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[131] The Temple of the Golden Pavilion – Yukio Mishima

“Never once has the temple disregarded me when I have tried to embody myself in the happiness and pleasures of life. One every such occasion it has been the fashion of the temple to block my effort instantly and to force me to return to myself.” (147)

Based on an actual incident, the burning of the Temple of the Golden Pavilion in Kyoto, the novel portrays a neurotic personality to its fullness. Mizoguchi lives up to the saying that the quiet one is always the one needed to be beware of for possible deadly actions. Because of the boyhood trauma of seeing his mother make love to another man in the presence of his dying father, Mizoguchi becomes a hopeless stutterer. Taunted by his schoolmates, he feels utterly alone and withdraws to a taciturnity of which he takes pride, arising from the fact of not being understood by other people and that he feels no need to express things and to make others understand something he knows.

The rift between his inner world and the outer world (outer world refers mainly to the ugliness), makes him seek the refuge in the Golden Temple. He becomes an acolyte who aspires to become the master of the temple one day. Gradually the temple comes to exist more deeply and more solidly within him, until by chance he discovers the hypocrisy of the Superior, to whom his university education has been indebted. From here comes Mizoguchi’s determination to free himself from the fixation to the temple. He despises any desire for beauty, pleasure, and happiness and tries to prove impossibility of love.

A morbidly distorted mentality takes hold of him and foreshadows a deadly vision that would crush all human beings and all objects irrespective of their ugliness and beauty. So much that Mizoguchi despises any desire for carnal desire and physical happiness, his own pursuit of desire that eventually leads to the the temple’s destruction transform baseness to courage. He reminds me of Rasolinkov in Crime and Punishment, who believes he’s above the law to punish those who are louts. Mizoguchi’s taciturnity alone, as he claims, is sufficient to justify every manner of cruelty. On the one hand he enjoys how one by one he would wreak punishment on those who have wronged him and tormented him; on the other hand, he fancies himself as a great artist, endowed with the clearest vision–a veritable sovereign of his inner world. In other words, that his stuttering prevents him from communicating with the outer world enriches him to be a chosen being that is more superior.

2 Responses

  1. Very interesting review. What’s the time period?

  2. As a Japanese Mishima advocated the restoration of Japanese militarism. He commited sucide by seppuku ( The traditional Japanese ritualistic suicide).

    “The Confession of the Mask” is supposed to be semi-biographical.

    His political inclination puts me off .


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