The story “The Grasshopper and the Bell Cricket”, written by Yasunari Kawabata, is a children’s fiction story that is written in a third person narrative point of view. The author, who sets himself as the narrator, is describing what he sees as he stumbles upon a group of young, neighborhood kids as they frolic along the bank of a stream near dusk time. He points out the extreme care that the children take in creating their lanterns, and he sees the passion and enthusiasm they have while apparently searching for bugs along the bank and in the bushes.
As the story goes on, the author moves from a tone of describing and being literal, to a more serious tone that causes some serious thought. He seems to be attempting to convince the audience of something emotional. The setting of this story obviously takes place on the campus of a school as the narrator is walking around the campus. The time period is unclear to the audience because there is no illustration of when this story might have taken place or been written in the writing itself.
However, based on the names of the children that he states at the end of the story, we are able to conclude that this story was written and takes place in an Asian country, most likely Japan. As the narrator is walking throughout the play area of the school, he seems to be enjoying himself and enjoying the relaxation that the scenery brings. “Walking more slowly and listening to that voice, and furthermore reluctant to part with it, I turned right so as not to leave the playground behind” (341).
He is surprised when he turns the corner and notices a rather large group of lights that were seemingly floating around the bank. His inquisitiveness gets the best of him as he makes his way down to the bank to where the children are playing. As he is observing the scene that is unveiling in front of him, he notices the incredible attention to detail that the kids have put into their lanterns. “Not only did the square lanterns have old-fashioned patterns and flower shapes, but the names of the children who had made them were cut out in squared letters of the syllabary” (342).
The narrator describes the prospect of the young kids running around searching for bugs to capture and keep in their lanterns, as if they were their own personal pets. Some kids are merely laughing and giggling as they run around, some children make it a competition to get as many bugs as they can, and some simply admire and enjoy the creatures as they scurry about the floor of the bank. As the story progresses, it seems as if the narrator not only gets attached to walking throughout the play area, but that he also gets emotionally attached to the children.
He says that he “felt slightly jealous of the boy, and sheepish” (343) as he shows off his new catch. The young boy claims that he has found a spectacular grasshopper in a nearby bush, and he shouts out to his company that he wants to give it away. He shouts, “Doesn’t anyone want a grasshopper? ” (342). As he is waiving his hand around, enclosing the grasshopper, the other children run to his side yelling in order that he may give them the bug. “Does anyone want a grasshopper? A grasshopper! ” (342), he continues to shout. His attention turns when he hears the voice of a girl come up behind him.
As he turns, he again reminds her that it is a grasshopper. She accepts, and they make the transfer from each other’s hands. The girl’s face lights up when she finally looks at the creature that is in her hands. “Oh! It’s not a grasshopper. It’s a bell cricket” (342). As the children around them murmur and converse about the insect, the young boy and girl face each other as they admire the bug. One thing that the narrator points out as he watches this is that the names of the children, written in the paper of their lanterns, shines on each other’s chest.
The narrator notices that “In the faint greenish light that fell on the girl’s breast, wasn’t the name ‘Fujio’ clearly discernible? ” (343). He is astonished that the children do now notice this themselves. “The girls lantern, which dangled loosely from her wrist, did not project its pattern so clearly, but still one could make out, in a trembling patch of red on the boy’s waist, the name ‘Kiyoko’” (343). After he witnesses what just took place, the narrator then changes his tone from that of joy and appreciation for how the children are acting, to one of a more serious tone. He begins to think about a deeper meaning of what is going on.
He seems to be consumed with the fact that the two children will never know how each other’s names were lit up in color on the breast of one another. It is as if they have missed some true revelation in their lives, and that it is a moment in time in which they will never get back, one that could have changed their lives forever. Then as he begins to digress, it seems as if the narrator is giving Fujio some sort of advice. It is as if his is silently, in his mind, instructing the young boy on the ways of women. He talks about how they act, what surprises them, and how you should treat them.
To do this he uses the example of a grasshopper compared to a bell cricket. According to the wording and tone of the narrator, grasshoppers were extremely abundant and easy to find. Bell crickets, however, were slightly more rare and it was a very special thing to find one. The audience can interpret this in many different ways, however I believe that there is one way that the narrator has intended it to express. He is attempting to get young Fujio to understand that in life, there are many girls that seem like they are perfect for him, represented by the grasshopper.
They look beautiful and seem to be very precious, however, they are truly just one of millions. He is hoping that Fujio will realize that he wants to find his bell cricket. That special person that is very much different from the rest. However, he warns, “…even a true bell cricket will seem like a grasshopper. Should that day come, when it seems to you that the world is only full of grasshoppers, I will think it a pity that you have no way to remember tonight’s play of light, when your name was written in green by your beautiful lantern on a girl’s breast” (343).