Themes and Meanings (Masterplots II: World Fiction Series)
The title A Personal Matter suggests the central theme of the novel: that the choice among life’s options is one which must be made by every individual. To a child, all things are possible. To Bird, whose childish nickname suggests his nature, both marriage and freedom have seemed possible, and like a child, he strikes out at another human being, his own helpless son, when life interferes with his plans.
Bird’s name also suggests the childish response to unpleasantness, flight. When his friend Kikuhiko showed fear, Bird deserted him, as if to fly from another’s fear would prevent one’s own fearfulness. Later, Bird ran from life to alcohol. Such flights are both negations of the self, as is the ultimate negation, suicide, an important motif in the novel. It is significant that Bird’s own father committed suicide after the child questioned him about death. Himiko, whose husband killed himself, and whose own sexual life is more destructive than creative, points out that Bird, too, has a predisposition toward suicide.
The theme of negation is supported by the literary allusions in the novel. Remembering Tom Sawyer’s experience in the cave, Bird says that he is looking for an exit from his own cave; at the end of the story, he has rejected that search, understanding that the only exit from life is death. References to Ernest Hemingway, particularly to his novel The Sun Also Rises (1926), also underline the theme of...
(The entire section is 363 words.)
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