Swaddling Clothes

Topics: Fiction, Symbolism, World War II, Marriage, Yukio Mishima, Science fiction / Pages: 3 (674 words) / Published: Oct 6th, 2013
Symbolism is a powerful tool in literature, allowing a writer to deliver a deep meaning through ordinary people and items, and even through seemingly mundane events. In the short story “Swaddling Clothes”, our author, Yukio Mishima, uses symbolism in his characters and his setting to convey to his readers his rather bleak outlook on the future of Japan. His use of symbolism forces us to really think about the story’s message, allowing for a more memorable and thoroughly more enjoyable reading experience.

In “Swaddling Clothes”, many symbols were used to show Mishima’s perception of post-World War II Japan and the future he feels it faces. The characters Mishima used in this story are strong examples of symbolism on their own. Mishima uses Toshiko, the frail, traditionally-oriented, higher-class protagonist, to represent traditional Japanese values. In the story, Toshiko shows her distaste for the Western-style furniture in her house, and appears to be the only one who is truly disturbed by the birth of the child and the newspaper swaddling the infant was given. She alone in the story frets about the child’s terribly dishonourable birth, and worries that he will grow up to be an angry, resentful, impoverished man because of it. It appears that Mishima used Toshiko’s character to express many of his own opinions about Japan’s future.
Meanwhile, the husband is used as a symbol to represent the Western influence on Japan. His profession is a very west-influenced one, his mannerisms appear Americanized, and it can be inferred that he played a large part in decorating his and his wife’s house with Western-style furniture. When Toshiko wants him to go home with her, he instead goes to his business meeting, choosing his work above his wife. Mishima juxtaposes the husband against the wife to further emphasize the difference between their personalities and their symbolic meaning.

However, Toshiko and her husband are not the only symbolic characters in the

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