Kazuko, the narrator, a twenty-nine-year-old woman living with her mother. She is from an aristocratic family whose fortunes are dwindling, and she is well-educated in Western culture. She sees herself as a victim. After her marriage ended in divorce, she returned home to live with her mother. She idolizes her mother’s elegant manners but, like her mother, is helpless in handling finances. After leaving their Tokyo estate and servants for a humbler life in the country, Kazuko and her mother await the return of Naoji, Kazuko’s brother. Kazuko becomes hysterical over her mother’s waning health and favoritism of Naoji. She sends frantic love letters to a dissolute writer, Uehara, and eventually pursues him in Tokyo to achieve her purpose of becoming pregnant.
Naoji, her brother, a frustrated writer. He is fearful of everyone. As a student, his aristocratic background was a burden. As a soldier in a losing war, he felt despair that led him to opium. He rationalized that under the effects of drugs he could become friendly and brutal like the common people. The pose of being coarse never won people’s approval and never quelled his innate sensibilities. He ruthlessly impoverishes his mother and sister to pretend to start a publishing business. He even fails at declaring his love for a married woman. His mother’s death overwhelms him with guilt. In the end, he commits suicide.
(The entire section is 458 words.)