Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 321
The two characters in "Patriotism" are a married couple, Shinji Takeyama and Reiko. The story, set in Japan in 1936, concerns an attempted military coup against the Emperor and its effects on the couple, who were married only six months earlier. It ends with their deaths by suicide.
Shinji is an officer in the Japanese Imperial Forces. He is completely loyal to the Emperor. Living the life of a soldier with honor matters to him more than anything. Reiko marries him with full knowledge of and pride in his nobility and way of life.
As the action unfolds over several days, the reader learns about the ramifications of both their choices. Ardent sexual passion is a characteristic that they both share, and the author presents frequent lovemaking as having being a significant aspect of their marriage. He also describes them both as very good looking, emphasizing how their bodies appear through the other's eyes and desire.
Shinji had been straightforward, even adamant in making Reiko understand what it meant to be a soldier's wife. His expectation is that she will be as loyal to the Emperor as he is and that she will follow his lead in the case of dishonor.
Reiko is portrayed as fully understanding this commitment, and as being as invested in the concept of honor as he is. Thus, her willingness to die with honor by suicide—confirmed by her showing him a dagger from her family—is portrayed as an aspect of her nobility, rather than as passive obedience to her husband.
While Shinji's unit had been instrumental in staging the attempted coup, his fellow officers had not confided in him. After their failure, he knows he will be torn in his duty—duty to them or to the emperor. Because of this disgrace, he chooses suicide, a ritual act called seppuku, by knife. Reiko follows him, as she promised, slitting her throat with her own knife.
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