Themes and Meanings

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

After the Banquet contains no complex philosophical or psychological themes, which readers have come to expect from many of Yukio Mishima’s best-known works. Instead, Mishima has written more of a light entertainment than a fully developed novel. His primary aim seems to be that of satirizing Japanese politics, particularly the stiff Noguchi, and the social conventions of marriage, particularly the rigid relationships between men and women in Japan.

Beyond these obvious intentions, there is a dual theme that runs throughout the novel: First, there is the conflict between Kazu, the woman of warm blood and human vitality, and Noguchi, the man of lofty ideas and beautiful principles; second, there is the theme of Kazu’s discovery that the true nature of politics is betrayal. In fact, what makes Kazu so adept at politics is her past experience with love, for she realizes that politics is like romance, indeed that politics and love affairs are identical.

The tone and style of the novel move between a kind of poetic lyricism and a subtle sarcasm. The combination is such that the reader is never quite sure when Mishima is being serious and when he is being satirical. Because the work is broadly critical of certain Japanese political and social customs, this uneasiness is even more pronounced for Western readers unfamiliar with the aesthetic conventions of Japanese fiction and the traditional social conventions of Japanese life.


(The entire section is 440 words.)