Megan Guimon

Saliba

Alternative Calendars

11 January 2000

Change Is The Only Constant

With life comes death, with destruction comes rebirth, and with fear often comes understanding and growth. Constant change within our environment surrounds and invades our existence--which too is ever changing, growing, digressing and evolving. Often a sad tone resounds within this acceptance of uncontrolled fluctuation. It is the sad or destructive experiences that one wishes could be controlled; and often those become more apparent then the joy and happiness that accompanies change. Throughout Tanizaki’s The Makioka Sisters the essence of the novel is captured using subtlety to describe the timeless cyclical changes in nature, thus revealing and enhancing the acceptance of the unavoidable impermanence that is woven into the sister’s lives and experiences. Transformations within their natural world saturate and undeniably affect the lives of the characters in this novel.

Throughout the novel the sisters are constantly exposed to the beauties and destruction that the cycles of nature produce, changing and affecting their lives for brief and lengthy durations. Change in nature perpetually occurs and learning to adapt to its inconsistency is often demanded of the sisters. Tanizaki poetically uses the fluctuation of nature to delicately suggest fluctuation or transformations that occur within the characters.

For example, as massive flooding consumes the Kobe-Osaka district with destruction, the Makioka’s lives are consumed with upheaval; and yet, this inevitable chaos encourages realizations for Sachiko and transformations within Taeko. The most disastrous flood in the district’s history, its transforming effects on the river are vividly described as, "less a river than a black, boiling sea, with the mid-summer surf at its most violent" (Tanizaki 176). Its burdens afflict the land, and all of its inhabitants, from scuttling crabs and dogs to the Makiokas, Stoltzes, and countless other families. Physically destroying homes, railroads and schools, the flood claims lives amidst clouds of dust, mud, and sand. The rain viciously reveals its overpowering capabilities. As Sachiko searches for occupying distraction from the worry that she endures concerning Taeko’s safe return, she is drawn to the pictures of Taeko’s performance of "Snow" from the previous month. The effects of the flood and its devastating possibilities encourage Sachiko to view both these pictures, and Taeko in a revised light. Sachiko admits her luring interest to a photographic pose of Taeko which reveals a "certain delicate winsomeness and grace[in Taeko.] ...one could see from this photograph that there was in her too something of the old Japanese maiden, something quietly engaging" (189). In the midst of chaotic torment Sachiko is able to appreciate the many aspects of who Koi-san is rather than concentrate on her sister’s demise. And not without sadness, she questions whether it was only by chance that Koi-san had been captured in this light or rather that it had been an unhappy omen for the disaster that now lay lurking.

For Taeko, the floods transform her spirit as fear and lack of enthusiasm take root in her heart. Her environment has instilled a previously unfelt sense of fear and respect for its reigning force. Shaken, and perhaps disenchanted with the changes around her and within her, Taeko avoids work and activity for an entire month after the torrential storm. "Taeko, usually the most active of the three, had evidently not recovered from the shock of the flood. This summer she showed little of her usual energy" (204). As the natural destruction drains her energy it also transforms her interests in Kei-boy, killing the last of her love for him. Within both of the sisters, the inevitable changes that the floods bring, seeps deeper than the surface damage; bidding and encouraging new growth and challenge within the characters hearts and minds.

Yet another encounter with a severe storm, this time a Tokyo Typhoon, reveals the destruction and terror that nature can display, disrupting lives, and harshly revealing the change in direction that the Makioka’s prestigious lives have taken. The worst typhoon in over ten years, winds literally shaking the house, dirt and sand forcefully flying through vacant cracks, and walls billowing seemingly ready to burst; the family must remain calm although terror chills their bones. They eventually find safety and solace next door in a sturdier home than their own. The storm not only reinforces the necessity