Comparison between Confessions of a Mask and Black Rain
Expression of Death and Loss
Speaking about Mishima Yukio’s Confessions of a Mask, the narrator attempts to portray his own entire existence as a “reluctant masquerade” there (Confessions of a Mask, 27). As a whole, the text implies that the predicament of the protagonist’s life lies in the unavoidable fact that he is fundamentally different from society, and that, moreover, this difference lies in his hidden homosexuality. However, the narrator’s recurrent allusions to his personal concept of “tragedy”, as well as his obsession with death, serve to question the narrator’s claims and render a reading of the novel, solely based on sexual preference partly unsatisfactory. The process of questioning the narrator’s definition of “tragic things” may allow for a different reading of Mishima’s novel (Confessions of a Mask, 11). For purposes of clarity, the narrator describes his own past life as the novel continues.
Since childhood, the protagonist exhibits an obsession with ‘tragic lives’ and ‘tragic deaths’. In describing this obsession, the narrator insists mostly on the perverted and sadomasochistic side of Kochan’s obsession with tragedy: “I had dreamed up the idea of my murder theater” (Confessions of a Mask, 92). Although this insistence is consistent with the questionable interpretation, according to which Kochan is nothing but a perverted homosexual in denial.
As for the novel Black Rain, Shizuma is worried about the tragedy that happened to his niece Yasuko. He is worried that she might not be in a position to get a husband, since all men are afraid of approaching her, due to the devastating effects that the bomb had on her. Undeniably, the author has been successful in the mode of expression of the loss and pain, experienced by the victims. In this novel, death is seen as a widespread problem across the society. Since a number of people, dying over the atomic bomb has been increasing, the author notes that death becomes rampant, as dead bodies are seen scattered everywhere. Animals are not spared on the death trend; animals have also been adversely affected by the bomb as they have become injured. The author even brings a picture of a white pigeon that has been hit by the disaster. The pigeon has become mutated, as it is blinded on one eye and has scorched feathers on its right wing. There has been a clear explanation as to how people suffered great loss as a result of the radiation poisoning; people have aches all over their bodies. What is more, as a result of the radiation poisoning, people have experienced loss in their hair and loss of teeth.
Relationship of Main Characters with Death and Loss
The development of Kochan’s concept of tragedy reveals a notion of ‘tragedy’ much closer to Greek tragedy, than to the misleading definition of ‘tragic’ as ‘sad’ or ‘painful’. Certainly, Kochan does insist that the characters, he considers to be tragic ones, have a painful and miserable life or death. Moreover, the narrator refers to the ideas of an overwhelming “destiny” and of powerlessness as criteria for ‘tragedy’: “was not such beauty as his a thing destined for death?”(Confessions of a Mask, 45). In these two criteria, we find the notion of a fate both terrible and inexorable. Consequently, it defines such Greek tragic character as Phaedra or Oedipus.
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Besides, the narrative hints at another dimension of ‘tragedy’: when the narrator first mentions the ‘feeling of ‘tragedy’ at the sight of a night-soil man. Kochan is not attracted solely to the suffering and destiny of the young man, but also to “his dark-blue ‘tight-pullers’”. He similarly associates the “smell of rubber” and “the odor of sweat” with the notion of tragedy. In other words, the text defines tragedy as a partly “sensuous” concept. Moreover, Kochan associates his notion with that of “self-renunciation, a certain feeling of indifference” and with a complete separation between tragedy and reality: “there would surely be no pain” (Confessions of a Mask, 9). Although characters in Greek tragedy possess no particular sensuous qualities and are certainly not indifferent to their fate, both characteristics must be related to tragedy in its theatrical form of a spectacle, which is actualized via the senses, and in which both actors and spectators are aware of the fictional nature of the narrative. Consequently, we may understand Kochan’s attraction to tragedy as a desire for theatricality. Despite the fact that Kochan “wants to be” the night-soil man, he desires rather to play his part.
In Black Rain, the main character has a direct relationship with death and loss. Shigematsu has to take his niece Yasuko so as to ensure she was safe from the air raids. The loss is felt directly by Shigematsu, as he has to take care of her. Due to the various conditions suffered by his niece, he fears that she might not get a husband as young men will be afraid of approaching her. Death has also had a direct relationship with the main character, since his niece has lost most of her friends. Shigematsu is left alone to help his niece and provide comfort to her.
