Summary (Masterplots II: Short Story Series, Revised Edition)
It is a hot, lazy summer in an isolated mountain village in Japan. Floods have washed out the only direct link to town, a suspension bridge. The teacher refuses to travel the long, treacherous path along the ridge, so the village children find time on their hands.
The narrator of this story is searching for bone fragments in the village crematory when Harelip, the local Tom Sawyer, appears with a wild-dog puppy that he has captured. Suddenly the narrow sky of the valley is filled with the shadow and roar of an enormous airplane.
Harelip shouts that it is an enemy plane, and the dog escapes in the confusion, but a more important “catch” is at hand. The next morning, the children of the village awake to find an ominous silence and all the adults gone. They are out searching for downed American airmen. The distant war, noted only by the absence of young men from the village and an occasional death notice, does not have much meaning for the children until the adults return late in the day from the mountains. They bring with them an enormous black man. The boy is reminded of a boar hunt, the hunters silently circled around the captive, who has the chain from a boar trap around his legs.
The enemy excites both fear and curiosity among the children. He is put into the cellar of the communal storehouse and a guard is posted. The storehouse is a large building, and the boy and his younger brother live on the second floor with their...
(The entire section is 1101 words.)
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Summary (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
“The Catch,” a story in the collection The Catch, and Other War Stories (1981), begins with the capture of a black American soldier whose plane has been shot down in a remote part of Japan near the end of World War II. The narrator, the older of two brothers, is given the job of keeping the black soldier (the catch) alive. Gradually the black soldier becomes an accepted part of village life as the narrator, his brother, and their best friend, Harelip, learn to communicate with him without the means of spoken language. When word arrives that the prisoner must be handed over to the army, the narrator tries to warn the black soldier who, in desperation, holds the boy hostage. In the end the black soldier is killed by the boy’s angry father, who also seriously wounds his son.
“The Catch” is e’s way of expressing the shock he felt when, at the end of the war, he heard the emperor’s surrender speech on the radio and knew the emperor was not a god but an ordinary man. It is a story of the passing of the innocent world of the village in the valley and of how the war finally intrudes into the lives of two devoted brothers. In the center of this world is the catch, a powerful, black giant of a man who is worshiped by the village children. The story reaches its richest and most moving point when the narrator describes how the black soldier joins the children for a swim in the village pond. It is a celebration of summer and high spirits....
(The entire section is 474 words.)