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