Download PDF Print Page Citation Share Link

Last Updated on August 7, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 666

Japanese author and playwright Yukio Mishima (born Kimitake Hiraoka) wrote Sun and Steel (1968) two years before his death in 1970. In this essay, Mishima reflects on his childhood and the independent (often alternating) trajectories of development of his craft of writing as well as bodybuilding. He uses anecdotes and similes to discuss his experience. The title itself, Sun and Steel, refers to the mind and the body, respectively

Illustration of PDF document

Download Sun and Steel Study Guide

Subscribe Now

Of his childhood, Mishima avows that he was more intellectually the physically inclined. In an interest simile using and and wood, Mishima explains:

"My memory of words reaches back far farther than my memory of the flesh. In the average person, I imagine, the body precedes language. In my case, words came first of all; then—belatedly, with every appearance of extreme reluctance, and already clothed in concepts—came the flesh. It was already, as goes without saying, sadly wasted by words.First comes the pillar of plain wood, then the white ants that feed on it. But for me, the white ants were there from the start, and the pillar of plain wood emerged tardily, already half eaten away.

World War II has a profound effect on Mishima. He recalls a specific occasion on which he saw the sun illuminate a field on which the war was fought in the summer of 1965. Mishima associates the sun with death, and so deliberate turns inward to matters of the mind, spending his time reading and writing. On this period in his life, he writes:

How dearly, indeed, I loved my pit, my dusky room, the area of my desk with its piles of books! How I enjoyed introspection, shrouded myself in cogitation; with what rapture did I listen for the rustling of frail insects in the thickets of my nerves!

Only after spending several years after World War I among the company of literary intellectuals who eschewed the daylight and paid little attention to their bodies did Mishima come to appreciate the value in physical training. He begins by lifting weights. Mishika realizes that everyone sees the body, as it is on the surface, and that the body must be trained in order to allow for the development of thoughts. He sees his fellow scholars in a new, less flattering light, and sets himself to building muscles by means of weightlifting. His instruments are "lumps of steel, heavy, forbidding, [and] cold." Mishima would spend the next ten years developing his body. Mishima describes the steel (and the process):

The nature of this steel is odd. I found that as I increased its weight...

(The entire section contains 666 words.)

Unlock This Study Guide Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this Sun and Steel study guide. You'll get access to all of the Sun and Steel content, as well as access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

  • Summary
  • Critical Essays
  • Themes
  • Characters
  • Analysis
  • Quotes
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial