Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)


Kaname, a sinecurist in his father’s company, a quiet, unassuming man in his mid-forties. He and his wife, Misako, agree that their marriage has ended in all but name (they still live together), but neither has the necessary decisiveness to obtain a divorce. Although the basic reason for the marriage’s failure is Kaname’s lack of sexual interest in his wife, he is equally put off by her modern ways and extreme interest in the latest fads of Western culture. Kaname, though somewhat Westernized himself, becomes increasingly interested in traditional Japanese culture, as evidenced by his growing enthusiasm for the Osaka puppet theater and in the model provided for him by the apparently satisfying relationship his father-in-law has with a young but old-fashioned mistress. The concluding implication is that he will turn away from his wife and become more interested in “doll-like” women, but it is uncertain if he can overcome his indecisiveness.


Misako, Kaname’s wife. Estranged from her husband but still living with him, Misako is a woman who has turned her back on traditional culture and ideals and tries to make herself a modern, Westernized woman. She shares her husband’s indecisiveness about her marriage, partly for the sake of their ten-year-old son, and for solace has been having an affair for the past two years. It is her interest in shallow and insubstantial Western objects and fads, as much as her sexual unattractiveness, that propels Kaname toward his increasing interest in traditional...

(The entire section is 642 words.)

The Characters

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Both this novel and Jun’ichir Tanizaki’s Futen rojin nikki (1961-1962; Diary of a Mad Old Man, 1965) open with the protagonist attending the theater (art is a pervasive motif in the majority of Tanizaki’s novels) and relating to the drama by sexual attraction to the heroine. Whereas Tokusuke Utsugi in Diary of a Mad Old Man is enticed by a male actor playing a female role, emblematic of Utsugi’s masochism in the full sense, Kaname is allured by the puppet Koharu’s appearance of classical beauty that is “withdrawn, restrained, careful not to show too much individuality”—in short, the submissive “eternal woman” of Japanese tradition. The failure of Kaname’s complete attachment to Misako in part results from her being neither the courtesan type (Koharu’s role in the play) nor, as a modern woman, a puppet deprived of human individuality.

Nearly all the novel’s characters, caught in a variety of conflicting circumstances and forces, are described with the imagery and vocabulary of theater, reflecting their adoption of or coercion into roles. Obliged to conceal their unorthodox arrangement from Misako’s father and Aso’s relatives, Kaname and Misako have “to put on their disguises and act their parts”; Misako has to “play the part of the wife” before her father; irritated by her restlessness at the Benten Theater, Kaname thinks Misako “ought to restrain herself and play the part of the wife”;...

(The entire section is 512 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Keene, Donald. Dawn to the West: Japanese Literature of the Modern Era, 1984.

Lippit, Noriko Mizuta. Reality and Fiction in Modern Japanese Literature, 1980.

Petersen, Gwenn Boardman. The Moon in the Water: Understanding Tanizaki, Kawabata, and Mishima, 1979.

Seidensticker, Edward G. Introduction to Some Prefer Nettles, 1955.

Ueda, Makoto. Modern Japanese Writers and the Nature of Literature, 1976.