Short Story #4: The Grasshopper and the Bell Cricket by Yasunari Kawabata

Title: The Grasshopper and the Bell Cricket

Author: Yasunari Kawabata

Short Story #4 out of 365

Rating: 3 (out of 5 stars)


Date Read:  1/1/2014
Source:  The World's Greatest Short Stories, Dover Thrift Edition, edited by James Daley.  The story can also be found on this website.
Book cover: Worlds Greatest Short Stories - Dover Thrift Ed

Summary

The narrator stumbles upon a group of children at night hunting for insects.  They each carry a homemade self-styled lantern (often made from an empty carton).  As he watched, one boy claims to have found a grasshopper.  He stirs up excitement with the other children asking who wants the grasshopper.  A girl asks for it and he reaches into the bush and grabs hold of it.  When he pulls it out and offers it to the girl, she states that it is a bell cricket.  When they both lean closer to look at it with their lanterns, the boy's name, which is part of the stencil on the lantern is projected onto the girl's breast while the girl's name which is part of the stencil of her lantern is projected onto the boy's wrist.  The narrator observes this instance and muses on the nature of their future relationships and the ideas around meeting grasshoppers who are really bell crickets and vice versa.


Reflection

I read this story aloud to my partner and it was a good thing too as she caught the fact that the lights projected the names onto each other's bodies which I had missed.  There is much more going on here than I can fully comprehend but I think some of that has to do with cultural representations of grasshoppers and bell crickets but I don't know enough about Japanese culture and tradition to really pull much from it.  Instead, the story felt to me like a bit of whimsical observation on behalf of the narrator about youth's potential and malleability but also permanence.  The potential and malleability is represented in their lanterns and the idea of a grasshopper turning into a bell cricket and permanence in names being written and branded upon one another.

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.



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