From Delicate to Empowered: Toshiko’s Character Evolution in “Swaddling Clothes”

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From Delicate to Empowered:
Toshiko’s Character Evolution in “Swaddling Clothes”

Michelle Dano

ENGL 1302
Professor Schulz
March 25, 2013

Imagine having the power to change one’s destiny. In Yukio Mishima’s story, “Swaddling Clothes”, the main character, Toshiko, toys with this idea. Mishima himself controlled his own destiny by committing suicide – an event that “Yukio Mishima had planned for over a year.” Toshiko also plans to commit suicide in a sense by confronting an illegitimate child in twenty years to tell him of his unfortunate birth. She decides that by doing this, the child, who will undoubtedly be a vagrant by this time, will attack her, rather than perhaps one day harming her own son. She believes that by putting herself in danger, she will be changing her son’s destiny. “Swaddling Clothes” is set in the 1950’s in Tokyo, Japan during “a time of gradual recovery for the nation.” The country had suffered a huge blow from World War II. Many of its residents were becoming more westernized. In “Swaddling Clothes” you see that westernization in Toshiko’s husband by his manner of dressing and in the way that he had decorated his home. Toshiko feels alienated by her husband. The story begins with her husband sending her away in a taxi alone. She is hurt by him leaving her to return to their home where there are still bloodstains showing on the floor from her nurse, who had recently given birth to a child. Toshiko is quite shaken by the incident, but as the story progresses, her nature changes. In “Swaddling Clothes”, Toshiko’s character evolves from being delicate to empowered. At the beginning of the story, Toshiko appears to be a delicate person. Someone is delicate when she is weak and has low self-esteem. Also, a delicate person will be fearful of everything. The author’s description of Toshiko in the beginning paragraphs illustrates her as a person with these qualities. The fact that her husband is the one to send her home in a...
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