Themes and Meanings

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

At the heart of The Silent Cry is a conflict centered on man’s response to the chaotic and abysmal in his life. Both Mitsu and Takashi must cope with the unspeakable horror of life; whereas the older brother cannot decipher the silent messages of suffering sent to him, Takashi is torn by his inability to reveal his painful truth. In these brothers, Kenzabur e’s novel presents two alternatives for coming to terms with an uncaring universe; each of the brother’s solutions has its shortcomings and is far from being a simple guide.

Furthermore, The Silent Cry is concerned with the influence of the past and the possibility of a present reenactment of a bygone power struggle. The strange doubling of the novel, which inevitably places Mitsu and Takashi in the roles of their ancestral antagonists, also raises the question of social responsibility versus individual care of the self.

Again, e refuses easy answers. As in the past, when the young brother sacrificed his life (in his voluntary self-incarceration in the cellar) and thus let the conservative element continue the family line, there is again a gentle fusion of the two elements. Thus, in the final battle between historical fact and fictional truth, it is Takashi’s vision of the world as a collective story that triumphs. Takashi enriches this story with his own contribution when he, like his favorite ancestor, enters the village’s cultural history as one of the “spirits” of the Nembutsu dance. It is Mitsu, however, whom the author leads out of the village to continue life and care for Natsumi and Takashi’s illegitimate child, in whom the Nedokoro family will survive.