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Throughout the novel, Endo jumps from one character to the next revealing intimate moments of each characters past to the reader in an attempt to explain the cause of the individual’s journey to India. Each character’s story is different however all the stories share a broken link in their lives that only God, in one of his many faces, can fill. Although he is presented later within the novel, Numada, a short story writer, displays one of the several manners in which an individual can find God, through nature. Through the numerous events of his interactions with animals and nature, Numada was presented with a path of revelation that led him to God.
When Numada is first introduced to the reader, he is currently on his way to India when he is recognized by one of the stewardess on board. When asked to confirm his identity, Endo states that he, “[nods] his head in silent embarrassment.” Numada behavior appears to be a bit strange as it can be taken two different ways. In one manner, Numada silent embarrassment can be taken as modesty or humility that can be attributed to the Japanese culture or the Christian values. In the other manner, Numada response can be taken as embarrassment for his profession.
In Matthew 10:32-33 Jesus states, “…if anyone denies me here own earth, I will deny that person before my Father in heaven.” Although he is unaware of it at the moment, Numada’s writing is a reflection of his love for God which is represented by his love for animals.
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As explained earlier, Endo makes a point to explain the past of each character to the audience. Within Numda’s life experiences presented to the reader, it is quite evident that during his critical moments of distress, he had been comforted by the presence of a dog and bird. Thus it can be understood why Numada chose to only write about the two as his main characters, which can be attributed as symbols of Jesus Christ.
As a young boy, Numada’s relationship with his dog Blackie appeared to be that of true friendship. “Blackie had been the one who understood his sorrow in those days, the only living thing who would listen to his complaints: his companion (p.73).” Sometimes within an individual’s life, one will experience times of turmoil within their family. During those periods, one may feel that they have no one to confide in, as in friends or family, but an outside element, which represents the spirit of God. As a dog, Blackie is known as a man’s best friend. As symbol of Christ he is man’s best friend.
While reflecting upon his youth, Endo’s thoughts hover around Blackie, “If I hadn’t had Blackie with me then…I doubt I ever would have written a children’s story(p.74).” Blackie supported Numada through his time of need. It can be said that Blackie carried Numada; an action similar to that displayed within the popular poem, Footprints in the Sand. Within the poem, the writer is reflecting upon the happy and sad times of their life and the number of the set of footprints within the sand. During the bad times, it appears that only one set of footprints are found within the sand. The writer believes they had been deserted; however God reassured her that he will never leave. “The Lord replied, “The years when you have seen only one set of footprints, my child, is when I carried you.” Mary Stevenson. Although Numada felt alone, he was mistaken. He had Blackie, who was his silent supporter.
A short time later, Numada’s parents decided to seek a divorce, which resulted in Numada to move away with his mother and leave Blackie behind. “When the carriage lurched forward…Blackie chased after them…Blackie continued in pursuit..he watched with resignation in his eyes as Numada left him... It was thanks to Li and to his dog that he had first come to know the meaning of separation(p.74).”Within Christianity, separation is noted as a natural occurrence between man and God. The only way separation between the two can be bridged is thru Jesus Christ. Blackie served as a representation of Jesus for Numada. As demonstrated through Christian prayer one prays to God thru Jesus, by stating at the end of the prayer, “…In Jesus Christ name, Amen.” One must also note, that Blackie continued to chase Numada although it was evident that he was not returning, which can be compared to God not wanting his children to go astray. The scene symbolizes Numada being pulled away from his faith, living within Blackie, due to his parents failed relationship not to return again until adulthood.
“Numada didn’t know how to explain his yearning for a connection with every living thing. The seed that Blackie had planted inside Numada in his childhood has slowly sprouted to create an idealized world…(p.77)” Numada’s yearning for a connection with living things can be explained through God. Every living thing is a creation of God, therefore no matter how great a difference appears to be, they have the biggest similarity of all. One can better understand Numada’s yearning through the explanation of Socrates of the difference between form and matter. The forms, which can come in any particular size, shape, etc., are represented by the different living things upon the earth. Matter is represented by the similarity that they are all God’s creatures. Matter, as in God, can not be created nor destroyed, just transferred from one party to the next. Therefore one can conclude the connection that Numada yearns for from other living things is natural because they are all connected through God, although he does not quite realize that yet.
During Numada’s first encounter with his hornbill, he is found comparing the bird to Christ. “Numada had taken a liking to Rouault’s paintings, and there was something about the many Pierrot faces he portrayed in his works that resembled this hornbill. He knew that for Rouault clowns were a symbol of Christ.” From the reading, one can conclude that Numada viewed the bird as Jesus, a link to God.
He soon fell ill and received a Myna from his wife. After his life-threatening surgery, Numada discovered that the bird had died. “I wonder if it had died in place of me?” The Myna sacrificing its life for Numada, can easily be attributed as symbolism for Jesus Christ. The Myna can also be seen as a phoenix, a mythical bird that became popular in early Catholic art, literature and Catholic symbolism, as a symbol of Christ representing His resurrection, immortality, and life-after-death. The death of the myna served as a life changing ordeal for Numada. Upon his trip within India, he was very adamant about finding the bird sanctuaries in order to thank the myna for his sacrifice. This action of Numada can be attributed to one experiencing the love of Christ and in thanks, wants to share it with the world.
While in India, Numada’s path of revelation to God becomes clearer to the reader, as well as Numada himself. In his thoughts, “Nature had to be the medium that facilitated the interaction between man and the life force (p.133).” The life force in reference is God. At that moment, Numada is acknowledging himself that in order for man and God to be connected, something must stand at the bridge for the gap. The bridge is nature, which could be animals or plants, which is a symbol for Jesus Christ. He continues with his breakthrough by saying, “What I sensed…was the individual voices of each tree in the forest. They seemed to be saying something to us (p.131).” The voices can be interpreted as being the voice of God calling Numada back to him. It is a very familiar notion of the occurrence of one hearing (a) voice(s) whenever they are on the brink of (re)discovering their faith.
“…the men like Numada who searched the natural environment of India for something they had lost (p.132).” Numada went to India superficially to find a myna but within the depths of his soul he was searching for God. It is quite evident if one studies the information presented of Numada’s life, that his journey to God was a gradual one that required a mediator, in his case nature, to make the transition to faith smoother. “To him [Numada] Nature had been a force that gently embraces mankind (p.139).” One should notice that Nature is capitalized, a signature that does not occur unless it is beginning a sentence. Therefore one can conclude that Nature is a symbol of Christ.
As stated earlier by Otsu, “God has many different faces. I don’t think God exists exclusively in the churches and chapels of Europe…(p.121)” Within the text, Numada mentions that he is struck by a Hindu belief, “ The Hindus believe that trees bear within them the life force that produces rebirth…I’m very struck by that notion. (p.131)” Numada believes the spirit of Christ and God lives within nature. From the information presented, once can conclude that the events upon Numada established a connection with the soul with Nature, his path of revelation to God was found.