In Ibuse's book, he writes about the atomic bombing in Hiroshima and people's life after that. The story switches back and forth between these two periods. The scenes of those days in 1945 are so sorrow. The disaster brings out a world like a hell. The mushroom cloud actually lasts and shrouds over people's life, especially for those who are affected by radiation sickness. The black rain has stopped but it still remain formlessly in people's heart. However, there are still hopes in people's heart. People are trying to step out the black rain. The sentence in the end touches me. "If a rainbow appears over those hills now, a miracle will happen. Let a rainbow appear--not a white one, but one of many hues--and Yasuko will be cured." Even though the miracle won't indeed happen, the hope encourages people to carry on. If we take some color to represent the story, then when the atomic bombing happens, it turns out to be a totally black color. And it sticks on so strongly but still gradually fades into lighter color with the efforts of hope in people's heart. The longing of a rainbow of many hues indicates the hope of Shigematsu. The miracle for Yasuko may not happen, but the miracle of human will happen and the colorful life will finally come to true. The colorful life maybe represents a peaceful life. Wars that only bring disasters should end and the hope of peace will never vanish.
In the book, the narrator is kept in the world of sand. At first he tries all he can to escape. After all the failure out of his efforts, he finally seems to surrender but still obtaining the hope to escape sometime. However, from the first chapter of the novel, it has already been clear that even after 7 years he hasn't escaped. What have kept him from his hope of escaping even when he finally has the rope ladder to get access to the ground? Is that because of the found of the water trap? Or is that because of the woman's pregnant? The extreme situation in the fiction does represents the real situation for the society. There is non-shaped sand trapping us from the hope, from the ideal life. The non-shaped sand might be the realism. We are all being kept but can't escape from it. The more we struggle, the deeper we sink. Finally the best choice we can make is to surrender, to do nothing against it, and to get used to it. Individuals never can forbid the surrounding. How bitter is such a life in vain!
The narrator is a stutterer. Moreover, he is also a stutterer in life. He obtains some aspects of uncertainty. He doesn’t really know what exactly he wants. He goes where he has been led to. From my point of view, the beautiful of the Golden Temple to him is the deep rooted opinion inherited from his father. His true life is somewhere unknown and unable to approach. He goes to the Golden Temple under the wish of his father. His mother hopes he will be in charge of the Golden Temple in the future; however, this thought makes him feel disgusting. He is close to Tsurukawa who seems to be a bright side for him. Later on, he intends to be friend with Kashiwagi who is on the opposite side. The narrator somehow is in the middle. His feeling is drifting back and forth between the two sides. This also reflects his uncertainty of life. He set off on his trip towards northwest, trying to escape from the Golden Temple, as well as trying to search out something inside himself. I kind of understand the feeling of the lost in one’s own. And the story of “Nansen Kills a Kitten” is also an important piece in the book. I heard this story during my high school from radio when I was still in China. I love this Buddhism story because it fills with puzzlement and leaves people in deep consideration. In this book, once Kashiwagi interpreted himself as Nansen and narrator as Joshu, but also mentioned that these roles might be interchangeable later on. And when the narrator went on his trip, finally he came up with cutting off the suffering by burning the beauty―the Golden Temple. He did turn up to be the role of Nansen this time. And when Kashiwagi later talked about the knowledge and action, did he also become Joshu? Maybe behind his ugly clubfeet, Kashiwagi is actually a wit who sees through lots of things so that he takes every relationship lightly.
In the setting sun, it strikes me with the contrary between Naoji and Kazuko’s choice towards love and life, as well as their moralities. Naoji who is always struggling in his life finally commits suicide. He wants to be “as the same as other people” although he feels somehow reluctant to it. He tries to pull him out of the aristocrat but finally fails to do so. In the last sentence in his testament, he says, “I am, after all, an aristocrat.” This struggling deepens in him and finally collapses. Moreover, his hopeless love brings him into another disaster. He can only force himself approaching her husband in order to grasp a glance on her. He can’t love other women nor can he get the one he loves. He keeps it a secret and is being left with the sorrow. In the end, he pursues his own liberty, the liberty of life and death. On the contrary, Kazuko steps out to her love bravely. Without even thinking of giving up, she keeps writing him letters, expressing her love towards him directly. Not getting any replies back, she finally sets herself out to see him. Also she seems not to be puzzled by being an aristocrat. She can draw herself into field working as a farmer. She can live a life like a country woman in the countryside. In the end, she acquires her object of life by having a baby. She reaches the revolution of her life so that she can carry on her life by her own and raise the child. She is a brave woman and straight forward as well.
Finishing this book, instead of “Naomi” I think the original Japanese title of this book, “Chijin no Ai” (A Fool’s Love), is more proper. I really agree on Junichiro Tanizaki giving this title. Joji, his love towards Naomi really seems to me as a fool’s love. Moreover, his love to Naomi seems to represent as the love in Westernization. Not only the figure of Naomi, but also the way he brought her up shows his longing for westernization. He worships her as though he worships the western culture. Naomi has the western women’s look and fits perfectly in western cloths. She tends to active as a western woman. So I think Naomi also worships the westernization. Or maybe in someway, he made her become worshiping the westernization also. It is he who tells her she looks like western actress. It is also he that buys everything luxury she wants and educates her into a western character. He spoils her and treats her as his treasury. He encourages her to imitate western actress, takes pictures of her and feels proud of it. He wants to bring her up as a perfect woman in his mind, which is a modern western-like woman. Then He might feel graceful to walk with her and show off her gorgeous. Even though she deceives him, he still can’t hold back his love. But does she really love him or just take advantage of his love? I think she is taking advantage of his love for her luxury life. Of course, more than “breeding determining all”, he (with his spoiling) also should bear the responsibility of her behaviors. Then the image of Kikuko turns up in my mind. Naomi describes her as a monkey. Kikuko has a Japanese face but intends to make a western style outfit. She forces something unsuitable for herself. Is this the same case for Joji? Maybe Naomi is not right for him, but he is yearning for her so badly so that he takes this not suitable love. Maybe it somehow stands for the conflicting and association between Japanese and western culture when the western influences come to Japan. Something one longs for may not be the right thing for one.