There will always be stories about wives and mistresses, and more often than not, they will all sound alike. But there’s something remarkably striking about the women on opposite poles in Kawabata’s story. Here, the long fight involves a sentimental painter, two territorial women, and real birds stuck in the middle of this calm tug of war.
By being herself, the wife was able to alleviate the gloom clinging to her marriage, despite everything. Though she could have sought revenge by making her husband suffer, by humiliating the other woman and competing with her, or by neglecting the birds, she made a different choice.
What did she do? She accepted life as it is, did not play the role of the victim, and took charge of the things she can control; things like her personal wellbeing, her husband’s happiness, the household’s serenity, and the birds’ welfare. And most importantly, she did not let herself ruminate the bad stuff – though being on the losing end of a love triangle can make anyone suffer.
Really, who in their right mind would offer someone a living creature as a token of their love? Only a narcissistic person would. Someone who intends to keep their memory, as well as the pain that comes with separation and secrecy, alive by surrounding the other person with the chirping sounds and flapping wings of that memory.
The fluttering of the birds and their dancing shadows became a cage that trap a married man in a fleeting infatuation. However, the wife’s kindness made the gift lose its voodoo and the mistress her appeal. Unfortunately, the death of kindness leaves deep wounds. As they mourned her absence, the birds lost the strength in their wings and the husband his miraculous composure.
Too bad some angels leave early and egotistical bastards stick around. But that’s life and we should take it the way it comes. That’s the only way to stay light and capable of flight.
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