How Self-search through Death and Loss is Presented in Terms of Style and Content
To begin with, the narrator defines Kochan as incapable ever to accomplish the theatricality he desires. No matter how many times he tries to climb onto an imaginary stage, just as a child, dressing up and impersonating the magician Tenkatsu, he is immediately “strips of outrageous masquerade” (Confessions of a Mask, 18). Moreover, whereas Kochan admires the ‘tragic’ physical strength of Omi, the narrator constantly highlights his own “pale and weak” constitution. While Kochan craves the “tragic destiny of soldiers”, he never joins the army. In addition, whereas he often fantasizes about being killed, he is miraculously unaffected by the war. Moreover, the narrator places sunlight at most of the theatrical characters throughout the novel: Omi is “bathed in sunlight”, the gang member in the last chapter is “catching the sunlight”, etc. If we read the narrator’s use of lighting as a symbolic spotlight that singles out ‘tragic’ scenes and characters, then Kochan’s physical incapacity to stay “in the direct rays of the sun” due to tuberculosis (Confessions of a Mask,84) also contributes to defining the protagonist in opposition to his desire for tragedy. The text, thus, conveys the idea that Kochan is doomed never to live tragically, an idea, which is reinforced in the following lines: “a conviction as firm as though founded on divine revelation: ‘Never in the world can you resemble Omi’.
Paradoxically, Kochan’s inability to ever ‘be in the spotlight’ exists as a sort of “theatrical curse”, which afflicts him by essence and which he will never be able to defeat. How can Kochan be an absolutely non-tragic character, if he is afflicted with such a curse? By constructing Kochan’s life with such an unavoidable predicament, the text appears to claim a tragic nature of the protagonist in a paradoxical way. In several instances, the narrator attributes to Kochan the same sense of predestination and inexorability as the tragic characters he envies: for example, Kochan’s desire for tragedy “bore down upon [him], and took [him] captive”; the narrator mentions “the things that Fate forced me to do”; etc. These elements, alongside the narrator’s prominent use of theatrical imagery to describe his personality, proves that the narrator is just trying to stage himself in the novel.
Turning back to Black Rain, there is a development over time there: the main character finds himself in a tricky situation, where he has to take care of his niece. These events are directed to naïve audience that might not be aware of the death and losses that are brought by the black rain. After the death and loss, the main character now clearly understands why the issue is of much sensitivity. The clear account of events has been achieved by the extensive use of vivid description and imagery. The author has been able to create a clear mental picture of the activities that were taking place during the event.
Understanding of main characters at the end of the text
The act of writing must also be non-tragic if Kochan’s curse truly refers to the narrator. For this reason, the narrator is incapable of constructing his autobiographical narrative as completely consistent and ‘tragic’. While the text reveals a principal agenda in the narrator’s portrayal of Kochan, the narrator occasionally stops claiming that Kochan is cursed and monstrous. Quite the contrary, he associates Kochan with “any one of the boys” or claims that “even a normal person cannot govern his behavior alone” at times. Similarly, there exist phases, in which the narrator appears to go against his ideal of ‘tragedy’: just when Kochan’s tragic nature s makes it impossible to love a woman, the narrator cannot help downplaying the egocentricity of his narrative, when he mentions Sonoko by ‘sharing the spotlight with her’ (“the sunlight streamed through windows and spilled over into our laps”) and by recalling her attire (“she was wearing a red-leather jacket”; “a crimson jacket”; “she was wearing a simple dress”).
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Taking everything into account, at the end of the Black Rain the narrator understands the nature and the effects of war, and especially atomic bomb. He realizes that the bombs dropped on the two sites of Japan have had devastating effects both on the locals, who occupied the land at that time and also on the generations that will come after the bombing. He realizes that he must take personal responsibility of his niece’s loss. By the end of the text, he understands the negative effects of the war. All in all, his niece has suffered great damage and loss, which has made his attitude, fixed on the negative side of the war.