Crests of Waves

The Sound of Waves

The Sound of Waves (Japanese: 潮騒, Shiosai) is a Japanese novel written by celebrated Japanese author Yukio Mishima and published in 1954. It is a coming of age novel detailing the maturity of protagonist Shinji and his romance with Hatsue, the beautiful daughter of the wealthy ship-owner Terukichi. For this book Mishima was awarded the Shincho Prize from Shinchosha Publishing in 1954. It was adapted to film on five separate occasions.

Plot summary

Shinji Kubo lives with his mother, a pearl diver, and his younger brother, Hiroshi. He and his mother support the family because Shinji's father had died while at sea, when a bomb was dropped (from a plane) on the boat he was on. However, the family lives a somewhat peaceful life and Shinji is content to be a fisherman along with his master, Jukichi Oyama, and another apprentice, Ryuji.

Things change when Terukichi Miyata, after the death of his son, decides to bring back the daughter he adopted away. Raised as a pearl diver from another island, the beautiful Hatsue wins many admirers, including Shinji. The prospect of marrying Hatsue becomes even more attractive when the wealthy Miyata intends to adopt the man who marries Hatsue as his own son. Shinji and Hatsue soon fall in love.

When Chiyoko, the daughter of the Lighthouse-Keeper and his wife, returns from studying at a university in Tokyo, she is disappointed to discover Shinji, whom she has affections for, has fallen in love with someone else. She takes advantage of the jealous Yasuo Kawamoto, an arrogant and selfish admirer of Hatsue, and uses him so Yasuo will spread vicious rumours of Shinji stealing away Hatsue's virtue (virginity).

This results in his being banned from seeing Hatsue, but through Jukichi and Ryuji, the two manage to continue communicating with one another by means of secret letters. Terukichi steadfastly refuses to see Shinji for an explanation and when Shinji's mother, who knows her son will never deliberately lie, goes to see Terukichi, Terukichi's refusal to see her only increases the tension between Shinji and Hatsue. Chiyoko, before returning to Tokyo, becomes filled with remorse after Shinji off-handedly replies that she is pretty when she asks him if he thinks she is unattractive. She returns to Tokyo with guilt that she ruined Shinji's chance at happiness.

Eventually, the rumours die out, in part because the other pearl divers, which include Shinji's mother, clearly see that Hatsue is still a virgin. Hatsue wins Shinji's mother's favour when, in an abalone diving contest, Hatsue wins a handbag and gives it to her.

Terukichi mysteriously employs Yasuo and Shinji on one of his shipping vessels. When the vessel is caught in a storm, Shinji’s courage and willpower allow him to brave the storm and save the ship. Terukichi's intentions are revealed when Chiyoko's mother receives a letter from Chiyoko, who refuses to return home, explaining that she feels she cannot return and see Shinji unhappy because she was the one who started the rumours. The Lighthouse-Keeper's wife confronts Terukichi, who reveals that he intends to adopt Shinji as Hatsue's husband. Employing the boys on the ship had been a test to which one was most suitable for his daughter and Shinji's act to save the vessel had earned Terukichi’s respect and permission to wed his daughter.

The novel has much more than just plot to look at. For instance the diction placed when describing the characters is intense in details to show the reader how to interpret the character, developing character development. For instance Uncle Teru, when described on page 106 it shows us with detail all of his character traits, that show us what type of person he is and how he is viewed by the villagers.

The sea also is very important. It is where these people have a second home. The sea is their source of living, for both men and women alike. The way they worship the God of the Sea for calm waters to protect those at sea is very drastic once you look at it. These people are risking their life's in an unstable field of blueness that at any moment can kill a vast number of them.

Shinji is a very dramatic character throughout the novel. With braveness and confidence he swam the deadly sea, to show not to the people on board but to show himself that he is not a coward, and that the sea is a part of him and his relationship with it will keep him safe no matter the rigor of the task to tie the lifeline to the buoy.

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