Makioka Sisters

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.] 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 to accept and deal with the atrocities that nature
randomly brings, it also reveals the depths to which the Makioka’s have fallen
with their move to Tokyo. "To lose the Osaka house was to lose their very
roots" (99). Change in prestige and economics has obviously affected the
conditions of the home that they are now reduced to invest in. Dramatic changes
have touched the Makioka’s lives, and