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    The Heroism in the Suicide of Reiko, in Yukio Mishima’s “Patriotism”

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    Many people say that a person who commits suicide is weak or selfish in that they bring it upon themselves to help others but then kill themselves to get out of a tough situation the easy way. However, like everything in life there are exceptions to this. Sometimes suicide is committed for the greater good; in this case it is considered a noble and honorable thing to do.

    Such is the case of the suicide committed by Lieutenant Shinji and his wife Reiko. The couple brought it upon themselves to kill themselves to preserve their honor and loyalty. Both of their deaths can be considered heroic however, Reiko’s death was more heroic.

    To properly evaluate the characters for their heroism, the definition of a hero must be addressed. Sacrificing yourself for the greater good is considered to be heroic however, one must also consider the “opportunity cost” of their death. In economics, opportunity cost is defined as- in simple terms- something given up in order to gain something.

    When talking about suicide as sacrifice it is important to consider what one is trying to achieve with their death. Life is the most valuable thing one can have. In comparison, anything gained by sacrificing your life will result in a loss. Therefore, the less gained from sacrificing one’s life is more heroic because the loss is greater for one’s own self.

    Shinji’s friends had committed mutiny. As a result, he was assigned to “be in command of a unit with orders to attack them.” Since, rebelling against this order would also be considered mutiny and he would be pursued Shinji sees no option but to follow the orders. However, this is where his conflict stems from. He states that he “can’t do it. It’s impossible to do a thing like that.” He reaches a resolution when he concludes that to preserve his loyalty to his friends and country his only option is to commit seppuku, suicide by disembowelment.

    This way he preserves his honor because in Japan seppuku is considered an honorable way to die. He also stays true to his loyalty with both his country and friends as he does not fight them and doesn’t disobey the orders he received. This is heroic because he sacrifices his life for his friends. He doesn’t need to fight them, they don’t need to fight him and in addition to that, they now have one less soldier to deal with. However, even though his death was at great expense Reiko loses much more by committing suicide making her death more heroic.

    Reiko kills herself because her husband kills himself. She commits suicide just for her husband. From the moment she married a soldier she knew that the day her husband dies might come. She received a “soldierly lecture” from her husband asking her if she would be “steadfast in her resolve to accept” her husband’s death.

    In response to this she brought out the dagger her mother had given her as a symbolic gesture to her husband that she would die alongside him. This shows that she was willing to sacrifice her life out of commitment for her husband. Nobody except her husband benefitted from her death. Shinji benefits more than one person with his death while Reiko loses her life for much less.

    Therefore, since Reiko loses much more for her sacrifice and achieves much less, her death is more heroic. In addition to this, Reiko had to deal with much more grief than Shinji did. She had to basically throw her whole life away for her husband when she could’ve lived it without him. His friends had nothing to do with her yet she made the choice to die with him.

    Furthermore, she had to witness Shinji’s gruesome death as he disemboweled himself and then help stab him in the neck. “The volume of blood had steadily increased, and now it spurted from the wound as if propelled by the beat of the pulse. The mat before the lieutenant was drenched red with splattered blood… the entrails burst through, as if the wound was vomiting… as they slipped smoothly out and spilled over the crotch. The inclusion of such vivid detail is effective in portraying Shinji’s death as absolutely horrifying for Reiko to watch.

    Overall, both of their deaths were heroic but due to Reiko’s commitment to her husband, strong will, and the fact that her death greatly outweighed the benefits compared to her husband, the death of Reiko is the most heroic.

    This essay was written by a fellow student. You may use it as a guide or sample for writing your own paper, but remember to cite it correctly. Don’t submit it as your own as it will be considered plagiarism.

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    The Heroism in the Suicide of Reiko, in Yukio Mishima’s “Patriotism”. (2022, Dec 10). Retrieved from

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