Love and morality are the two eternal themes depicted in the poetry and prose; Mishima Yukio was one of the writers who used these themes in his book Confessions of a Mask. One can say that love and morality are the interdependent and interconnected notions. Love can be moral when it is mutual, and both individuals love without hurting each other and people around. On the other hand, however, love can be immoral when it destroys the feelings of others and follows vested interest.
Moral love provokes happiness, joy, satisfaction, and ethical attitudes such as respect, mutual understanding, and tolerance. Meanwhile, immoral love violates the ethical and generally accepted principles; in most cases, it is condemned. Immoral love is associated with betray, killing, suffering, and other unethical actions. This essay tries to explain the themes of moral and immoral love on the basis of the Confession of a Mask by Mishima Yukio.
The Theme of Moral Love in Confession of a Mask
Kochan is the main protagonist of the books; he reveals and helps understand the idea of moral love. However, it is not depicted directly. One should look for it in the attitudes and actions of the main character. One can say that Kochan did not know what love was as he lived in the isolation from the community because of poor health and lack of the family. He read about love only in the books. Because of being lonely, he could not enjoy stories with the happy ending. The man suffered from being deprived of love, care, and attention (Junko 130).
It is difficult to describe the moral features of Kochan and his moral formation as he had only a Granny who did not explain him the differences between the evil and good, moral and immoral, generally accepted and condemned things. However, the main point was that Kohan strived to understand love looking for it in the books. Since his childhood, the man had been indifferent to princesses and noble ladies, but he was impressed with the brave knights and heroes. It becomes obvious that his attitude to women was hostile; it can be explained with the lack of mother’s love and care. Another peculiarity of Kochan was that he hated the stories with happy endings; he was unhappy, reserved, and isolated not only from the society but also from any positive feelings and emotions (Starrs 1991).
As for the character’s morality, one can say that he acted with dignity. He was not as the other people were; the man understood this difference and tried to imitate their behavior. Sometimes, Kochan considered himself a coward; at those moments, he was a common man. He lived his common life to the fullest; the only thing he lacked was the passion for women. With time, he had understood that his real preferences were immoral and that he would never make them come true (Junko 135). He even had no such a thought; this fact makes him worth respect. He struggled with himself, and it was the war that no one could unambiguously win. In such a war, the person with a similar strange and immoral passion becomes a person with high morals. It makes readers think about their morality. Do people really have morals only because they are considered normal? On the other hand, are morals something that does not depend on the thoughts and wishes, but on the actions. Can one judge the character only for his/ her thoughts or one is supposed to have a high morality because he/ she struggles against his vicious thoughts and passions?
Kochan had nobody to teach him moral love; therefore, he tried to change the happy endings of the stories with the death and grief. Loneliness and lack of love had shaped Kochan’s attitude to love and death. Moreover, the isolation had also had an immense impact on the character’s future life. One can name his thoughts moral because the man understood the evil of deception and perfectly knew that it would be revealed. His soul lived in a constant struggle between telling the truth and lying, confession or hiding. Kochan did not declare his passion and feelings and punished himself for his immoral love by frustration, isolation, and dissimulation.
“Save for the shameful portion of my mind, I was exactly like any other boy. The reader need only picture to himself a fairly good student with average curiosity and appetites…and, lacking the confidence that comes from being handsome enough to appeal to girls…” (Mishima 7). This quote proves that Kochan did not lose his morality; he was conscious about his feelings and actions. He was able to love and knew the real essence of those feelings. His aim was to receive love and care from another person. However, Kohan’s tragedy was in the fact that he was absolutely lonely with such feelings. Despite his unhappy and isolated life, however, Kochan had not lost his moral qualities. He was neither cruel, nor cynic, nor furious. He did not accuse others in his life failures.
In this story, Kochan is a symbol of the person who was unlike the others. However, the man’s problem was that he could neither ruin nor step over the stereotypes and reveal his homosexual nature. He had become a victim of his love. Eros love in him created something like a complex of the suppressed and unhappy person. At first, it was poetic, but his loneliness, isolation, and commitment to the death turned into physical problems.
“Life-force…that overpowered the boys. They were overwhelmed by the feeling he gave of having too much life, by the feeling of purposeless violence…” (Mishima 218). These words of Kochan expressed his admiration with Omi. Kochan wanted to believe that Omi was not only his object of admiration and love. It means that he desired homosexuality to be a generally accepted and not condemned phenomenon.
