The Sound of the Mountain by Yasunari Kawabata tells the tale of Ogato Shingo, an elderly, legacy-obsessed businessman in his sixties who, in his search for meaning in the twilight of his own life, ends up developing an uncomfortably close relationship with his son's wife.
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Shingo is married to a woman named Yasuko, the sister of his first wife. She is a year older than him, and with her they have two children, a boy and a girl—the girl has given him two granddaughters. Shingo has begun to regard Yasuko in a repulsed manner, regarding her snoring and general lack of beauty. He is also plagued by strange, often disturbing dreams, which he fears are the offspring of a terminal disease. His brain is starting to go, and he recalls a year back that he spit up blood, but, after the symptoms went away, never thought to think about it further.
Shingo's son, Shuichi, is married to a woman named Kikuko. Although they have been married for a mere two years, Shingo discovers that he is straying from his daughter-in-law with a young woman named Kinu. Kikuko reminds Shingo of his deceased sister, and he feels a close affinity for her. Seeing the way in which Shuichi treats his beautiful, intelligent wife instills Shingo with feelings of inadequacy when it comes to his identity as a father. Being that she is friendly with his son's mistress, Shingo then questions his secretary, Tanizaki Eiko, about the affair, discovering its odds and ends, but does not visit the mistress herself.
While attempting to dissuade Shuichi from the affair, Shingo begins to develop an unsettling paternal relationship with Kikuko that has erotic undertones. Around this time, his daughter, Fusako, who is described as embittered and unattractive, returns home, spurning her own marriage and complaining without warrant. This contrasts directly to Yusako's actual at the hand of Shingo's philandering son. All of this is compounded by the fact that Shingo was once enamored with Yusako's now dead older sister. The closer he gets with Kikuko, the more he is visited by dreams of her older sister.
When Kikuko receives word of a friend of hers suffering from complications following an abortion, Shingo agrees to accompany her to the hospital. This is mostly because she doesn't want to pass through the hometown of her husband's mistress alone. The trip foreshadows an event that comes soon afterwards—Kikuko, not wanting to have a child with her husband while engaged in an affair, has her own child aborted.
In the final pages of the book, Kikuko returns to Tokyo to spend some time with her family. When she returns, new breaks that Shingo's mistress is pregnant. Upon visiting the mistress, Shingo discovers that not only is she set on having the child, but she is claiming that Shuichi is not the father. Shingo gives her money and moves on. Soon afterwards, Kikuko requests to be divorced from Shuichi, instead opting to become Shingo's live-in servant. Shingo's daughter, after divorcing her husband, proposes that Shingo purchase a store where her and Kikuko, with luck, can eke out a living together, absent of men.
Best part of story, including ending:
I LOVE how this story deals with themes of aging, legacy, and love.
Best scene in story:
I really like the scene where Shingo attempts to confront his son, but can't persuade him. It demonstrates the differences between older and newer generations.
Opinion about the main character:
I like that Shingo doesn't succumb to his basal emotions, and attempts to thwart the destruction of his family.