Theme Paper “Patriotism”
Death, in many places death is feared, taking one’s own live is looked upon as cowardly and weak. This story sheds a different light on death; it shows the honor and respectful way of bowing out. To see the honor in death, one must understand the culture and the time period. The story “Patriotism” written by Yukio Mishima shows a couple’s courage, love and faith as well as the man’s commitment to his country.
As the story goes, Shinji is a member of the Imperil forces. Shinji has taken an oath to fight for his country; his honor depends on his commitment. He will fight to death and risk his life whenever necessary to protect his livelihood. He’s newly married and has even forsaken his honeymoon to fulfill his duties with the army. His wife has taken a silent oath, an understanding that her husband could die at anytime and that she too would accept the fate. This was traditional in Japan; her mother had given her a dagger so that when the day comes she will be ready to fulfill her commitment.
Soon though Shinji and Rieko’s Commitments to each other and the Imperial Force are challenged. Shinji is informed that his close colleagues and friends have been mutineers from the beginning. As the reality of death fronts itself to Shinji, he must decide whether to fight and possibly live or Take his own life and die. In the Japanese society this is an honorable way for one to bow out. This decision also weighs heavily on his wife; he is not only choosing his fate but his young wife’s too. His wife upon hearing the news from her husband does not blink an eye; her commitment to her husband and their society’s values radiate from her eyes. This part of the story shows how helpless women are in this society, and how dependant they are. This, as a continuing tradition, could drag Japan down in comparisons of equality and individuality.
In their last night together on this earth, Shinji and Rieko find faith, the truth and pure love. In their preparation for death Shinji places the ultimate trust in his wife, asking her to watch his death and then commit to her own. During this time the love for each other becomes pure and intoxicating. They both embrace their faith as they value the little time left with each other that ultimately turns into the death of two young and beautiful people. Whether or not they may have pure love, It seems that much is influenced because of their impending death, death in this case acts like a drug, a drug that makes them feel more than they would or should.
This story is very insightful into a different culture and its perceptions of death. It shows that commitment and faith can take precedence to life itself. I think this story is timeless and could be applied as a measuring tool for commitment and honor in most societies. Love brings two people together and then takes their lives. I think this story glamorizes and distorts the reality of suicide and death. It seems to say, “This is OK” go ahead. I think people should live until, well they are dead and not by their own act.