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Mankind has invented clothing in order to skillfully cover up human bodies that are not always perfect. However, what should people do with the souls? There exist masks for them. Sometimes a person wears masks all the time and it is really hard to pull them off. It is scary to unmask the person and look into the abyss, which hides the pain.
Back in 1949, the novel Confessions of a Mask by Yukio Mishima became a true sensation. The literary critics agree that in this book, the author openly touched the prohibited and extremely controversial issue, i.e. the theme of homosexuality. This novel continues to attract the readers attention nowadays. The fact that literary critics highly praised the Confessions of a Mask provided this book with an extremely high popularity. It is the novel that is considered the pinnacle of Mishima`s creativity, his best work, the brightest book that he was able to create. Mishima is one of the most famous authors in Japan, a prominent writer and a playwright who managed to remain faithful to the traditions of Japanese aesthetics.
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Confessions of a Mask is an extraordinary book. The topic of homosexuality is a red line that runs through the whole story, but this does not mean that this issue is a central one. Mishima portrays his protagonist with these traits without aim to talk about same-sex love and certainly not in order to attract more interest to the book. The theme of unconventional relationship is a means of expression, a shining example as well as the fulcrum of the plot. Actually, Mishima does not delve into the dirty linen; he is even trying to pay tribute to tolerance – he shows the conflict of a man beyond the norms stated by society; the novel mostly analyzes his feelings and emotions.
Mishima`s personage is an authentic Japanese prone to deep introspection, for long strolls on the expanses of his own soul. He goes a long way from the childhood to adolescence, from the first signs of the non-traditional taste to quite a traditional love. Along the way, the main personage talks about the nature and norms of beauty, death and movement to death which is called life What I wanted was to die among stranger un?troubled, beneath a cloudless sky (p.139).
These arguments give the reader gentle calming, harmonious picture of the world in which the conflicts of the individual and society are only light ripples on the water surface.
In some way, Confessions of a Mask relates to the author himself since Mishima presents much from his own life in this book. Moreover, in many ways, this novel is prophetic – the way the author ends up his life is similar to the way of his protagonist. However, it is unlikely that this really brilliant tandem of the author and the protagonist could have a different fate. This book is translated into different languages and published in huge circulations; Confessions of a Mask rightfully won the title of the masterpiece of the Japanese literature.
The author does not show the reader a 22-year-old gay, but gradually reveals the core psychological causes that led to such, at first glance, disgusting anomalies in the development of the character’s personality.
The novel covers the period from 1925 to 1947. The author narrates from the first person and, in general, this story can be called a biography of the author; it is about his inner feelings and anguish. In early childhood, the protagonist Kochan (this name is mentioned only once in the novel and reminds the real name of Mishima) finds a homosexual and sadomasochistic tendencies in his character. The boy, who is not able to understand his nature because of his age and social norms, suffers since he is different from other boys of his age. In order to seem normal, he should wear the mask of normality. However, one cannot deceive the nature: in the age of fifteen, the boy falls in love with his classmate, Omi. Omi is the first boy who causes the protagonists erotic desire; however this feeling does not last for a long time. The protagonist tries to fight with his dark side, he even tries to fall in love with the elder sister of his friend, but every night he imagines beautiful young boys whom he tempts in the most sophisticated ways.
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The meeting of the protagonist with a younger sister of his school friend Sonoko can be considered as the turning point of the story. The girl awakens some new, hitherto unknown feelings in the soul of a character that he mistakenly takes for love. With his desire to be normal, the protagonist continues communicating with Sonoko and their romantic relationship develops. However, when it comes to wedding, the main character is seriously frightened. He realizes that he loves Sonoko only platonically. He cancels the wedding and continues his studies at the university. During this period, he finally understands that he is not able to have any sexual relations with women.
After the war, the main character meets Sonoko at the street; she is married. The protagonist feels the need to talk to her, to look at her. The couple begins to secretly meet once a month; they talk and walk. One day Sonoko asks to stop these meetings because their relationship can cause many problems. In the final scene of the novel on the dance floor, the readers see that in spite of all the searches and frustration, nothing has changed in the soul of the protagonist. Despite the presence of a number of lovely young women, he still stares at half-naked male dancers.
The book Confessions of a Mask has made Yukio Mishima the rising star of not only Japanese literature but the whole world literature. It should be noted that this book is highly autobiographical. It touches different aspects of human life such as sexuality, violence, love and passion. Like many other post-war Japanese novels this one tells a story of the lost soul which wants to find the answers to many questions but the cruel society refuses to give them.
Literary critics wondered how such a stylistically and psychologically mature work could be written by a young man. However, the content shocked rather conservative Japanese society by its sincerity. This society traditionally has been used to wear social masks, without exposing their own experiences and secrets. It should be added that the work tells the story of Kochans fascination with death and suffering; characters bleed in his childhood fantasies, princes are killed by the dragons, and if some of the stories seem to have a happy ending, the main character simply pulls off the pages. His sexuality is inspired by the image of a strong man’s body, on which the shadow of death and pain falls. One of these stimuli is the painting of St. Sebastian who is chained to a tree with sharp arrows; the other one is the smell of sweat soldiers marching in the streets of Tokyo. These sentiments and preferences of the author determined the subsequent themes of his work. In the works of Yukio Mishima beauty, homosexual Eros and death are merged into one notion.
This book can serve as a clue to understanding the authors fate and the reason why he committed suicide when he was only 45. The author emphasizes that without understanding his ideas, feelings and emotions it is difficult to survive in the cruel world. Mishima tried to tell the readers that no matter how different the person is, he needs sympathy and understanding. It is really important to be understood and accepted with all the eccentricities and singularities.
Unfortunately, the protagonist has never had the opportunity to get answers to his endless questions as well as he could not understand his place among the other people. This is very similar to the lives of many people, no matter how different they are from others.
Cornered, forced to hide constantly, wearing the mask of comeliness, forced to fear to reveal his secrets, he finds himself in a situation where he cannot build a full-fledged relations with people and cannot be himself.
Portraying his personage in such a way, the author would like to build a bridge of understanding between people.
Speaking about Confessions of a Mask, one should mention superior contrast of tragedy and comedy that creates a unique flavor of the book. This book is a real uncompromising confession showing protagonists sadness and sorrow.
In conclusion, it should be pointed out that it is surprisingly harmonious and mature work, which was created when the author was only 24 years old. Light, delicate and at the same time rich and expressive style of Mishima brings much pleasure when reading while a sedate pace allows the reader to understand the very rhythm of events and experiences of the protagonist described in the book.