The Sound of Waves


Yukio Mishima

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The Sound of Waves: Chapter 3 Summary & Analysis

That night, Shinji attends a meeting at the Young Men’s Association. In ancient times, the Association was a dormitory where young unmarried men could live after leaving home. While some still sleep and live there, the Association is now mostly a meeting-place where young men can gather to drink, debate, and brag about their fishing exploits. Inside the drab hut which houses the association, Shinji sits and listens to the other young men talk and joke. When one of them mentions the name Hatsue, Shinji cannot help but blush and startle.
Mishima continues to flesh out the social networks on the island of Uta-jima. There is a clear sense of community and cooperation—yet as this chapter progresses, Mishima will demonstrate how no institution on Uta-jima is fully insulated from the tensions of class, wealth, and social power.
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The president of the Young Men’s association, Yasuo Kawamoto, enters the hut by opening the door with a loud bang. The brash, self-important Yasuo kicks off the meeting of the Association, discussing matters they must attend to in the coming weeks and reviewing the Association’s monthly bulletin, The Orphan Island. The meeting grows rowdy as the young men playfully insult each other, argue, gossip, and debate. When the meeting is over, Yasuo leaves in a hurry without lingering to talk or joke any longer. Shinji asks what Yasuo’s hurry was, and another young man tells him Yasuo is on his way to a party given by Terukichi Miyata to celebrate Hatsue’s homecoming.
This passage demonstrates that even though Shinji participates in the Young Men’s association and has an active social life, he still feels unworthy when compared with his wealthier compatriots on the island. Shinji is contemptuous of Yasuo’s brash attitude—yet when it comes down to it, Yasuo is by nature of his higher birth given access to spaces and relationships that Shinji fears he himself will never get the chance to experience.
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Upset, Shinji leaves the meeting alone and walks through the village past the Miyata house, which is lit up by oil lamps. Shinji heads for the Yashiro Shrine, where he places coins into the offertory chest, clasps his hands, and prays. Shinji asks for the sea-god of the shrine to make sure the seas stay calm, the fish plentiful, and the village prosperous. He asks the god to give him “knowledge in the ways of the sea [and] the weather.” He asks for the protection of his mother and his brother. Lastly, he asks to become a person worthy of a beautiful bride—someone like Hatsue. As a wind rises, Shinji wonders if the sea-god has accepted his prayer—or whether he will be punished for asking something so selfish.
Though Shinji believes his prayer in this passage to be a selfish one, he takes great care to pray for the prosperity of his village, the safety of his family, and the continuation of his positive relationship with nature before actually asking for anything for himself. This demonstrates that, even as Shinji feels tempted by the “selfish” desire for romantic love, he is, at heart, a deeply selfless and giving person.
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