The Sea and Poison
- Willms, Janice
- Date of entry: Mar-21-1997
In this short novel, published in the 1950’s by a popular Japanese fiction writer, the themes of cruelty, moral weakness, and contempt for human life in a medical school are portrayed. In a somewhat awkward series of narrations with flashbacks within flashbacks, the reader is introduced to the characters whose participation in wartime atrocities will be studied. Japan is suffering from the ravages near the end of the war. There is little food, daily bombing, and a general sense of futility.
The two surgical interns, Suguro and Toda, are the low men on a totem pole of power. Their aging chief is one of two contenders for the Dean’s position. He and his assistants devise methods of gaining attention for the promotion which include risky surgical procedures and, ultimately, vivisection experiments on American prisoners. The story line is carried by the acceleration of evil actions as the pressure for power increases. The motivations and internal deliberations of the two interns and one nurse whose characters are explored in some depth provide the human tensions.