The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea Analysis

Yukio Mishima

Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


*Yokohama. Major Japanese seaport that represents the symbolic place where the land or human culture meets the sea or untamed nature. Noboru, like many boys, is fascinated by the dark call of dangerous foreign seas and the apparently unfettered life of a sailor. This fascination represents an adolescent and romanticized vision of life that is the opposite of the land-bound bourgeois existence he and his friends detest in the adult world they see in Yokohama. Noboru shares this view of the authentic life with Ryuji Tsukazaki who, when he was a young man, had become a sailor for similar reasons. Tsukazaki’s plan to marry Noboru’s mother and abandon his sailor’s life to become a manager in the Kuroda clothing shop in Yokohama is a large element in what the boy and his friends see as a betrayal of their romantic vision. It is also what gives the psychological impetus to the imminent act of terrible violence planned by the group of boys that looms at the novel’s conclusion.

Kuroda home

Kuroda home. Stately home built by Noboru’s now-deceased father. From its hilltop location, it commands a beautiful view of Yokohama Bay. The family bedrooms are on the second floor, and Noboru is locked in his room every night by his overprotective mother, Fusako.

Bedrooms often serve as literary topos, or themes, in which the subjective and irrational sides of the human personality are prominent: Bedrooms...

(The entire section is 573 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Napier, Susan J. Escape from the Wasteland: Romanticism and Realism in the Fiction of Mishima Yukio and e Kenzabur. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1991. Does not treat The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea separately, but offers many insights and suggestions.

Petersen, Gwenn Boardman. The Moon in the Water: Understanding Tanizaki, Kawabata, and Mishima. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1979. Provides a lucid interpretation of the sexual and aesthetic elements in the novel.

Ueda, Makoto. Modern Japanese Writers and the Nature of Literature. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1976. Discerning analysis by a Japanese scholar of Mishima’s fiction.

Viglielmo, Valdo H. “The Sea as Metaphor: An Aspect of the Modern Japanese Novel.” In Poetics of the Elements in the Human Condition, edited by Anna-Teresa Tyrnieniecke. Dordrecht: Reidel, 1985. Volume 19 of the Series Analecta Husserliana. An ingenious and credible interpretation of the multiple meanings of the sea.

Wolfe, Peter. Yukio Mishima. New York: Continuum, 1989. The best criticism in English of the novel, portrayed as “a work of warped genius” that “opens exciting realms of response, but only to slam them shut.”