Yukio Mishima's short story "Patriotism" recounts the events leading up to a ritualistic suicide by Lieutenant Shinji Takeyama and his wife. The setting of this story, Japan in 1936, is integral to the plot. Seppuku, a form of ritual suicide, was historically a well accepted practice in Japan. Without the stigma attached to suicide within the Christian faith, the act in Japanese culture was seen as showing great honor, and represented the ultimate sacrifice one could make to show courage.
It is obvious within the text that Lieutenant Shinji has accepted that he will give his life for country and honor at some point. At the beginning of the story, the author writes, “A woman who had become the wife of a soldier should know and resolutely accept that her husband’s death might come at any moment.” Later as the lieutenant leaves the house for the day, his wife sees “the determination to die” in his face.
Once the mutiny begins, the Lieutenant’s loyalty becomes divided. His world and reality are turned upside down as close friends become enemies of the government that he has committed his life to protect and defend. The Lieutenant states of his close friends, “They’ll be posted as rebels, I imagine. I shall be in command of a unit with orders to attack them. . . . I can’t do it. It’s impossible to do a thing like that.” When faced with the choice to kill a close friend or turn against his government, Lieutenant Shinji decides the only way he can save his honor is to die at the hand of his own sword.