The Sound of Waves

by

Yukio Mishima

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The Sound of Waves: Chapter 8 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Two days after Hiroshi’s departure, the island of Uta-jima is struck by a roaring storm. Shinji awakes knowing that there will be no fishing today. The house is shaking and rattling with the wind’s fury, and the rain is coming down so hard that Shinji knows he won’t be able to accomplish any other tasks outside. Normally, Shinji hates an idle day off—but today, he is excited, and he quickly leaps from bed and puts on a black sweater full of holes. Later today, he is going to meet up with Hatsue in secret.
Shinji respects nature’s warnings enough to heed them most of the time—but today, he is determined to defy even the worst weather in order to be reunited with Hatsue. Mishima introduces an intriguing contradiction here: though Shinji is defying the warnings of nature, he is doing so in the name of his pure and steadfast devotion to Hatsue.
Themes
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Shinji puts on a raincoat and goes down to the beach—he is so full of pent-up excitement that he feels that only the sea can “answer [the] wordless conversation” happening inside of him. As Shinji stands in front of the roaring sea and feels salt spray on his face, he is reminded of the taste of Hatsue’s lips. A wave washes a beautiful pink shell up near Shinji’s feet. He picks it up and decides to give it to Hatsue as a present.
Shinji may be turning against nature’s warnings and heading out into the storm, but as he communes with the waves in this passage, it is clear that he derives strength, companionship, and even a sense of guidance from nature itself. Nature seems to be encouraging Shinji to follow his heart by presenting him with the beautiful pink shell for Hatsue.
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Related Quotes
Shinji returns home for lunch, then goes back out into the storm. After he goes, his mother is left to finish up the dishes. In the quiet house battered by rain, she considers her desire for a daughter whom she might understand—and who might help her with the housework. She knows she is young and healthy enough still that she could bear more children—but the thought of betraying her husband’s memory shames her. She goes over to his memorial tablet to say a prayer. 
Shinji’s mother remains devoted to her husband, even though he is no longer alive. This illustrates Mishima’s belief in the power of devotion no matter the circumstances. It’s clear that Shinji has learned from his mother what it means to be truly devoted to someone. This passage also suggests that Shinji’s mother might like it if he married; she would probably like having a daughter-in-law. 
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Shinji walks through the storm up the mountain and toward the abandoned observation tower where he and Hatsue met before, when she was lost on her way to the lighthouse. At the highest point on the island, Shinji marvels at the storm’s “supreme dominion” over the island. On the ground floor of the tower, Shinji finds shelter from the storm. He takes off his raincoat and his trousers and reaches into his pocket for some matches. He lights a fire using some pine needles and driftwood, then lays his damp clothes near the flames to dry and sits down to wait for Hatsue. While Shinji waits, he grows so warm and comfortable that he falls asleep.
Shinji continues to demonstrate an awestruck respect for nature, even as he makes his way through the harrowing storm. As a result, perhaps, of his reverence for nature—and his ability to learn how to live with rather than in opposition to the forces of nature—he is rewarded by arriving safe and sound at the observation tower, where he can relax and dry himself by a fire he himself made.
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When Shinji opens his eyes, he is surprised to find that the figure of a naked girl is standing on the other side of the fire, drying herself and her clothes. Shinji wonders if he is dreaming—but then he recognizes the girl as Hatsue. He decides to pretend to be asleep so that he can watch her a while longer through half-closed eyes. Diving women such as Hatsue, Shinji knows, are accustomed to drying themselves by a large communal fire—albeit with other women—as soon as they emerge from the sea. Shinji knows that the thought of undressing before a man never entered Hatsue’s head—she came in, saw the fire, and began to dry herself in the way she has always been taught to.
Shinji is as awestruck by Hatsue’s beauty as he is by the forces of nature. Shinji and Hatsue are both young and desirous of one another, yet as Shinji observes Hatsue’s body in this passage, he is impressed by her self-confidence and intuition, not overtly lustful. This illustrates that Shinji is devoted to Hatsue on a level that transcends the physical.
Themes
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Shinji blinks. Hatsue notices the movement. She screams out for him to shut his eyes, and, though he has been admiring Hatsue’s body, he does so. He realizes, however, that there’s no fault in what he or Hatsue has done—she is simply drying herself, and he woke up in the middle of that process. Shinji opens his eyes again and faces Hatsue directly. Shinji tries to approach Hatsue, but she scoots away from him. She tells him she’s embarrassed, and he asks what would ease her embarrassment. Hatsue says that if Shinji disrobed, too, she would feel less alone and ashamed. Shinji immediately begins to take his clothes off. The two stand before each other, naked except for their underwear. Hatsue remarks that Shinji hasn’t taken his off. He says that if she will, he will too. Hatsue smiles and removes her underwear. Shinji does so, too.
In this passage, Hatsue urges Shinji to get naked not necessarily because she wants to see his body, but because she wants him to prove his devotion to her and his willingness to do what she asks of him in order to establish them as equals in their relationship. Shinji leaps at the opportunity to prove the depths of his devotion—he is entirely committed to giving Hatsue the things she needs to feel happy, safe, and comfortable. Their commitment to one another’s joy and well-being is palpable.
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Related Quotes
As the storm intensifies, Shinji and Hatsue leap toward one another and embrace. They sink to the floor by the fire and begin to kiss, but Hatsue insists that she will not sleep with Shinji before she’s married—it’s “bad” for a girl to do such a thing. Hatsue tells Shinji she wants to marry him—they should wait, she says, until after they are legally bound. Shinji and Hatsue continue holding one another quietly by the fire for some time, listening to the sounds of the storm. Shinji feels “pure and holy happiness” with Hatsue in his arms. After a while, he goes over to the pile of his clothes and retrieves the seashell for Hatsue. She accepts it happily and kisses him deeply.
This passage further illustrates that the connection between Shinji and Hatsue is on a level much deeper than the physical. They truly care for and respect one another. They seek to apply the lessons they’ve learned from nature about generosity, restraint, and interconnectedness to build a real relationship rather than deriving instant gratification.
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When it is time for Shinji and Hatsue to head home, they walk the easiest path down the mountain—the path takes them directly past the lighthouse, where the lonely Chiyoko, who is sitting in the living room gazing out the window at the storm, catches sight of Hatsue and Shinji, snuggled together, walking by. Chiyoko is reminded of a rumor she heard at school about a classmate who was seduced by the man she was in love with. Chiyoko turns away from the window and returns to studying. Neither her mother nor her father has seen what she has seen.
Chiyoko is the only one who sees Shinji and Hatsue descend from the lighthouse together—but she is jealous, lonely, and easily influenced by the forces of gossip, rumor, and scandal. Chiyokok’s chance observation in this passage will set in motion the events that will test Shinji and Hatsue for the rest of the novel.
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