A pair of woollen socks! The solitary blue- brown image lingered in my pathetic thoughts, weeks after I had closed down the book. Verses had angrily left me, words refused to find a refuge within my wits and leisurely Mishima’s manuscript had melted into an obscure viscosity leaving behind only the recurring images of a mystified Etsuko and the pair of socks. For weeks I lived with that graphic, gaudily enhancing as the night darkened with every passing hour. How could a harmless pair of socks from Hankyu departmental store bring reckless audacity, such tenderness and then knit a violent despair? Could the diabolical nature of the socks stir up with the slightest tap of human emotions? Were those socks diabolical as the humans tend to become?
“What had given this courage? The thunder? The two pair of socks she had just purchased?”
Symbolism seizes the pivotal core plunging and deciphering a limitless world beyond human mediocrity. Given Mishima’s palpable affinity towards the art of Noh , the evident usage of significant cryptograms of socks, typhoid, the lion mask , the hospital ward and the mattock among the others , spells every intricate nuances of a capricious face veiled behind a stoic Noh mask. Mishima’s astute narration on the premise of a reluctant heart and cataclysmic love flows into a theatrical Noh prism where the ghosts of the past erect skeletons in the present imprisoning the desires of a heart in a ruthless world.
“In the moment a captive lion steps out of his cage, he possesses a wider worlds than the lion who has known only the worlds. While he was in captivity, there were only two worlds to him- the world of the cage and the world outside the cage. Now he is free. He roars. He attacks people, eats them. He is not satisfied for there is no third world that is neither the world of the cage nor the world outside the cage.”
A captured heart alien to the world of benevolent love; its reception caged behind the daunting fetters of loneliness and alienation. The burdened heart roars for emancipation from seclusion. The longing to love, the autonomy to love consumed in powerlessness to love. The heart perplexed in a world of duplicity and social repression succumbs to lunacy of obsession and vengeance for it does not know the sincerity of love , as there is no ‘third world’ beyond the emptiness of love, apart from death. Etsuko in her passivity, through her fatal love becomes a destructive yet pitiable figure hampered by her own quest against rising trepidations over her covetousness and its subsequent demise. Mishima elucidates on Etsuko’s temperament by articulating, “she found in the emptiness of her hopes the purest of meanings”
A widow of a philanderer husband resides with her lascivious father-in-law in the grimy countryside. Yakichi Sugimoto’s conflicted household was a laborious abode of repulsive absurdities. The prejudices of Chieko and Kensuske floated among the wooden interiors of the household, conjectures of biased moralities hovering over the Sugimoto’s budding illicit associations with Etsuko mirrored through Etsuko’s orphaned existence, her gratification for such dire circumstances vocalized through anaesthetizing her thoughts. Etsuko’s infatuation for Saburo resurrected the primitive naivety previously misplaced in a frigid matrimony. The abundance of love and the intensity of a genuine sexual pleasure derived from the uttered enthusiasm for Saburo fetched a reprieving life-force. Even so, the reception for deliverance was cremated by feverish ravings of covetousness and shadows of Etsuko’s disaffections and guilt.
“A feeling of liberation should contain a bracing feeling of negation, in which liberation itself is not agitated.”
The protracted abandonment wallowing in the niggling emptiness dominated Estuko’s overwhelming arrogance enslaving her to the creativity of unquenchable passion and the eventual annihilation. The freedom to experience the power of her sexuality cowed to the socially repressive environment tightening Etsuko inescapability from the ongoing tussle of implausible passion v/s the banality of social mores and life as a whole. The tantalizing sight of a half-naked Saburo during the dance at the Autumn Festival of the Hachiman Shrine fiercely clashed her morality into vehemence of her sexuality. Mishima highlights the quintessence of a woman’s sexuality in a communally despotic culture and the acerbic reconstruction of its perversion of a toxic love. ‘Thirst’ develops into a symbolic gesticulation, hunger for implacable desires. Love becomes the timeless nectar guzzled ravenously by a vacant parched heart, incurable, suffocating the vagueness of pain and pleasure.
“ The word ‘love’ had no proper place.”
Etsuko was the fated romantic hero in a world where love was misplaced behind the countless agonies, fatigued by the dilemmas of egotistical hunger trapped between the insatiable nature of vengeance and obsession. ; the authentic self polluted by grotesque incongruity. Is love diabolical then? Anger, sorrow, fear, joy; each flourishing sentiment has its eminence on the arousing empathetic dais. Love, however clandestinely incarnates itself baffling the psychosomatic rationalities. The solitary heartfelt emotion coquettishly fleets teasing the human psyche with aspiring gentleness to reincarnate into diversified oblique sentimentalities. Love had metamorphosed into a dreadful entity for Etsuko , love had no proper place then , only proper death.
The pair of socks is surely not diabolical after all. For not only did they bring back free flowing verses, but the hued woollen marvels also kept my feet warm while I typed the above words.
** [ the photographic illustrations are taken from the 1967 movie adaptation of the novel. ‘Ai no Kawaki’starring the lovely Ruriko Asako ]**