What is the characterization, plot, symbolism and theme of the story "Patriotism" by Yukio Mishima?

1 Answer | Add Yours

akannan's profile pic

Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

The plot of "Patriotism" involves the conflict experienced between a commander of an army unit that has staged a coup against the political wing of the government.  The commander was unaware that his unit has undertaken such an action, and realizes that he will be commanded by the government, an extension of Emperor to whom he is absolutely loyal, to strike against his unit of soldiers.  Hence, the conflict:  Does the commander betray his Emperor, to whom he has professed absolute loyalty, or to his men, to whom he has trained and fought along side in battle with a "soldier's code of honor?  The answer to this dilemma is for the commander to commit Japanese suicide.  Consistent with the established themes of the writer, the overarching idea is the glorification of the soldier who achieves spiritual purity through suicide.  There is a very strong belief present in the story that the government has become corrupt and corroded by the influence of materialism and other "worldly" pursuits.  This corrosion has spread to the military, to which the author senses that the soldier is the last line of defense in upholding the spiritual discipline and purity needed.  The soldiers stage the coup to take action against the political government, reflecting and symbolizing purity in an impure world.  The commander outdoes their purity, in his loyalty to them and the Emperor, and the acceptance of his need to commit Seppuku (Japaese suicide) reflects this.  "Patriotism," as a concept, can only be achieved when spiritual authenticity is evident, and as the commander cannot be disloyal to both his troops, who acted in symbolic purity, and the Emperor, who represents national purity, the Commander does the only "honorable" thing in committing suicide.  In this depiction, the Commander is symbolic of the very best in human honor and purity.

We’ve answered 317,631 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question