The Grasshopper and the Bell Cricket by Yasunari Kawabata

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Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The theme of alienation, which characterizes Yasunari Kawabata’s work, resonates throughout this story. The narrator, the boy, and the girl are all intensely united in a brief but highly affecting encounter. Ironically, it is the narrator—that is, the observer and stranger—who, from his perspective of time and distance, feels the full impact of the moment. He is the most sensitive to the sorrow over the transience of things and, consequently, the betrayal of expectations. The story, therefore, becomes a meditation not only on love, loneliness, and loss but also on the nature of time itself, expressing the traditional Japanese sense of aware that links beauty with sadness. A feeling of incompleteness pervades life, and the narrator’s resigned sadness comes from an acceptance of human helplessness before the flow of time.

The singing insects of the title contribute to the meaning of the story in a multilayered way: The music they produce not only is suggestive of the beauty of nature but also signals the approach of autumn. In the context of Japanese classical literature, which Kawabata acknowledged as an influence, autumn connotes...

(The entire section is 380 words.)