One such example of the exquisitely crafted style comes late in the story, when Rikio wanders around the film studio and, amid the industrial nondescript non-space, observes the production company’s “sapphire flag flapping from a pole at the peak of the roof.” This minor observation becomes the novella’s epiphanic high point, a mundane moment made magnificent through its structural placement after the fray of the plot has subsided, made beautiful through the author’s heightened sensibility:
The flag spasmed on the breeze. Just as it would seem to fall limp, it whipped out smart against the sky. Its cloth snapped between shadow and light, as if any moment it would tear free from its tethers and fly away. I don’t know why, but watching it infused me with a sadness that ran down to the deepest limits of my soul and made me think of suicide. There were so many ways to die.
Mishima’s sensibilities are too complex to be boiled down to mere symbolism; the flag is not just a stand-in for humanity’s hopeless condition of being simultaneously animated and static, like a flag tied to the pole of existence while violently yearning to flap free and thereby terminate itself. The flag punctuates and accentuates Rikio’s yearning, his extreme desire for both beauty and death, and how sometimes these are inextricably interconnected.
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