Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The meaning behind the haunting of D comes from his decision to let his baby die rather than to face the burden of raising a mentally disabled human being. Having failed to provide for his son while he was alive, D feels he has to make amends to Aghwee the sky monster by obliterating all traces of his once successful personal and professional life. By confiding his vision to incomprehensive others who judge him to be mentally ill, D assumes a creative punishment for his own actions. e creates additional punishment for D by providing him with the knowledge that his son could have been cured. The theme of moral responsibility in a challenging world runs deep in all of e’s fiction, and this short story is no exception.

D is shown as a weak man who continues to betray people around him. He neglects his wife for his mistress, decides to starve their baby without consulting her, and even turns on the narrator by committing suicide while in his company. This makes the narrator lose face with D’s father, who silently pays the narrator for his last day’s service at the hospital with one thousand yen, which the narrator slips the driver of the truck that fatally hit D. By failing to face up to his human responsibilities as husband, father, employer, and companion, D represents modern humanity, which lacks a clear moral bearing.

Ironically, D assumes some responsibility for his actions only when it is too late. Making amends with Aghwee becomes his overriding concern in life. He wants to show the sky monster that Tokyo is a sort of paradise, creating a positive experience for the ghost while denying himself any further meaningful life. No longer composing any music and withdrawn from both his former wife and his mistress, D shuns even occasional human interactions such as the purchase of a subway ticket, leaving this task to the narrator. D’s vision of himself as a time traveler careful not to leave any traces serves as a thematic parallel to his regret over having denied the experience of life to his newborn son.