Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Mishima is one of the best-known postwar writers, yet he uses few of the literary allusions that fill the pages of Jun’ichiro Tanizaki or Yasunari Kawabata. Mishima frequently read classical Japanese literature, and he was capable of writing in a variety of styles. He disagreed strongly with writers who wanted dialogue to reflect everyday speech, and he used a deliberately artificial style. Mishima was fond of ornate expressions. Frequent use of metaphor and a rich vocabulary is characteristic of his style. This gives his characters a quality that transcends the mundane concerns of the average person.

In “Patriotism,” every act of preparation and the stages of the suicide are used to find meaning and to create a sense of understanding—an appreciation of the worldview of the young officer and his wife. Mishima’s literary inspiration was often a real event such as the suicide of Takeyama, which he enhanced through use of convincing detail. In such a tightly constructed story, every action and gesture is fully drawn out for its meaning. Although Takeyama and his wife have a silent appreciation of the thoughts of each other, Mishima takes pains to ensure that these are clear to the reader; he wants the reader to know how dedicated they really are.

Mishima’s finest work, Kinkakuji (1956; The Temple of the Golden Pavilion, 1959), like “Patriotism,” is a work of fiction that tries to explain the meaning of the actions of a real individual. Perhaps all writers draw on real people to create their characters, but Mishima carries this further by creating feelings and motives to develop a strong persona for real people.