The Confessional Hero of the Temple of the Golden Pavilion

Morgan Manoff, Colby College


Yukio Mishima’s “Temple of the Golden Pavilion” tells the story of a young boy who is sent to live and study at the great temple in Kyoto. The first-person narrative follows the upbringing a young monk and culminates with the defining moment of his young life: the instant he undertakes his decision to burn down the Temple of the Golden Pavilion. The narrator’s tragedy is his inability to achieve that self-understanding—as we shall see his capacity for self-reflection is severely limited. Though the destruction of a temple is clearly a drastic undertaking for a Buddhist monk, it was not a rash decision and in fact was many years in the making. The narrator himself, who remains unnamed throughout the story, declares early on the premonition that he has a destined fate. “My outer appearance was poor, but in this way my inner world became richer than anyone else’s. Was it not natural that a young boy who suffered from an indelible drawback like mine should have come to think that he was secretly a chosen being? I felt as though somewhere in this world a mission awaited me of which I myself still know nothing.