The Temple of the Golden Pavilion

by Yukio Mishima

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Characters

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

The characters of the Temple of the Golden Pavilion are:

Mizoguchi: He is the dogmatic son of a Buddhist priest and is tortured by his inadequacies. Mizoguchi is a stutterer and struggles with the social repercussions of his disability. In the story, Mizoguchi becomes obsessed with beauty in all its forms and the futility of paying homage to it. As he descends into a deep depression, he begins to question the conventional definitions of beauty.

Mizoguchi is initially fascinated with two types of beauty: earthly and spiritual. He is drawn to beautiful women but apt to abuse prostitutes. To Mizoguchi, the latter's beauty is tainted, and he experiences a kind of perverted pleasure in mistreating these ladies of the night.

Mizoguchi's dysfunctional way of relating to women can be attributed to his self-hatred. In the story, the temple represents an unattainable treasure—a beauty that he cannot possess. Thus, his suicidal obsessions stem from his inability to reconcile his inadequacies with his unattainable yearning for beauty and love.

Tayama Dosen: This is the priest who takes Mizoguchi under his tutelage. Dosen understands Mizoguchi's struggles and also tolerates the latter's cruel tendencies. Dosen has no claim on virtue; he is no stranger to the sexual pleasures a geisha can provide. Dosen is later caught cavorting with a geisha by Mizoguchi.

For his part, Dosen chooses to protect his own reputation and sends Mizoguchi off to Otani University. Dosen reminds Mizoguchi of his mother, who was no stranger to sexual improprieties. Dosen and Mizoguchi's mothers's actions portray the myth of human perfection.

Mizoguchi's mother: She is an ambivalent character who is unfaithful to her husband. Her sole goal in life is to see Mizoguchi as the Golden Temple's superior.

Mizoguchi's father: He understands Mizoguchi's struggles and makes arrangements for the latter to study as an acolyte under Tayama Dosen.

Kashiwagi: He is a disabled young student at Otani University. Mizoguchi becomes enamored with how Kashiwagi views beauty, sin, and perfection. Like Mizoguchi, Kashiwagi possesses cruel tendencies. He is untroubled by how he treats women. Kashiwagi believes that his physical disability prevents him from attaining true beauty in his life; thus, he contents himself with prostitutes and women of ill-repute. Like Mizoguchi, he mistreats them all, acting out his self-hatred through his malicious actions.

Tsurukawa: Tsurukawa is a fellow Zen acolyte at the Golden Temple. He is a foil to Mizoguchi's character. Unlike Mizoguchi, Tsurukawa is persistently cheerful. He is later discovered to have committed suicide over an unfortunate love affair. The manner of Tsurukawa's death greatly unsettles Mizoguchi, who begins to contemplate suicide himself.

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