Social Concerns / Themes

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In spite of the fact that Mishima associated with Japan's wealthy and titled people, particularly when he was a student, he seems to have held them in contempt. His presentation of the old man in this book — a company president now retired as a farmer — shines with that contempt. To some extent his attitude toward Japanese women was similarly unfriendly. In this work, therefore, he indulges in some sharp social satire of the men and women of station in Japanese society. The rather ignorant young man in the story, with his wholesome, earthbound values, seems to come off much better, particularly when he takes part in a wild country festival, an event in Japanese culture that Mishima always treated with reverence. The principal theme of the novel is expressed in the ironic title. The love the woman endures from her father-in-law is like water to a person dying of typhoid fever: He longs for it, but it does him no good — perhaps even aggravates his torment, just as it was the cause of it at the beginning. Her love for the young farmer is the same thing in a twisted way: She longs for it but rejects it violently when it is offered to her.

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