Importance of Seasons in Kawabata's Snow Country

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Importance of Seasons in Kawabata's Snow Country

In his novel Snow Country, Yasunari Kawabata depicts a relationship between two people in the mountainous region of Japan. Shimamura, a businessman from Tokyo, visits a village in the snow country and develops a relationship with Komako, a geisha in that village. Their relationship is the central focus of the novel, as it changes each time Shimamura leaves for Tokyo and returns. Kawabata uses the changing of the seasons to reflect these changes in relationship. Since the novel is set in the snow country, the seasons have specific characteristics, and these parallel the relationship between the two central characters. Spring is a time of new beginnings in the snow country because of the new sprouts that begin to grow after the winter has covered the ground with snow and killed all the old plants. Shimamura first comes in the spring, and the relationship begins as a friendship because of Shimamura's view of Komako as a new sprout and his feeling that it is his duty to protect her. Fall is a time of transition, both for nature and for the relationship. As the trees in the snow country begin to lose their leaves and change into another version of themselves, Shimamura and Komako do also, creating a sense of romance that seems more and more distant as they grow apart. Winter is a time of bitter cold in the snow country, and this is reflected in the coldness brought into Shimamura and Komako's relationship. They argue often during winter, and Shimamura becomes intrigued by Komako's rival Yoko, a maid for the inn at which he stays, and the relationship becomes merely professional. The relationship between Shimamura and Komako undulates constantly with the pass...

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...Shimamura's protection. The snow country becomes unbelievably cold in the winter, and darkness surrounds the land as all the plants are covered by snow and the land becomes a barren wasteland. Shimamura and Komako feel this coldness in their relationship, as the distance between them produces feelings of bitterness. Darkness encompasses their relationship as Shimamura's new attraction to Yoko is halted by her death. The relationship between Shimamura and Komako is a tumultuous one, fluctuating from an intimate friendship to merely a professional connection. These changes correlate with the changing of the seasons, and thus Kawabata uses the shifts between seasons in the snow country of Japan as an allegory for the central relationship of the novel.

Works Cited:

Kawabata, Yasunari. Snow Country. Berkley Publishing Corporation: New York, NY 1956.

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