The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea

by Yukio Mishima
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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 201

The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea by Yukio Mishima is about Ryuji Tsukazaki, a sailor who is in search of glory. Ryuji happens to meet Noboru Kuroda, whom adores him. The two meet through Noboru’s mother, Fuskao, who is in a romantic relationship with the sailor. Ryuji and Noboru have similar views on how life should be lived. Noboru, who is 13 years old, like his peers, has a negative view of the adult world. They consider it phony, sentimental, and misleading. Therefore, they strive to be more objective than adults and behave in a callous—and very violent—manner.

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Ryuji believes in glory and constantly travels the seas in pursuit of it. He has never seen himself settling on land. However, when he meets Fusako, he has a change of heart. Noboru continues to admire Ryuji as the sailor’s relationship with his mother intensifies. However, one day, the boys realize that Ryuji is no different from the rest of the adults. Out of anger, Noboru takes part in a violent ritual that results in Ryuji's death.

The story looks at Noboru’s and Ryuji’s fascination with beauty and honor, which they attain through different means.

Summary

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1555

The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea is as much a story about the sailor Ryuji Tsukazaki as it is about thirteen-year-old Noboru Kuroda, who shares many of the same dreams as Ryuji, witnesses his downfall, and even participates in his ritualistic death. The novel examines the young boy’s and the older man’s desire for glory, beauty, and control, and their connections, all too often, with betrayal and death.

As the novel opens, Noboru finds himself bored and alone in his mother’s house. While rummaging through an old chest of drawers built into the wall between his bedroom and his mother’s, he discovers a small hole in the wood which allows him a fairly complete view of his mother’s room. From that point on, when his mother is severe with him, he begins spying on her at night. What he sees is a thirty-three-year-old widow, Fusako Kuroda, sitting in front of her mirror naked, with “scented fingers rooted between her thighs.” As he watches her caress her body, his curiosity is more philosophical than sexual, and he associates the “zone of black” beneath her fingers with a “pitiful little vacant house,” and his own empty world.

His mother’s room also holds a different attraction for him, for her windows overlook the ships in the harbor. Noboru has a fascination for ships, and his mother takes him to visit a tramp steamer one day. Their guide is Second Mate Tsukazaki. Both Noboru and Fusako are attracted to him. The boy sees the sailor as a hero, a “fantastic beast that’s just come out of the sea.” Fusako, a lonely widow, sees him as a man and takes him as a lover. As Noboru watches them make love in his mother’s room, the sailor, his mother, the sea, and Noboru, himself, achieve a sort of “universal order” signaled by the faraway scream of a ship’s horn. This ideal harmony is the “miracle” of which Noboru has always dreamed, and he vows to let nothing destroy it.

Noboru, however, is not the only one with a dream. Ryuji is drawn to the sea because he feels “destined for glory,” and he believes that the sea is the only place he could find it. Closely linked to his passion for the sea and for glory is the idea of death. Thus as he makes love to Fusako on that first evening, he, too, hears the wail of the ship’s horn, and for him the woman, the sea, and death become as one. He spends three days with her, and during that time comes to the realization that the glory for which he is destined will never come. He is tired of waiting. He tries to tell Fusako about his...

(The entire section contains 1756 words.)

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