Critical Context

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

End wrote When I Whistle between his two more celebrated historical novels set in the seventeenth century, Chimmoku (1966; Silence, 1969) and Samurai (1980; The Samurai, 1982). In those novels, the conflict between Christian values and Japanese culture is explicitly examined.

Given that End was one of the first Japanese to study in Europe after the war, it is easy to see how his submersion in European culture intensified his appreciation for the impact of Christianity on the West. This appreciation has forced him to recognize the spiritual vacuum in Japan which When I Whistle explores—demonstrating that the absence of belief in a transcendent deity makes difficult if not impossible the recognition of moral absolutes.

End’s novels often elicit comparisons with those of the British Catholic writer Graham Greene. His compelling though sinful and often stumbling characters captivate and endear themselves to the reader in the same way that Greene’s faltering saints do. Yet a better comparison among contemporary Christian writers would be with the American Catholic novelist Walker Percy. Percy’s serious exploration of the disintegration of authentic Christianity in the jaded West and his attempts to redeem it novelistically resemble End’s own agenda in addressing both his Oriental and Occidental readers.