Confessions of a Mask by Mishima: Summary & Analysis

Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

In this lesson, we will summarize and analyze 'Confessions of a Mask' by Yukio Mishima. This is a coming of age story about a boy in Japan during World War II who realizes he is homosexual.

The Illusion of Normalcy

What is 'normal?' Over the past several decades, society has come a long way in realizing that there is more than one way of thinking and feeling about almost everything. However, in 1940s Japan, the culture did not accept those who did not conform to the narrow view of 'typical.' Confessions of a Mask by Yukio Mishima is an account of a young boy's struggle to fit into a conservative culture as he begins to realize that he is homosexual. Let's summarize and analyze this novel.

Plot Summary

The boy who is the protagonist in Confessions of a Mask describes his sheltered childhood. He claims he ''preferred by far to be by myself reading a book, playing with building blocks, indulging in my willful fantasies, or drawing pictures,'' and because of health issues he is allowed to indulge in these types of activities rather than conform to the expectation of physical prowess that is expected of other boys his age.

After hitting puberty, the boy becomes aware of his sexuality as he admires men that he sees in art. At school, he is drawn to Omi, a well-developed and more masculine boy. After they become friends, the narrator becomes determined to develop his own masculinity. By the time World War II begins, the boy has managed to adopt the behavior of other boys to conceal his secret desires, but starts to fantasize about violence and death while masturbating.

While in college, the narrator is attracted to a classmate named Kusano, but tries to force himself to have romantic feelings for Kusano's sister, Sonoko. The narrator leaves to work at a plant making fighter planes, aware that his location is a military target, while waiting to be drafted. The narrator simultaneously is afraid of dying and believes that it may offer some relief. He writes, ''It seemed to me that since it was I, even if actually struck by a bullet, there would surely be no pain. . .'' When he is drafted, he does not pass the physical fitness test and is not admitted into service.

While visiting Kusano, the narrator reunites with Sonoko and the relationship becomes serious. Unable to commit to marriage, the narrator breaks off the relationship. Sonoko marries another man. A few years later, they reunite secretly, but only as friends. One afternoon, they go to a dance hall together. When Sonoko sees how the narrator is staring at a young man without a shirt, she realizes why they never got married.

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