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DISCUSSION THREAD | Chapters 5 - 6 (Part One: Summer)

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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

Hello readers!

We’re out of the first week! I hope everyone is enjoying the book and the discussion so far! Discuss Chapters 5 and 6 here.

~ Conrad


message 2: by Omar (new)

Omar | 9 comments Chapter 5 is pretty intense These kids are crazy, especially The Chief. I kind of feel like Noboru is being pushed into doing these shady things. The Chief reads a lot and yet he does these absurd acts. If he believes that death transfigure creatures into a perfect autonomous world, why don't he just kill himself and get it over with?


message 3: by Carol (new)

Carol Omar wrote: "Chapter 5 is pretty intense These kids are crazy, especially The Chief. I kind of feel like Noboru is being pushed into doing these shady things. The Chief reads a lot and yet he does these absurd ..."

Yes! Totally agree to the whole killing himself! I wonder though if eventually we'll see that he's all talk. He's forcing Noburo to do something horrible, yet will he act on these beliefs? Interesting chapter.


message 4: by Omar (last edited Mar 06, 2016 02:31PM) (new)

Omar | 9 comments In chapter 6, both of them are trying to befriend the other. They're to trying to establish a truce because each of them know's the other's secret, which they can't share with Noburo's mother. Noburo is trying to create a father figure out of this sailor. Or maybe he's looking for a hero to save him from The Chief's madness, who's lucidly the antagonist of this book.


message 5: by [deleted user] (new)

Chapter 5. Ugh, that kitten scene was really disturbing and graphic. Sickening!


message 6: by [deleted user] (new)

Having to take a rest after Chapter 5. That was fucking rough to read!!!


message 7: by Meredith (new)

Meredith (merelovesreading) | 4 comments Conrad wrote: "Having to take a rest after Chapter 5. That was fucking rough to read!!!"

I totally agree! That scene was the most sickening thing I have ever read in a novel.


message 8: by [deleted user] (new)

I can't help but wonder if the grusome death of the kitten is foreshadowing for a murder later on (perhaps of the sailor or the mother...). A couple of great chapters, even though they did make me cringe.


message 9: by [deleted user] (new)

Conrad wrote: "Having to take a rest after Chapter 5. That was fucking rough to read!!!"
I know! I read it while waiting for a class to start and was disgusted. It's so...detailed.


message 10: by [deleted user] (new)

Yep, sorry guys, lol. I didn't know! But... I guess we should at least discuss what else we were exposed to in chapter 5. The Chief said and did some very interesting things that at least made chapter one make more sense: I.e, training the boys to become desensitized to sex and nudity. I also thought it was compelling or at least really weird that Noboru was comparing the skinned cat to the nudity he saw of his mother and the sailor saying "they weren't naked enough." It also explains why the wet shirt was so ominous and bothersome to Noboru.


message 11: by Omar (new)

Omar | 9 comments I think The Chief is a nihilist, a person who believes in nothing, has no loyalties, and no purpose other than, perhaps, an impulse to destroy. The book is full of themes belonging to Existentialism, which was a European literary movement in the 20th century. For more info you may want to check out this link:
http://www.storybites.com/literary-te...


message 12: by Lynecia (new)

Lynecia (luvnecia) Whew!
That was disturbing. I read that on the subway on the way to work and the faces I was making must have looked weird to the people around me, I had to physically turn my face away from the book. it was rough.

The Chief is such a unnerving, terrifying character. I'll be honest, I find the views he espouses coming out of the mouth of a 13 year old boy a bit unbelievable. Mishima is using his character as a construct of some sort. It does say that he has "read every book in his house" and perhaps that is where he gets his ideas? Perhaps I'm underestimating the intellect of a child (LOL) - any other thoughts on that?


message 13: by [deleted user] (new)

No, I didn't see it as a fallacy that The Chief would be think this way. I think that we're supposed to look at The Chief in a parody sort of way, but that's also what makes him so dangerous and influential (because they ARE children) to them, they're not considering the bigger consequences and are just spouting out philosophies that are basically unfounded. Reciting things they read as truths. For instance, they have to kill a helpless cat just to prove they can. I believe Noboru says to himself, "I killed it all by myself, I can do anything, no matter how awful." I see it as gathering experiences. Because they're children, they don't have any big experiences. Their cutting off from sexual titillation wasn't met through real sexual experiences but rather looking at pornographic magazines and deciding it was unworthy of their interests.

