Themes and Meanings

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

The major thematic point of Thousand Cranes is a statement about the degree to which men and women are mastered by a fate beyond their control. Nothing in Mitani’s own character ought to keep the cool and innocent Yukiko at a distance, but the dark secrets shared by his father, Mrs. Ota, and Chikako predetermine the direction his life will take. Pursuit of ideal beauty, as so much of Yasunari Kawabata’s fiction suggests, almost always results in revelation of the passion and egotism beneath the surface attractiveness. The character relationships in Thousand Cranes, both the mirroring sets of love triangles and the implicit parallels between characters that these relationships establish, objectify Kawabata’s sense of the fate that controls human destiny.

So much in the lives of the characters in Thousand Cranes is subject to chance. Kawabata uses the tea ceremony to suggest this. Mitani’s father, for example, met Chikako Kurimoto because of a mutual interest in the tea ceremony and the utensils used to practice it. Mrs. Ota is the widow of a man the elder Mitani knew because of this shared interest; many of the most valuable objects in the Mitani collection of utensils were purchased from Mrs. Ota. Others come into the younger Mitani’s hands as gifts from Fumiko. Kawabata brings the characters of Thousand Cranes together at least once in each major section of the novel to practice the tea ceremony. Mitani meets...

(The entire section is 468 words.)