Everything demands freedom. It seems that the writer wanted to prove that Kochan needed freedom, the same as provided by the human relationships and love. With confessing about his homoerotic nature, Kochan would have felt a relief. However, he also could have been condemned by the community. As a result, he would have become isolated again. Kochan was afraid of trials, convictions, and condemnation; therefore, he turned into a slave of his love. Confession of a Mask by Mishima Yukio reveals a queer man with the double life, split of self-representation and self-preservation, split between essence and appearance, struggle with identity, and contradiction between the inner and outside worlds.
The Theme of Immoral Love in Confession of a Mask by Mishima Yukio
Immoral love that violated the canons of the generally accepted ethical values was closer for Kochan. His homosexual orientation was like a rebel against all those moral principles that were indifferent to the isolated and lonely person. The world was cruel to him; therefore, the man hided his true sexual orientation and feelings not to be condemned and abused. His life story was an almost clinical issue of congenital sexual inversion. This diagnose proved the fact of his living in the different poetic world created by his vision of the moral and immoral values. There was nothing strange that his homosexual fantasies, sadism, and cannibalistic ideas prevailed over the desire to find true love, do good things, and distinguish moral and immoral things (Ihara 23).
Freedom in his sexual relationships proved Kohan’s definite position in life and love to opening something new and forbidden. Kochan cared about the opinion of the society to his sexual orientation; therefore, he used to withhold this truth. It means that he knew that such behavior was immoral, but his way of life incited him to it. Kochan wore his mask to pretend that he was like the others and not to stand out in any way. He knew about the consequences of revealing the truth. As a result, the man lived in a constant lying that oppressed him and made him suffer. Deception was another immoral behavior that did not allow him to reveal himself.
Kochan had fallen in love for several times, and this love was forbidden as it was not the generally accepted one. The society regarded it as immoral; therefore, Kochan tried to behave as the other did. He tried to act as a common child to show everyone that he is normal, to do things that the other expected him to do. However, from the other side, such behavior was also immoral as he pretended all the time and wore the mask. The man was killing himself psychologically and morally as he accumulated the negative feelings inside his soul and oppressed strong desires.
One can say that Kochan was on the verge of morality and immorality. The man could not reject his homosexual nature. It is necessary to mention that Kochan enjoyed the war games with the death. This fact proves that he did not live a happy and rewarding life; he suffered a lot; therefore, he was fascinated by death. Nevertheless, at the same time, the man did not really want to die neither in childhood, nor in the adult life. It means that he always believed in the changes to come.
Indeed, Kochan struggled with his homosexuality as an immoral idea, but his fantasies about sadism and death only reinforced his love to men. It is evident that he wanted to live; therefore, the man worried about his life withholding his attraction to men. He was intelligent enough to create the illusion of the relationships with the sister of the man he loved. However, Kochan remained unfulfilled and unsatisfied; therefore, he could not have feelings for a woman (Ihara 20).
One can explain Kochan’s immoral love and feelings by his illness, lack of parents’ attention especially on the mother’s side. Moreover, he could not ask his grandmother to explain him the true meaning of love. While reading the books, he understood that knights were braver and stronger than the ladies were. Kochan was an unusual child who was admired people with tragic lives, those who experienced suffering and death. The prescribed rules in the community only reinforced his homosexual nature.
One can say that the book by Yukio Mishima also touched upon the theme of the concealed identity. Kochan hided his immoral love playing the moral love to the girl. His immorality was seen in the passion to the naked male figures and his sexual interest to the naked images. The man’s immoral love was like a fire that developed through disappointment in women and forbiddance of homosexuality in the Japanese community. This taboo gave birth to the endless interest and desire.
In conclusion, one should say that it is difficult to assert whether Kochan’s love and feelings were moral or immoral. One cannot be decisive as this question concerns a person who did not find his happiness due to the stereotypes and ethical norms of his culture. Kochan had become a victim of the Japanese culture that rejected homosexuality and traditional community that was extremely stereotypical. His culture supposed same sex desires shameful and sinful. Kochan decided to oppress his desire to become moral. However, he had to lie to himself and other people pretending and wearing a mask, and that behavior was immoral. In this book, mask is a symbol of withholding the desires and wishes that contradict the generally accepted norms. Moreover, the author proves that the oppression of immoral actions lead to the violence and loosing identity.
Ihara, Saikaku. The Great Mirror of Male Love. Stanford, CA: Stanford University. 1990. Print.
Junko, Saiki. “From Nanshoku to Homosexuality: A Comparative Study of Mishima Yukio’s Confessions of a Mask.” International Research Center for Japanese Studies, 1997. Web.
Mishima, Yukio. Confessions of a Mask. London: Owen, 1988. Print.
Starrs, Roy. “Nietzschean Dialectics in the Novels of Mishima Yukio.” Universit?t Hamburg, 1991. Web. 15 Nov. 2014.