No ocean breezes were blowing. There was none of the aroma of the sea. Ozu climbed up on the concrete embankment and gave a cry of surprise. Far into the distance, the sea had been filled in like a desert. Two cement mixers were driving along the desolate stretch of reclaimed land. Beyond that there was nothing. Where was the spot where Flatfish, tossed acout by the waves, had pursued Aiko and her friends that day?
Where was the beach that Aiko and her frreidns had raced along, shrieking with laughter? The sea was gone now. The white beach was gone. But it was not just here. Beautiful things, things from the treasured past were now disappearing all over Japan. Flatfish and Aiko were no longer in this world. Only Ozu was still alive. Ozu felt now that he understood what Aiko and Flatfish had meant in his life. Now, when all was lost, he felt he understood the meaning they had given to his life…Order now
Shusaku Endo’s When I Whistle is not an ordinary war novel, nor is it an ordinary reminiscence of wartime. As visible in the closing passage of the novel, Endo explores the emotional remnants of wartime generations. This closing passage is a description of Ozu’s journey back into what had once been the luscious setting of his childhood. The war had changed Ozu just as much as it changed the physical setting in which he finds himself, as beaches had disappeared, and the same smiling children did not fill the streets. Through the use of different narrative techniques, diction, symbolism, and figurative language, Endo creates an overall effect of nostalgia.
The narration employed by the author in this passage allows the reader to comprehend Ozu’s feelings as he approaches the sea. The narration consists of narrative description, and interjections of dialogue. In order to establish the emotional setting, the narrator starts the passage with “They came to a bridge. It was that bridge.” This initial statement allows the lector to understand the sentimental connection Ozu has with this place. The emphasis that is included within the narration ensures the importance of this coastline to the audience. Ozu’s emotions are described more in depth through short sentences such as “The house was gone,” and “He stared vacantly at the apartment house.”
The short sentences are a narrative technique that leaves no room for explanations. This technique makes matters simple, which emphasizes Ozu’s melancholy and nostalgia. A section of dialogue directly follows that exposes Ozu’s emotions to the character that is accompanying him. When the second character is surprised at the bareness of the ocean, Ozu responds by solemnly saying “I know. I told you they’d filled it in.” Again, short sentences and a monotonous tone emphasize the emptiness that Ozu is feeling. After this short section of dialogue, the narrator describes the physical setting, which at this point has obviously impacted Ozu.
The last descriptive paragraph mentions that the “white beach was gone.” The short and concise idea paints the change that occurred over time, which has affected Ozu. His memories of a white beach that was there remain with him, and are therefore much more important, as everything is now gone. The paragraph ends with an ellipsis, “he felt he understood the meaning they had given to his life….” which is a narrative technique employed by the author that leaves a novel without conclusion. Ozu is still alive, and will experience more changes, as will Japan. This narrator makes sure to let the reader know that Ozu is conscious of the changes occurring, and the changes to come.
The diction present in this fragment is simple and straightforward in order to allow the essence of change to be emphasized. The vocabulary chosen does not present any difficulties in the comprehension due to its lack of any abstract elements. The ocean diction allows the reader to identify with the physical setting, through words like “ocean,” “sea,” and “breezes.” These words are all common, simple words that create a smoother read in order to understand the main theme more deeply. The descriptive word choice is not very elaborate, which also allow for a direct understanding. Words like “ugly” and “Beautiful” have very direct definitions, and allow very little room for complication. The diction in this passage compliments the other techniques as it allows a clearer and more simple read.
Throughout the passage, Endo mentions various symbols that remind the reader of the changes that have occurred during Ozu’s life. The first symbol is what they have gone to see, the ocean. The ocean is a symbol of change, as it is the only way for any foreigner to reach Japan. As Ozu looks out toward the ocean, he looks out to the form of transportation for change. The reason that Japan was changed is because of the ocean; the ocean brought change; the ocean brought a new life. The second symbol present is cement. Cement is a substance used to construct buildings, roads, infrastructure.
As Ozu stands on a cement block, he is amazed at how the sea has been “filled in like a desert.” The cement covered what used to be a beautiful beach, where Ozu and his friends had once played. The cement portrays a negative aspect of the Western idea of expansion. Only because of the cement was it that “the sea was gone now.” The repetition of these two symbols throughout the passage presents a different perspective on globalization and expansion, as Ozu is devastated after losing his childhood beach.
Through the use of unadorned yet terse figurative language, Endo succeeds in creating impacting imagery for the reader, in order to create a sense of emptiness. Endo uses flashbacks in order to contrast the current situation with what the physical setting used to be. The description of both the past creates strong image contrasts, painting a clearer picture for the reader. When speaking of Aiko’s house, the narrator says, “The house was gone. A stark-white apartment building stood in its place.” The contrast between a house that once was a playhouse for Ozu and his friends and a “stark-white” apartment building degrades the present situation.
The use of the word stark, which means bare in appearance, disregards any form of beauty in the new apartment building, while Aiko’s house was a beautiful setting in Ozu’s mind. “The sea. The sea at Ashiya…as they swam in the blue sea,” is a narrative description of what used to occur at the beach. The beauty of the situation is captured in that sentence, and is contrasted greatly with the imagery of “the sea had been filled in like a desert.” There was no such thing as the sea anymore. In fact, the cement had covered the sea in such an unnecessary way that it seemed like a desert. There was absolutely nothing left in a place that had meant so much to Ozu.
The imagery of a desert is not a pleasurable sight, as there is nothing to look forward to, nor is there anywhere to go. A desert is a bare setting, much like the “stark-white” building. Endo makes sure that the reader understands the imagery that has been presented, by saying that “The sea was gone now. The white beach was gone.” These two sentences conclude all the imagery with simple statements and images.
The imagery in this passage is a technique the author employs in order to create larger contrasts between what Ozu had once known, and what he was experiencing now; hence his nostalgia. In conclusion, the nostalgic notion that the reader acquires from reading this passage is compiled by Endo’s use of these literary techniques. War had destroyed everything that he loved, and westernization had left a block of cement. The world keeps changing, and no one knows what will happen next.