Confessions of a Mask by Yukio Mishima

Confessions of a Mask - Yukio Mishima, Meredith Weatherby

Confessions of a Mask (1949) rocketed Yukio Mishima to the literary prominence he so desperately sought as a struggling modern writer. The novel explores the obsessions of a young man suffering inwardly with erotic fantasies of men, beauty and violence. He strains to conform to a heterosexual life while secretly idolizing depictions of St. Sebastian, martyred, with his hands bound and his naked torso pierced by arrows, or becoming aroused by the sight of the muscular nightsoil man walking through the neighborhood. Confusion of his sexuality takes shape at a very early age when he falls in love for the first time with Omi, a schoolmate.


There were, however, numberless impressions that I got from Omi, of infinite variety, all filled with delicate nuances. In a phrase, what I did derive from him was a precise definition of the perfection of life and manhood... Because of him I cannot love an intellectual person. Because of him I am not attracted to a person who wears glasses. Because of him I began to love strength, an impression of overflowing blood, ignorance, rough gestures, careless speech, and the savage melancholy inherent in the flesh, not tainted in anyway with intellect.(64)


The protagonist's psychological examination of his thoughts and feelings is logically sound and vividly clear; he possesses an unfaltering understanding of himself. He is able to pinpoint details, causes, subconscious symbols with the accuracy of a professional psycho-analyst.


Actually, the thought that I might reach the height of an adult filled me with a foreboding of some fearful danger. On the one hand, my indefinable feeling of unrest increased my capacity for dreams divorced from all reality and, on the other, drove me toward the "bad habit" that caused me to take refuge in those dreams. The restlessness was my excuse.. It was undoubtedly the sight of the hair under Omi's arms that day which made the armpit a fetish for me.(82-83)


Confessions of a Mask is widely considered as an autobiographically inspired novel. If the sadomasochistic fantasies are truly Mishima's admission of his own feelings, he is even more strongly connected with his protagonist by the latter's unyielding struggle to prove himself as special, destined for martyrdom like St.Sebastian - a fate proud, tragic, transcendent.

Mishima's confessional pose in the guise of the protagonist is dramatic, theatrical, even feels 'staged:' as an 'I' narrator agonizing over his perceived 'abnormality,' he is neither apologetic nor interested in suppressing his homosexual desires. By composing his supposed confessions, Mishima was completely the producer, playwright, director and actor of his own social 'norms', free to judge himself, and perform to the beat of his own damask drum.


The true essence of confession is its impossibility.


Mishima himself stated that his intent was to write "a perfect fictional work of confession." Certainly, the novel is dramatically written; a sense of Mishima teasing his reader's attention with a performance much like the masked Kabuki plays his grandmother introduced him to as a youngster, enabling him to exist, not only as a man in an easily alienating social sect, but as the brilliantly talented, ingeniously creative writer he knew he was.

William Shakespeare's words from 'As You Like It' came to mind that: All the world's a stage ; Mishima's own words sum up my perception of him that: life is after all a masked play.