mother urges him not to ever repeat such a thing again—and especially not in front of Shinji. Later that night, after Hiroshi is asleep, Shinji’s mother approaches Shinji and asks him if he knows what people are saying about him and Hatsue. Normally she ignores village gossip—but now that her own son is implicated, she knows she must shield him from the malicious forces of lies and hearsay. Shinji says he hasn’t heard anything about the rumors, and that he didn’t sleep with Hatsue.
This passage illustrates just how seriously Shinji’s mother takes the threat of gossip and rumor. She knows the power such forces have to erode individuals, families, and communities, and she is determined to protect her children from the destructive nature of lies and slander.
The next evening, when Shinji’s mother goes to a meeting of the island women’s club, everyone stops talking as soon as she walks into the room—they have all been talking about her. The evening after that, Shinji arrives at a meeting of the Young Men’s Association, and the same thing happens to him. Several days later, Ryuji tells Shinji that Yasuo is spreading horrible rumors about Shinji. Ryuji tells Shinji that he has his back no matter what.
Shinji and his mother experience a great deal of judgement and shunning as they try to move through public spheres. Mishima illustrates how the gossip about Shinji is eroding his and his mother’s ability to participate in their community.
One night, at the public bathhouse, the wealthy and powerful self-made man Terukichi Miyata struts into the crowded baths and undresses, revealing his aged but shapely form. As he dips into the bath, he overhears a nearby pair of young fisherman—who have not noticed his arrival—talking about how Hatsue is a “cracked pitcher” due to Shinji’s dastardly machinations. Terukichi gets out of the bath, dumps ice-cold water over the fishermen’s heads, then knocks their skulls together before leaving the bath house without a word.
As Hatsue’s powerful, wealthy, and imposing father finds that even he and his family are not immune from gossip and rumor, he reacts with anger and violence. Mishima suggests that Terukichi will not stand for the spread of rumors about his daughter—and that he may treat Hatsue violently as a result of the gossip.