Resilience is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; a toughness and strength that we use in hard times to get us through adversity. Resilience gives people the power to endure stress and hardship. It can be said that the more resilient a person is, the better they can rebuild after facing great adversity. They can handle adversity in ways that help them grow into stronger people. As in the case of the main character in Yoshimura’s Shipwrecks, the resilience of the main character, Isaku, is described through the setting, characterization and plot.
The setting of a story is one of the most important components because it establishes how the characters live and interact within their surroundings. The context of a story would not make sense and mean little if the environment in which the characters lived did not describe the setting correctly. In Shipwrecks, Yoshimura vividly describes the setting as remote, having little connection to the outside world making life difficult for its inhabitants.
It is a poor fishing village where the people barely catch enough food to survive and are near poverty stricken. Yoshimura describes the village as being in a discrete location, “the village was bordered on the south by the cliffs of a cape which jutted out sharply into the sea.
The only path to the outside world was the trail to the north along the mountain pass … the village owed its isolation to the terrain” (5). Consequently, outsiders do not visit there often and the local people only make the hard journey to the other village to trade for grain or sell a family member into bondage.
The bleakness is further described in a way that leads you to believe little will grow in their village “the only way the villagers could see flowers was to go into the mountains; the salt winds that lashed the village prevented any flowering plants or trees from surviving on the coast” (41). The setting of the novel truly displays how isolated the villagers are and how they had to adapt in order to survive.
Characterization is used to explain the details about a character in a story. A character is introduced and as the story grows so does the character. In Shipwrecks, Isaku grows from an innocent nine year boy into a twelve year old boy who has had to take on the responsibility of a family and become the man of the house when his father sells himself into bonage in order to provide money for his growing family. Isaku’s father tells him “I’ll be back in three years. Don’t let the children starve while I am away” (6). Unfortunately for Isaku, he had to grow up faster than a normal child and is forced to take on responsibilities that no child should have to endure. Through characterization, Yoshimura involves the reader into the daily life of Isaku such as his struggle to provide for his family. He must provide like every man in the village does by fishing and collecting octopi “once again he had been reminded that fishing for saury was not going to be an easy job and that catching them by hand would not be something mastered quickly” (58). Isaku assumes the role of his father as the man of the family at the age of nine and becomes responsible for the well-being of his family.
The plot in Shipwrecks accurately depicts the reason and way events took place in the novel. For example, when Isaku’s father lets himself be indentured for money and that money quickly runs out, Isaku has to take on the responsibilities of an adult. This is when he is introduced to the village tradition of O-fune-sama “he had assumed that the salt cauldrons were part of a ritual carried out in the hope that ships would be wrecked, but now he realized that it was also the means to lure ships on the reef” (26). Now that Isaku is treated as an adult, he is enlightened to the brutality of the situation. This enlightenment however does not stop Isaku from reaping the benefits in order to keep his family fed and alive. This good fortune from the O-fune-sama does not last long however. When the next O-fune-sama appears it brings with it the smallpox plague causing many of the villagers to become ill and die. Isaku is once again put to the test when his brother dies and his mother and sister fall ill and are banished from the village “the only thing for smallpox is banishment into the mountains. Those tainted with the disease can’t stay among us in the village, they’ve got to go” (174). This is when the plot becomes ironic in that what is left of his family is banished and his father returns home from his bondage to find only Isaku remains of the family.
While Isaku suffers through much tragedy there is also a resilience in him. As defined, resilience is the “ability to recover from or adjust to misfortune or change” (Merriam). Isaku can quite literally be the definition of resilience. Even though his family is dying and his way of life is continuously changing he keeps providing and not giving up on anything. Isaku’s strength gives him the ability to endure the hardships that life throws his way. By the end of the story Isaku had lost most of his family and through all the adversity and pain he faced he still goes on and fishes when most people would have given up. By not giving up, he truly displays his resilience in the face of overwhelming adversity.