The Sound of Waves

by

Yukio Mishima

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Shinji’s Mother Character Analysis

Shinji’s mother is a widowed woman raising her two young sons as best as she can. A seasoned pearl-diver, she is athletic, brave, and deeply devoted to her family’s well-being. She has a very complicated inner life; though she is a devout woman who mourns her husband’s passing by visiting his grave each month and paying respects at a prayer altar in her home, there is a part of her that longs for more children, adventure, and another chance at love. As a diving woman, she is one of the wisest and most experienced women on the island—yet because she is poor, she finds herself excluded from exerting any influence in her community. When her son Shinji becomes the subject of terrible rumors, Shinji’s mother does everything she can to clear her son’s name—yet she finds herself humiliated when she is unable to even obtain an audience with the wealthy Terukichi Miyata, the father of the girl Shinji is rumored to have deflowered. Shinji’s mother enjoys work and finds herself bored and lonely during the winter and spring months when there is no pearl diving to be done. She draws strength from being around other women who share the same struggles as her, who have the same connection to nature that she does, and who are focused, for the most part, on helping one another rather than tearing each other down with petty gossip. A thoughtful, giving, fiercely defensive individual, Shinji’s mother wants her sons to live happy lives free of worry, strife, or pain.

Shinji’s Mother Quotes in The Sound of Waves

The The Sound of Waves quotes below are all either spoken by Shinji’s Mother or refer to Shinji’s Mother. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Lessons from Nature Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Vintage edition of The Sound of Waves published in 1994.
Chapter 10 Quotes

The mother took a very tolerant view of young people’s amorous affairs. And even during the diving season, when everyone stood about the drying-fire gossiping, she held her tongue. But when it came to its being her own son's affair that was the subject of malicious gossip, then there was a motherly duty that she would have to perform.

Related Symbols: Pearl Diving
Page Number: 103
Explanation and Analysis:

It might be better to say that Terukichi was the personification of all Uta-jima’s toil and determination and ambition and strength. […] The uncanny accuracy of his weather predictions, his matchless experience in the matters of fishing and navigation, and the great pride he took in knowing all the history and traditions of the island were often offset by his uncompromising stubbornness, his ludicrous pretensions, and his pugnacity…

Related Characters: Terukichi Miyata, Shinji’s Mother
Page Number: 106
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 12 Quotes

Shinji’s mother hesitated a moment as she was about to enter the house. Just the fact that she had come calling at the Miyata house, where she was not on intimate terms, would be enough to set the villagers’ tongues to wagging.

Related Characters: Shinji’s Mother, Terukichi Miyata
Page Number: 126
Explanation and Analysis:

Double suicide then? Even on this island there had been lovers who took that solution. But the boy’s good sense repudiated the thought, and he told himself that those others had been selfish persons who thought only of themselves. Never once had he thought about such a thing as dying; and, above all, there was his family to support.

Page Number: 126
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 13 Quotes

Hatsue got to her feet in silence and went around the rock to receive her prize. And the prize she returned with was the brown, middle-aged handbag, which she pressed into the hands of Shinji’s mother.

The mother's cheeks flushed red with delight.

“But...why?...”

“Because I’ve always wanted to apologize ever since my father spoke so rudely to Auntie that day.” […]

The mother's simple, straightforward heart had immediately understood the modesty and respect behind the girl’s gesture. Hatsue smiled, and Shinji's mother told herself how wise her son had been in his choice of a bride.

Related Characters: Shinji’s Mother (speaker), Hatsue Miyata (speaker), Shinji Kubo
Related Symbols: Pearl Diving
Page Number: 146
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The Sound of Waves LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Sound of Waves PDF

