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"Confessions Of A Mask": Kochan (Narrator) Character Analysis

1249 words - 5 pages

In his semi-autobiographical novel, "Confessions of a Mask", by Yukio Mishima examines the struggle for acceptance by a man living outside of the socially accepted norms. A pattern that strongly pervades this novel is death and the images of blood associated with it. Kochan, a Japanese adolescent living in post-war Japan, struggles with his homosexuality and his desire to be "normal." He is unable to deal forthrightly and directly with any situation: instead he creates justifications and excuses to hide his emotions, and cloaks genuine feeling in swathes of artifice. In order to survive, he must hide behind a mask of propriety.Mishima's Kochan we see from an early age, being unable to conduct his life on a frank and honest level; every action he undertakes and every experience he undergoes is filtered through the twisted and inverted stew of his mind. The real world acts only as stimulus for the narrator's self-deception, and because he is unable to avoid deceiving himself, he necessarily deceives everyone else, from the doctors to whom he lies about his health, to Sonoko, the girl he imagines himself not to love.Kochan's inability to relate to the world except after it has been processed by his own eccentric way of perceiving it, is seen early in the novel. Indeed, his first memory is probably a created one: "No matter how they explained, no matter how they laughed me away, I could not but believe I remembered my own birth." (Mishima 2) Here we see for the first time the attitude which drives the novel: life, the universe, and everything for the narrator are products of his own mind. "Reality" as he perceives it has its roots in real events--he was, in fact, born; his existence is not just his own fantasy--but the event is twisted and mangled until it fits his own concept.We can see the same sort of modification of reality in his "earliest [unquestionable] memory." (Mishima 7) He sees "a night-soil man, a ladler of excrement" coming down a hill. (Mishima 8) Reading the novel in English we miss out on some of the cultural context that a Japanese reader would know unthinkingly. Dealers in human waste were at the bottom of Japan's "untouchable" class, the burakumin, which also included tanners and slaughterers. Even in the late 1990s being of burakumin ancestry can mean prejudice and closed social and employment doors; in pre-war Japan the discrimination was much stronger and more apparent. Mishima's narrator comes from aristocratic stock; even after a social decline involving "huge debts, foreclosure, and sale of the family estate," his family would have viewed members of the underclass as almost inhuman. (Mishima 4) Yet Kochan, "in the same way that other children, as soon as they attain the faculty of memory, want to become generals, ... became possessed with the ambition to become a night-soil man." (Mishima 9) Here again, the reality of 1930s Japan is inverted, and Kochan makes his decisions based on the products of his own mind.At this early...

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