It's important to note the environments of these situations. They were hiding out in a shed, garage, concerned with being busted by their parents. So I would take the merit of their philosophies with a grain of salt. But it doesn't lessen the fact that They're dangerous kids. I'm also willing to say that they're not even sure how dangerous they really are.


message 14: by [deleted user] (new)

Lynecia, I feel like we're supposed to look at The Chief with not whether or not we believe these things could be said or thought by a 13 year old boy but rather that he himself believes them.


message 15: by [deleted user] (new)

And possibly more importantly --- that he has also achieved getting his friends to believe them.


message 16: by Lynecia (new)

Lynecia (luvnecia) Conrad wrote: "Lynecia, I feel like we're supposed to look at The Chief with not whether or not we believe these things could be said or thought by a 13 year old boy but rather that he himself believes them."

Great point, it's So unnerving coming from a child!


message 17: by Dylan (new)

Dylan (dylan_z) | 6 comments I'm not sure I have much more to add at this point. I agree--it doesn't bother me that the 13-year-olds have a pretty extreme philosophy because Mishima is so careful to present it as childish (but also dangerous). Unusual or extreme, sure. But believable to me.

I did want to note the details that have been sticking in my mind and that keep reappearing. There's a lot of reference made to the fact that Noburo wasn't really swimming and that Ryuji was wet from his drinking fountain shower. I don't have my copy in front of me but I remember there being a particularly memorable description of the drinking fountain dyeing the sidewalk black (or something like that), the rainbow Ryuji makes by putting his thumb over the fountain, etc.. Then of course we have the symbolism of the sea which Noburo specifically discusses with the Chief and other numbered boys. Noburo argues that there is something different about the sea and boating (I read is as him arguing that these are acceptable passions within their dispassionate philsophy). There is Noburo's sweat, the boys' bathing...It feels too early for me to make any statement as to what this all means, but water/wetness/sea is a symbol I'm tracking. I was thinking there is some significance to the fact that Ryuji is the one who actually "gets wet" (yikes...double entendre? :/) while Noburo stays dry, but then of course, the boys get wet too, just not from swimming...


message 18: by Tina (new)

Tina Huntz (lectito) | 11 comments The group of friends in the novel reminded me of The Confusions of Young Törless by Musil, their revolting actions are way too much. I will finish the book, but the animal torture and sadistic kids put me in a terrible mood. If it wasn't because I like the writing and the japanese setting I'll probably DFN this at least until I can overcome the ghost of Robert Musil's characters.


message 19: by [deleted user] (last edited Mar 07, 2016 01:37PM) (new)

Tina wrote: "The group of friends in the novel reminded me of The Confusions of Young Törless by Musil, their revolting actions are way too much. I will finish the book, but the animal torture and sadistic kids..."

Understandable, Tina. It was very brutal. But, don't DNF!

We're in this together!


message 20: by [deleted user] (new)

Chapter 6 returns with the sort of euphoric aimlessness that the first four chapters exhibit. Noboru seems torn on whether or not the sailor is a suitable source of his ardor and admiration. I loved the line, “I don’t like to be flattered.”
He seems to be on a high from the killing. Quite pleased with his evil little self as they nap under the air conditioner in the living room.

To him, it was embarrassing for the boys in his gang to meet his touted sailor after a splash in a water fountain. He mentions that he fantasized Ryuji had jumped from the pier to save a drowning woman.

Even worse that he treats Noboru like a child and speaks “down” to him.
And Noboru’s quite cutting in his assessment of Ryuji’s smiles. (“That smile was a disparagement for it was meant to mollify a child.” p.52)

I also love that Noboru asked him not to tell his mother (not out of genuine concern that she’d find out, but rather as a test to see what he’d say.) He seemed disappointed that Ryuji went along with it and didn’t provide a challenge.


Lisa (LiteraryLatinax) (literarylatinax) Ok, I finished Chapter 5 and can't stop thinking of it. That whole kitten scene was too much.

Honestly my initial thought of the the Chief was someone who obviously loves to lead and have the power to tell people what to do and becomes a bully to those who basically don't obey. At such a young age he's encouraging other children to do such horrific things, it makes me wonder what he's capable of and how far he will go.

I hugged my cat today.


message 22: by Whitney (new)

Whitney Borup | 14 comments Like everyone else I had trouble with the cat scene. Obvi. But I also felt very detached from it. I didn't have the visceral reaction I'm reading about in these comments and I'm wondering if that's because I have read a lot of (too much of?) Georges Bataille. I hate to be the annoying theory person but I do think Mishima was influenced by this French psychopath (I say that jokingly...but also not really).

So, in support of what Conrad was saying about the kitten sacrifice being a kind of parody, here's a quotation from Bataille's "The Solar Anus" (best title for an essay ever?): "It is clear that the world is purely parodic, in other words, that each thing seen is the parody of another, or is the same thing in a deceptive form." Or how about this one: "Beings only die to be born, in the manner of phalluses that leave bodies in order to enter them." And "I am the Jesuve, the filthy parody of the torrid and blinding sun."

