In The Temple of the Golden Pavilion, Mizoguchi narrates the story of his troubled life from his middle school years until age twenty-one, when he commits what he considers to be an inevitable deed. From the beginning of his narration, Mizoguchi stresses his isolation and feelings of alienation: Born on a remote cape to impoverished parents, a physically frail only child, he recognizes early that he is ugly and that his speech impediment—a stutter—locks him away from easy communication with the rest of the world. He lives virtually in an inner world, scorning the reality of the world around him. Throughout his narrative Mizoguchi stresses that “not being understood by other people had become my only real source of pride.”
Mizoguchi comes to believe that his troubled life leads him inevitably to the destruction of the Golden Temple. To explain this deed, Mizoguchi alerts the reader “that the first real problem I faced in my life was that of beauty.” Mizoguchi’s father, a tubercular country priest, taught his young son that nothing was more beautiful than the Golden Temple in Kyoto. When he feels death approaching, Mizoguchi’s father takes his young son to see the Zen temple and to meet Father Tayama Dosen, an old friend and the Superior of the Golden Temple. Having nurtured the idea of the temple’s beauty for years in his inner world, Mizoguchi is initially disappointed with the temple. The reality does not satisfy his ideal vision. Yet once away from Kyoto, he again visualizes the temple as beautiful. After his father’s death in the summer of 1944, Mizoguchi goes to Kyoto to finish his education under the care of Father Dosen. The young acolyte continues his lonely and alienated life: At his father’s cremation, he sheds no tears; a flashback describing an incident when Mizoguchi is thirteen explains his hatred for his mother; and even after a year with Father Dosen, Mizoguchi feels no personal connection to him. Only the temple holds fascination for the young Zen acolyte.
While studying at the temple, Mizoguchi is befriended by another youngacolyte, Tsurukawa. The two students seem quite different: Tsurukawa comes from a prosperous Tokyo family, has a promising future as a priest, and in Mizoguchi’s eyes has a cheerful and carefree disposition. During these years, only Tsurukawa is aware of Mizoguchi’s special feeling...
(The entire section is 971 words.)