Shinji’s Mother Character Timeline in The Sound of Waves

The timeline below shows where the character Shinji’s Mother appears in The Sound of Waves. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Coming of Age Theme Icon
...working as a fisherman in order to provide for his brother, Hiroshi, and his widowed mother. As Shinji arrives at the lighthouse, the older couple rejoices at Shinji’s arrival—and the beautiful... (full context)
Chapter 2
Love, Sex, and Devotion Theme Icon
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Gossip and Rumor Theme Icon
...open ocean. Last night, when Shinji returned home, his twelve-year-old brother Hiroshi and his widowed mother, who has worked as a pearl diver since her husband was killed in the final... (full context)
Chapter 3
Lessons from Nature Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Devotion Theme Icon
Coming of Age Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Chapter 4
Lessons from Nature Theme Icon
Coming of Age Theme Icon
...the waves so rough that not a single fishing-boat is out on the ocean. Shinji’s mother has asked him to bring down a store of firewood she gathered and left on... (full context)
Chapter 5
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Class, Wealth, and Power Theme Icon
On the monthly commemoration of the day of Shinji’s father’s death, Shinji, Hiroshi, and their mother head to the graveyard to visit Shinji’s father’s grave in the early morning hours. There,... (full context)
Lessons from Nature Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Devotion Theme Icon
...into his sweater to pull out his envelope—he always gives his pay directly to his mother for household expenses. He is shocked to find that the envelope is missing. Knowing he... (full context)
Chapter 6
Love, Sex, and Devotion Theme Icon
Class, Wealth, and Power Theme Icon
...and Hiroshi can use to get into the shipping business and take care of their mother financially. No matter how successful he gets in life, he says, he hopes to come... (full context)
Chapter 7
Lessons from Nature Theme Icon
Coming of Age Theme Icon
...outside world for the first time, spotting streetcars, skyscrapers, and cinemas at long last. Hiroshi’s mother buys talismans at the Yashiro Shrine and packs Hiroshi’s bag full of snacks and candies.... (full context)
Chapter 8
Love, Sex, and Devotion Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Chapter 9
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Class, Wealth, and Power Theme Icon
...the seats flipped down. Hiroshi says he hopes that one day he can take his mother to a movie, too. Shinji’s mother, crying, orders Shinji to kneel with her before their... (full context)
Gossip and Rumor Theme Icon
That night, after visiting the bathhouse with his mother, Shinji spies someone standing on the street looking up at the eaves of one of... (full context)
Chapter 10
Gossip and Rumor Theme Icon
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... (full context)
Gossip and Rumor Theme Icon
The next evening, when Shinji’s mother goes to a meeting of the island women’s club, everyone stops talking as soon as... (full context)
Chapter 12
Lessons from Nature Theme Icon
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Gossip and Rumor Theme Icon
As the weather turns warm, Shinji’s mother longs to get back to pearl diving. She is bored of doing housework and she... (full context)
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Class, Wealth, and Power Theme Icon
Gossip and Rumor Theme Icon
Shinji’s mother approaches the surprisingly modest home of Terukichi Miyata. She is nervous—she knows that simply being... (full context)
Class, Wealth, and Power Theme Icon
A moment later, Hatsue returns and sheepishly announces that her father will not see Shinji’s mother. Shinji’s mother, enraged, shouts that she will never again cross the threshold of the Miyata... (full context)
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Gossip and Rumor Theme Icon
In the aftermath of the incident, Shinji’s mother is embarrassed. She doesn’t tell Shinji what transpired right away—but when she finally confesses the... (full context)
Chapter 13
Lessons from Nature Theme Icon
Coming of Age Theme Icon
...as they compare their bare breasts and argue over whose are the most shapely. Shinji’s mother is quietly proud of her own breasts, which are the most youthful-looking among the women... (full context)
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Class, Wealth, and Power Theme Icon
Shinji’s mother and Hatsue immediately enter the contest along with six other women. They take a boat... (full context)
Chapter 14
Love, Sex, and Devotion Theme Icon
Class, Wealth, and Power Theme Icon
...the ferry to the mainland. At the docks, Shinji sees Hatsue whisper something to his mother, then hand her a small package. Shinji’s mother approaches him to say farewell and wish... (full context)
Chapter 15
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Gossip and Rumor Theme Icon
On the way to Terukichi’s, the lighthouse-keeper’s wife spies Shinji’s mother doing laundry in the stream with some other diving women. Realizing how strange it is... (full context)
Love, Sex, and Devotion Theme Icon
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Class, Wealth, and Power Theme Icon
...what she has to say. He is shocked, however, when five other women, including Shinji’s mother, enter the sitting-room. The lighthouse-keeper’s wife says she wants to talk to Teruichi about Hatsue... (full context)