Not that I have any idea what any of that means, but what I gather from this essay and other works is that Bataille believes that every function of the natural world is just caught in a cycle of life and death. Life is full of symbolism and meaning, and death is the destruction of the symbolic and meaningful. But when the symbolic is all parody (when there is no real truth in the living world) then Bataille seeks what he calls "continuity" in death.

In his Erotism (which, I think is his best) he talks about how we are all conceived in a single moment of continuity. When the egg and the sperm meet and you cannot possibly distinguish between the two organisms that create YOU. But after the moment, you are stuck with a feeling of discontinuity. You can never fully bridge the gap between you and others (like Omar brings up when he talks about existentialism). The only way to bridge that gap is to die (or to experience that "little death" of the orgasm). So death and sex and beauty all point to the meaning of life, which Bataille (and I think Mishima, too) would think was the absence of meaning.

Murder, violence, and sacrifice are all ways to glimpse this continuity - what Bataille calls "sacred" - so "sacrifice is looked on basically as an offering, not necessarily as a bloody affair." "Such a violent manifestation of violence elevates the victim above the humdrum world where men live out their calculated lives." And "The victim dies and the spectators share in what his death reveals."

So when Mishima writes, "Death had transfigured the kitten into a perfect, autonomous world," I think this is a direct reference to Bataille. It's a fierce, disturbing, and forceful aestheticization of violence. A rejection of the meaning of death (I don't think Noboru is meant to be evil) and a way to see the sacred value in (animal) sacrifice. And I agree with Amy when she says this seems like a foreshadowing of how this kind of violence will play out on a human victim.

I hope this comment wasn't annoying! I just think Bataille is a fascinating figure and very relevant in the period in which Mishima was writing!


message 23: by William (new)

William Baker | 25 comments I also cringed at the cat-scene. I also feel that I am tossed into a whirlpool of the so far familiar concepts of good-bad, family, incest, voyeurism, sacrifice, friendliness, coldness of heart, and when I hope to have seen the light, it is immediately or gradually snatched away and turned into oblivion. I feel more and more that there is a message in the book but I doubt that it can be conceptualized - what a paradox! The more I get back at these chapters, the more I get to liking them. Interesting piece of work, Mishima!


message 24: by [deleted user] (new)

Omar wrote: "Chapter 5 is pretty intense These kids are crazy, especially The Chief. I kind of feel like Noboru is being pushed into doing these shady things. The Chief reads a lot and yet he does these absurd ..."

I think that while Noboru has been coerced into doing certain things, by the point that we meet him in the novel, he's into it and he's enjoying it. His fear about the killing of the cat seems to be more about getting caught, than regretting what he's done.


message 25: by Charlie (new)

Charlie (cwjh) I finished reading chapter 5 a while back and needed a little break from it, even though I was very curious to read on. It was gruesome and I was uncomfortable reading it but it has really set the mood for me.

What caught my eye was P.58: "The boys were overjoyed at the spattered blood on the log." Where at first I had the impression The Chief is the one who is really in charge and forces his vision upon the rest of the boys, this line made me believe that they are all sharing that vision and are equal to The Chief.

I'm intrigued and will dive back in now.


message 26: by William (new)

William Baker | 25 comments "The chief ... read at thirteen every book in the house and was always bored."
So the books in his house are either few or he reads them superficially, or he lies.
This looks like a criticism of the chief's motives all the more so because books are instrumental in a self-control the boys are aspiring after. They are also excellent for checking the course of our checking ourselves, and unfortunately this feature is absent from the boys' considerations.


message 27: by William (new)

William Baker | 25 comments At the end of Ch. 6. Noboru is about to fall asleep and has a waking dream of reality: "the naked sailor twisting in the moonlight to confront a horn - the kitten's death mask, grave and fang-bared - its ruby heart ... gorgeous entities all and absolutely authentic ... 'Happiness,' he thought. 'Happiness that defies description...'" It is here that we can see happiness in Noboru. He (and his group) wants to see beyond the surface. They possibly think that while the surface might make sense, it's just surface = superficial. Below the surface is the real thing, and it will have more mood to it than (rational) sense. The "real thing" when experienced is akin to dreams. A very paradoxical point, I daresay, Japanese, especially the "the kitten's death-mask."


message 28: by [deleted user] (new)

William wrote: "At the end of Ch. 6. Noboru is about to fall asleep and has a waking dream of reality: "the naked sailor twisting in the moonlight to confront a horn - the kitten's death mask, grave and fang-bared..."

Not excusing what the boys did, of course - but Noboru’s dream did make me accept their points of view a bit better. I think that’s exactly the correct reading of it. They want to see past the surface. The peep-hole, skinning the cat, all of this.

Demented, but it seems like Noboru & Gang are obsessed with discovering some universal truth. This truth, of course, being Mishima’s view on life and death.


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