Cultures all over the world have different convictions surrounding the final, inevitable end for all humans - death. In the United States, and in most Westernized cultures we tend to view death as something that can be avoided through the use of medicine, artificial respiration machines, and the like. To us, death is not a simple passing, and usually, we do not accept it as a normal part of life. Death, to Westernized folk, is not celebrated, but is rather something to be feared, something that haunts us all in the back of our minds. However, this mentality is not held through all cultures -- in Mishima's The Sailor, a Japanese novel steeped in traditional Eastern values, death is a very proud, honorable part of life. Its inevitability is accepted and, at many times, even celebrated and brou~ht about willingly. Throughout existentialist literature, the belief is held true that death, in and of itself, is a most crucial determinant of life's meaning, or in this case meaninglessness. This is what Noboru and his gang attempt to construct through causing the death of the kitten, and more importantly, of Ryuji.
Throughout the Sailor, our Western convictions concerning death are brutally challenged. Death, in the Sailor, was something to be proud of, something to look forward to. Our first look at death is through the eyes of a child, our absurdist hero, Noboru. He, with his gang, proceeds to kill a kitten with his gang, an attempt to find meaning in what they believed to be a meaningless, fleeting existence. "How are we going to do it?" he asked. After he killed the kitten, and the boys performed a type of twisted surgery on the corpse, ...
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... end, if Ryuji had remained an "authentic person" and died as he wanted to, in a glorious death on the sea, he would not have been killed by a gang of young boys. Throughout existentialist literature, the belief is held true that death, in and of itself, is a most crucial determinant of life's meaning, or in this case, meaninglessness. With Ryuji's death, the boys attempt to find meaning, but instead, they find revenge against Ryuji for the cnme he committed - against himself.
1. Heuscher, Julius E., M.D. Existential Crisis, Death, and Changing "World Designs" in Myths and Fairy Tales," The Journal of Existentialism, 1966.
2. Heuscher, J. Existentialism. Vol V., N. 20, p. 371, 1965.
3. Feifel, H., ed "The Meaning of Death." Mc-Graw Hill Publications, 1959.
4. Grimm, J. and W., Grimms' Fairy Tales. Ch. Thomas., Publ. Springfield, Ill., 1988.
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