The Gate is a masterful depiction of male weakness. I can’t think of another novel that captures a man’s flaccidity in as much detail, or with such psychological astuteness. What’s more, Natsume has given us the weak man’s motto.
“…whenever Sosuke ran into someone who wore about him the boastful air of occupying an enviable position in the world, he had to stifle the impulse to say: Just you wait and see. With time this impulse turned into a more generalised sense of hatred. In the last year or two, however, he had become totally indifferent to the distinction between himself and others.”
“Just you wait and see.” It’s the fantasy residing in every secret king’s head. Cowardice prevents its public articulation, but it’s there, hiding, out of sight. And the rest of us wait. But we never see, because the weak man never takes action, always puts off what he has to do, and makes himself as small as possible so as to become invisible. But just you wait and see; he’s better than everyone else.
Interestingly, The Gate’s protagonist apprehends his own spinelessness, and seeks to better himself by visiting a remote Zen monastery, which ends in failure.
The book concludes with one of the best final sentences I’ve read in a long time. Ignoring, once again, the thing he should have dealt with years before, and the cause of his heartache and pain, Sosuke steps out onto the verandah: ““True, but then it will be winter again before you know it,” [Sosuke said to his wife], head lowered, as he snipped away [at his fingernails] with his scissors.”
A gamma to the bitter end.