Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The interplay of dark and light works on several levels and is conveyed in several images that form a continuum that comes full circle by the end of the story. The narrator wakes from a night of drinking; figuratively speaking, he is still in the dark about his relationship with his girlfriend. He is brought into the light by her revelation that she loves him, a revelation that takes place in the darkness. The helix, too, represents a continuum between the dark past and the bright present. To break this continuum by forgetting the past would alienate the pair not only from their past but also from each other and from the universal spirit that is in them by virtue of their mutual love.

The mood of the story is reflective, befitting the central subject, memory, and a spiritual quality infuses the young woman’s conversation about the role memory plays in her relationship with the young man. A series of sharply focused images emphasizes the importance of seeing significance in the representative detail. The young woman’s love for the young man becomes increasingly evident in the images that remind her of him: an elderly man, dogs and cats in alleyways, the warm rush of air from a subway station, and a ringing telephone in the night. When the young man recalls his girlfriend’s way of blinking when she is at a loss for words, he fears his interest in her will fade. The story traces the unraveling of this fear in images of light, starting from his initial mental darkness and leading to his intellectual awakening. Her response to the explosion and her revelation that her memories of him express her love make him see the error in his thinking.

Toward the end of the story, the focus shifts to the young woman, whose own way of seeing supervenes and enlarges the significance of light and darkness in discovering beauty, as demonstrated by her reaction to the explosion. In the darkened café, he wants to turn the lights on, but she prefers the darkness, which provides a backdrop to the explosion and his own enlightenment. These images enable the reader both to see Yoshimoto’s meaning in spiritual and symbolic terms and to feel their significance emotionally.