Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Was Mishima Writing What He Knew?

          I read the Yukio Mishima's biography mid way through the first reading assignment. I became very agitated throughout the rest of the reading after I had learned about Mishima's ceremonial suicide. The book and narrator took on different tones, the blood lust of the protagonist became more realistic, more bothersome than it had been before. I began to wonder if it was truly the narrator's “Inherent deficiency of blood [that] had first implanted in me the impulse to dream of bloodshed” (92) or if Mishima was writing what he knew, his own personal blood lust. Perhaps this is Mishima's attempt at an outlet for his gory desires, “But my heart's leaning toward Death and Night and Blood would not be denied” (21). I admire someone who is willing to die for a cause, I admire their complete faith in their beliefs. However, I also become impatient with these individuals, believing that one can do more for a cause with diligent work over time rather than one passionate outburst in a single instant, denying one's self from future furthering of a personally important cause. This topic has strayed from direct discussion of the book, however I think it is important to understand an author's mindset in order to truly understand the message that is being conveyed through the story.


  1. I agree with you about fighting for a cause. It is much better for the person to remain and fight rather than make a demonstration and end his life. By ending his life he is, in a way, ending what he believes in. He has no idea what the ultimate outcome of his actions will be and, truthfully, I do not see how committing suicide would further a cause. I, too, was a little put off by all the talk about bloodshed and the narrator's morbid fascination with gory images. I was especially disturbed by the scene where he describes fantasizing that he is carving up a fellow classmate and serving him at a dinner party. I also wonder if the author is expressing his own thoughts and desires as well. In order to write about something with such passion there must be some sort of personal connection. The fact that the narrator expresses his beleif that he will not live long and will end his life by suicide also coincides with the author. While he committed suicide at the age of 45 he may have had those thoughts all his life, like the narrator in the story.

  2. It's always a complex issue separating the author from the work. Robert Browning's dramatic monologues are an extreme example of someone writing a completely fictional account of a disturbing character. As we move further into modernist and postmodern writing, we see authors with a more personal stake in the writing, such as David Foster Wallace, whose writing becomes even more intense and emotional following his own suicide. Writers tend to write what they know, in both plot and character. However, I think assigning too much of the flaws of the character to the author can be problematic to the reading of a work. (Even Foster Wallace's most self-influenced characters aren't carbon copies of himself.) "New Criticism" is a school of thought that takes a work of art as self-contained, rather than using outside resources to define it. This also tends to rule out any authorial intent in the work, instead favoring examples from the text itself. Mishima's own actions can be seen as split from those of his characters, else where do we end? Back to Browning and his dramatic monologues, we can't take the speakers in "My Last Duchess" and "Porphyria's Lover" as surrogates for Browning. Mishima's biography, while compelling, can be taken out of the equation of the work, and instead we can view it as its own, self-contained piece of art.

  3. Could we find a middle ground, then, and see the relationship between life and work without making a too easy, too direct connection?

    In relation to continual interest in death and suicide, it is important to consider the psychological trauma of seeing oneself as inherently wrong, immoral, not-right and knowing that the refuges that one should have (home, family) would gone in an instant if one revealed one's own desires.