The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea Themes

Yukio Mishima

Themes and Meanings

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

The desire to harmonize an external and internal world, the needs of the flesh and the spirit, and the qualities of modern and traditional values is a concern that runs through many of Yukio Mishima’s novels, including The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea. This desire, which often leads to tragedy, is best illustrated through the character of the sailor, and, by association, through the eyes of Noboru. For both man and boy, the sea symbolizes beauty, power, glory, and death. When Noboru spies on Ryuji making love to his mother, the sailor is described in sea like terms: His muscles are like the ropes on a ship and they “ripple” down his chest; he is “cast from the matrix of the sea”; the gold flesh of his chest “rises and falls.” As for Ryuji’s own vision of himself, he dreams of glory “surging in to flood him,” and he feels it “knifing toward him like a shark” through the water.

Both men also incorporate a woman, Fusako, into this picture of glory. On that first night, as Ryuji makes love to her and Noboru watches, the moonlight over the sea reflects through her bedroom windows, and she gives off a sweaty, “musky” fragrance. In a rare gesture, she wears a kimono, and as she undresses, the gown makes a “swishing” sound, like sails unfurling, as it falls to the floor. The wail of the ship’s horn is noticed by both the sailor and boy, and each associates the woman with the sea, with glory, and with death....

(The entire section is 451 words.)