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The Sound of Waves by Yukio Mishima: Summary & Characters

Instructor: Erica Schimmel

Erica has taught college English writing and literature courses and has a master's degree in children's literature.

In Yukio Mishima's ''The Sound of Waves,'' a young man and woman fall in love only to have their budding relationship nearly ruined by vicious gossip. Go through a summary and learn more about important characters in this lesson.

Gossip

It's no secret that rumors spread fast, especially in small towns like the island Uta-Jima in Yukio Mishima's The Sound of Waves. With around 1400 people in the town, you can imagine gossip spreads like wildfire. As our main characters learn, gossip can cause a lot of heartache. Let's find out their story in this summary of the novel. Along the way, we'll highlight some of its important characters.

Lovestruck

Like many other men on the island, 18-year-old Shinji Kubo is a fisherman. Shinji is a tall, handsome, quiet, hardworking young man. He's pretty focused on helping his widow mother make ends meet and on his dream of one day owning a boat. Until, that is, he lays eyes on a beautiful young girl he's never seen before. Shinji is so smitten that he actually stops next to her and openly stares. If you're thinking that's a little creepy, you're not alone: the girl tries to ignore him. Thankfully, Shinji has the grace to be embarrassed by his behavior, but he can't get the girl out of his head.

When you live in a small town where everyone knows everybody, a newcomer is big news. Shinji doesn't have to wait long before he finds out the girl is Hatsue Miyata, daughter of Terukichi. Unfortunately, it also doesn't take long before he hears the rumor that Hatsue is already expected to marry Yasuo Kawamoto. Yasuo may be rather fat and ugly, but he is from a rich family and is head of the Young Men's Association. As part of a poor family, Shinji doesn't really have a chance. But that doesn't stop him from praying at the local shrine that something would happen to make him worthy of Hatsue.

Chance Meeting

As small as the island is, it takes a while for Shinji to officially meet Hatsue. While gathering his mother's firewood from the old observation tower, he hears someone crying. Turns out, Hatsue got terribly lost on her way to the lighthouse. The lighthouse happens to be on Shinji's route home, so of course he can walk her there. It's all pretty innocent, but Shinji knows gossip runs rampant and asks Hatsue to keep their accidental meeting a secret.

Even with their ''well-founded fear of the village's love of gossip,'' the two do their best to see each other when they can. One day, a storm keeps all fishing boats from going out, so our young lovers set up a meeting at the watchhouse. Despite the temptation, they manage to hold back after Hatsue insists it would be wrong to have sex before marriage. Shinji respects her wishes, especially since he is overjoyed she wants to marry him someday.

Appearances Are Deceiving

Shinji and Hatsue's time in the watchhouse may have been innocent, but it doesn't look that way to Chiyoko, the daughter of the lighthouse keeper who sees them leaving. Chiyoko, a college student home on break, has low self-esteem and a crush on Shinji. She is heartbroken when she sees them together. Overcome by jealousy, she runs to Yasuo, who everyone still thinks is going to end up being Hatsue's husband.

Yasuo is angry and feels like he is entitled to have sex with Hatsue, too. He decides to hide and surprise her the next time it is her turn to draw water. Everything goes according to plan until a wasp stings him and ruins his cover. He still tries to rape Hatsue, but fortunately the wasp stings him again and she gets away. The situation makes Yasuo even angrier, and he begins spreading the rumor she and Shinji slept together. As you can guess, the rumor spreads quickly, even reaching Hatsue's father who forbids her to see Shinji again.

Biding Their Time

Hatsue and Shinji have to get clever, so Hatsue comes up with the plan to write each other letters. They do this almost every day, until her father catches them and puts a stop to it. Shinji is heartsick. His mother even tries stepping in, but Terukichi won't see her. Chiyoko also begins to feel bad for starting the rumor.

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