A ship's horn wails in the distance. The long kiss is broken. The sailor's palate is once again wet with longing for the infinite freedom of the sea. It is in this world, where layers of opposite meaning crash as waves to rocks do, that Mishima's The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With The Sea is set. This tale of tragedy is one of a man caught in a tempest of moral collision in the interstice which borders freedom and entanglement. Inevitably, the yearning for domesticity and the bastardized and disempowered life of land grows like a cancer in his once pure soul, and before the flaw can be cut out like a disease, he is ravaged by it. The once distant flaw grows and grows until death is his only salvation. In order to reinforce the danger of this chaotic web between two worlds of value Mishima uses the force of impact of richly described contrasting settings, constantly warring perceptions of each character through another’s eyes, and the combating ideals of American and Japanese culture.
This world of opposites is buttressed by the physical setting in which the characters are placed. Yokohama, a Japanese shipping town, is in every way a representation of conflicting worlds. Set on the crux between sea and land, the magnificent power of the ocean remains omnipresent. In the beginning of the novel, these two elements are in harmony, as represented by the delicately told consummation scene (12-13) in which man, woman, earth and water are united within the mysterious background of a ship's passionately moaning horn.
But as the plot progresses, the simply beautiful act of attachmentless sex becomes mired in the dense murk of human emotion. The once clean waters of Ryuji's soul are muddied by the incessant calling of the life of shore. Fusako's desires drown out the gentle whispers of the noble woman sea, and Ryuji becomes dissatisfied with the quest which once filled his heart. He becomes impatient and dissatisfied with the life of a sailor, and gravitates more and more towards the life of land. His repeated memories of distant ports and the power that a ships horn still holds over him seem to vividly symbolize the doubt which still lingers over his decision.
As Ryuji grows more stuck in the firm grip of shore life, Noburu is entangled in his own struggle to find some connection to the universe. While he once found an incredible clarity in the unison of opposites he witnessed as his mother and his hero (Ryuji) had sex, he now finds that the only way to gain the same sense of power is from the rigid control of his passions that he finds in violence. His initiation into the gang expresses this awakening into the clarity of mind that comes with power over nature. He, too, gains an understanding of the Grand Adventure,...