Love aRole of Love as a Sickness in Beauty and Sadness
The poet Samuel Daniel said in one of his poems that “love is a sickness full of woes, all remedies refusing” (Page 111). The novel Beauty and Sadness by Nobel Prize-winning author Yasunari Kawabata tells the story of a destructive love affair between a married writer and a teenage girl. This love affair continues to haunt both of these characters more than twenty years after their last encounter. In this novel there is the recurrent theme of the role of love as a sickness. Throughout the novel there are many instances where the love shared between two people have deleterious effects on both the characters involved and those surrounding them. The lingering bitterness due to this love affair poisons everyone around them. Examples of the role of love as a sickness can be seen in Beauty and Sadness with the following characters: the love between Keiko and Otoko, the love between Oki and Fumiko, the “love” between Keiko and Taichiro, and most importantly the love between Oki and Otoko.
The love affair central to the plot and theme of this novel is between the two characters Oki and Otoko. Oki is a married author with a child that begins to have a passionate love affair at thirty years old with Otoko, who is fifteen years old at the time. Despite being married and a father, Oki falls in love with Otoko. Otoko had also fallen in love with Oki, but when she became pregnant and their child died at birth their affair came to an end. Despite their affair coming to an end, the love these two characters shared once never withers and stays in the hearts of both of these lovers causing continuing bitterness and sadness. This bitterness and sadness not only affects Oki and Otoko, it affects Oki’s son Taichiro, Otoko’s pupil/lover Keiko, and Oki’s wife Fumiko. Oki and Otoko both live their entire life regretting what happened in the past. Otoko never finds another man and Oki keeps longing for the passionate love he once had with Otoko that he does not feel with his wife Fumiko. Fumiko probably suffers the most because of this affair out of all of the characters in the novel. Not only does she find out about her husband’s infidelity which is torture in itself, she must read every little detail about it. Oki being an author writes a book entitled A Girl of Sixteen which tells the story of Oki and Otoko’s love affair. Fumiko retypes A Girl of Sixteen for her husband and ends up crying and being upset almost the whole time while she is retyping it. Ironically, this goes on to be Oki’s bestselling novel that gives his family financial stability and enough money to put Taichiro through college. Taichiro is affected by this love affair in the way that he must watch his parents struggle with their relationship on a daily basis because of this affair, especially at the time when A Girl of Sixteen was first published. He also must deal with Otoko’s pupil/lover Keiko who is bound for revenge for her lover Otoko. This will have deadly consequences for Taichiro. The love between Oki and his wife Fumiko is very interesting, it almost seems as if it’s fake. Oki, who fell in love with Otoko, cannot love Fumiko the same way he once loved Otoko. The passion Oki and Otoko shared is never felt between Oki and Fumiko and both of these characters are aware of this. This awareness that Oki and Fumiko can never share a passionate love like Oki and Otoko did causes continuing bitterness in both Oki and Fumiko. Oki stays bitter for the rest of his life, regretting not staying with Otoko after she lost their child and always thinking of what his life would be like if he did. Fumiko on the other hand, is bitter due to the jealousy of Otoko and Oki’s passionate love that she can’t seem to share with Oki. There are many instances throughout the book where Fumiko brings up Otoko and you can see the bitterness and jealousy in Fumiko’s responses. An example of this is when Oki and Fumiko sit down at dinner...
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