Fate is destiny, an event or course of events that will happen in a person’s lifetime. Fate is predetermined; it cannot be altered or changed from what it was always meant to be. This is an integral belief in the traditional Japanese culture and a primary theme in Kawabata’s ‘‘The Grasshopper and the Bell Cricket.’’
The idea that fate makes itself known in subtle signs is emphasized in the final scene, in which Fujio’s name shines brightly onto Kiyoko’s chest at the same time her name is visible through the lantern light on Fujio’s waistline. To the unaware observer, these are children engaging in a favorite activity and nothing more. But as the narrator notices the chance interplay of light and color with the children’s names, he realizes what he is seeing may be neither chance nor play but the two children’s fates—their futures with either partners of quality and individualism or those possessing nothing that sets them apart from the crowd.
None of the themes in Kawabata’s story is overtly examined; true to traditional Japanese literary style, they are merely suggested, hinted at, alluded to. Kawabata uses very simple language to depict the incredibly confusing paths love often takes. Love is a theme touched upon in the final scene of the story as the narrator witnesses Fujio and Kiyoko together, their names shining upon one another’s clothing. That brief encounter gives the narrator a glimpse into the lives of Fujio and Kiyoko, and he suddenly—as evidenced by the use of an exclamation point in an otherwise tranquil scene—desires to give Fujio advice. In his mind, he warns the boy that even if he searches in the most unlikely places for a girl of substance (a bell cricket), he will most likely find girls he believes to be like bell crickets but who in reality are mere grasshoppers. After many disappointing experiences with love, Fujio will likely carry such a wounded heart that even when a genuinely interesting, intelligent, and worthy girl comes along, he will fail to recognize her.
Individualism is a theme woven throughout ‘‘The Grasshopper and the Bell Cricket.’’ In the scene where the narrator spies the children with their amazing, handcrafted lanterns, Kawabata juxtaposes the idea of individualism with conformity. Although there are twenty children engaging in the same activity, each child has put great effort into being different from every other child in the way he fashions his lantern. There is not one color but a rainbow of variety. There is not one common lantern shape but many. There is not one design but an endless array of designs, and each child strives not only to craft a different design, but one more intricate, more difficult, more unique than the others.
The concept of the value of individualism is also carried out in the grasshopper-versus-bell cricket scenario. Bell crickets are prized for their songs, no two of which are alike. Whereas individual grasshoppers vary little if at all, every male bell cricket sings a different song. In fact, his song is how he finds a mate. The narrator wants Fujio to understand and recognize the value of finding a mate who stands out from the rest, who is unique and special, like the bell cricket.
Sara Constantakis – Short Stories for Students – Presenting Analysis, Context & Criticism on Commonly Studied Short Stories, vol. 29, Yasunari Kawabata, Published by Gale Group, 2001.