Throughout The Sound of Waves, the act of pearl diving symbolizes the beauty within struggle. Just as the women who live on the island of Uta-jima push their bodies to the limit in pursuit of the hard-shelled abalone shellfish that contain beautiful pearls, Mishima suggests that all people must push themselves to often-frightening depths of the soul in order to learn the lessons of nature, love others fully, and subvert the forces of jealousy, gossip, wealth, and class that threaten the fullness of human life. Pearl diving can be seen as a symbol of how difficult and bracing—yet profound and revealing—the work of coming of age, committing to love, and resisting the temptation to give into jealousy, fear, anger, and other base instincts can be. Throughout Shinji’s coming-of-age journey, he finds himself challenged by the socioeconomic environment of his home island when he falls in love with the beautiful and wealthy Hatsue, who is herself a pearl diver, just like Shinji’s own mother. The women’s experiences with the jagged ocean floor and the bitterly cold water have taught them what it means to weather the bad in pursuit of the good—and as Shinji finds himself observing the start of pearl-diving season, he realizes that in order to fully grow up and earn Hatsue’s love and devotion, he too must search for the small pearls of beauty, happiness, and fulfillment in the midst of tough experiences.
Pearl Diving Quotes in The Sound of Waves
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.
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.
“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.