Written by Yukio Mishima, Patriotism is an allegorical short story describing the circumstances leading to the death of a young man and his newly wed wife. The author employs different elements of literature to underscore different themes. However, use of symbolism/imagery to explore the theme of loyalty stands out conspicuously as developed next.
In ‘Patriotism’ Mishima develops the theme of loyalty through the use of symbolism. One of the lieutenants general, Ozeki ensures there is proper housing for his soldiers. For instance, Shinji gets an apartment immediately after his wedding. However, the apartments are of poor standards. The houses are old with three bedrooms and a tiny garden on the side.
The rooms are made of patches of mats hence the sun penetrates through into the houses. Moreover, the rooms are not enough hence some rooms double as guest rooms and bedrooms. Interestingly, none of the soldiers complains about the poor housing system. The houses lack any form of security incase the soldiers are on duty.
The soldiers’ silence towards the deplorable living conditions symbolizes their loyalty to the government and authority. The pathetic shacks going for soldier’s houses is an image of how living conditions here are wanting; nevertheless, this image brings out loyalty because at the end of the day, no one complains despite the fact that anyone has every reason to complain.
As aforementioned, silence and compliance are symbols of loyalty. For instance, one day the lieutenant general orders other junior officers to prepare for a coup that would automatically rebel against the government. Homma, Yamaguchi, and Kano respect these orders at the expense of their lives.
This highlights the theme of loyalty, as the soldiers are ready to obey orders well aware of the dangers involved. Although one of the lieutenants, Shinji is against the coup, he does not resist the orders before the general. However, before he commits suicide he writes a note stating, “Long live the imperial forces” (Mishima 95). This form of ‘blind’ compliance regardless of the risks involved underscores the theme of loyalty in the story.
The author continues to explore the symbol of compliance and selflessness by explicating how soldiers brave hostile conditions to execute the coup. On the dawn of 26 February, violence erupts in the country. Soldiers forego their sleep, overlook the snowy weather, and assemble in order to plan for a coup. Although there is violence and poor weather, soldiers obey orders and stay in cold for about two days to plan for a coup.
As the story closes, the reader might wonder why soldiers seem to follow orders blindly even in cases where common sense would demand otherwise. For instance, a coup underlines rebellion against a government that the soldiers ought to serve dutifully (Nathan 59); therefore, one would expect the soldiers to reject such a move with absoluteness. Nevertheless, the author uses this symbolism to bring out the theme of loyalty, if anything loyalty demands one’s support at all times be it in good or bad times.
The theme of loyalty comes out clearly, as Mishima develops Patriotism, an all time masterpiece. Soldiers’ ‘blind’ compliance and silence symbolize their unrelenting resolve to remain loyal to the immediate authority.
Against all the expectations, the soldiers comply with the lieutenant’s orders to stage a coup. Moreover, they remain silent despite the fact that they live under deplorable conditions. Mishima deliberately paints the soldiers as such to bring out the theme of loyalty by using silence and compliance as the core elements that define loyalty.
Mishima, Yukio. Death in Midsummer and Other Stories. New York: New Directions
Publishing Corporation, 1966 Nathan, John. Mishima: A Biography. New York: Little, Brown, and Company, 1974.