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Patriotism by Yukio Mishima: Summary & Analysis

Instructor: Jennifer Carnevale

Jennifer has a dual master's in English literature/teaching and is currently a high school English teacher. She teaches college classes on the side.

The concepts of love and loyalty can mean various things to different people in different cultures. In this lesson we will learn about the short story, ''Patriotism'' by Yukio Mishima, and analyze what those words mean to the main characters.

Honor, Love and Loyalty

What does loyalty mean to you? Does that word connect to love, country, family or something else? In the short story, ''Patriotism'' by Yukio Mishima, the concept of loyalty causes a young soldier to choose between his country and his friends. Read on to learn about the tragic, yet passionate, tale that captures the beauty of love and death.

The Happy Couple

The story begins with the narrator revealing a suicide of a Lieutenant and his wife on February 28, 1936. Lt Shinji Takeyama, age 31, and wife Reiko, age 23, were barely married 6 months before this tragedy struck. With this information, he starts at the beginning.

We learn about the couple's home life and how Lieutenant General Ozeki helped them find a 3-room home in Aoba-cho in Yotsuya. Their honeymoon was cancelled due to a national emergency, and it's in this moment that Shinji explains the duties of a solider's wife. Reiko must know that the country comes first, and Shinji could die at any moment. Shinji asks Reiko if she can accept this fate, to which her answer is revealed in the placement of a dagger next to Shinji, implying she would accept death for him and herself.

Reiko would man the house by day while Shinji was training, and upon his return, they made passionate love. Both were truly happy, which was no surprise to them both, even though the story implies their union was arranged. It seems their marriage is pure at heart and spirit.

The Reality of War

On the morning of February 26th, Shinji hears the aftermath of gunfire and quickly readies himself for battle. During that time, Reiko hears the violence on the radio and prepares for death. She begins to select items for others to have and ponders whether the gifts should be given at all or put in her coffin.

Upon reflection, Reiko acknowledges that her love for these items has long passed, and that the love for her husband and their fate is burning bright in her heart. However, her anxiety grows as she hears of mutiny on the radio which leaves her wondering where the Imperial ordinance stands.

After two days, Shinji returns home, cold, wet and dejected, and his behaviors are out of character. Finally, Shinji explains that his closest friends are rebels; they never asked him to join the resistance. Now, he is faced with the task and order of killing them. Shinji states he cannot follow through with this order.

The two sit in silence, both knowing the outcome of this problem. Shinji says he must ''cut (his) stomach'' that night. Without flinching, Reiko accepts this fate and asks permission to join him. Within this moment, their trust flourishes, and their love grows. Shinji asks Reiko to bear witness to his suicide and come with him to the gates of death. Shinji sees the gifts Reiko wrapped for their departure and again, trust and love flood their hearts.

Preparation

As Shinji takes a bath and shaves, he reflects on the beauty of their situation, the purity of truth and spiritual elements that are unconsciously happening in these last moments. He feels his flesh and patriotism become one. He stares in the mirror to acknowledge his ''death face,'' and realizes Reiko is the one he is meant to be with.

They sip sake together, and stare at each other. Shinji realizes Rekio's is the last face he will ever see. As Reiko prepares for bed, Shinji understands and feels the concept of freedom. However, Shinji questions if his country will care that he is dead. But ultimately, it matters not because his quest is not of valor or bravery, but of his spirit.

Shinji and Reiko share one last night of passion. They stay in each other's arms until Shinji acknowledges the strength he will need to take his life.

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