The ambience which Soseki creates in ‘The Gate’ reflects the psychological state which the two lead characters, Sosuke and Oyone find themselves in. The gentle undulations of their interactions and and the leisurely, quotidian way in which Soseki describes their uneventful lives masks a secret for which they have not only been ostracised by their families, but for which both appear to be doing penance throughout the novel; whether it be the loss of Sosuke’s sense of exuberance as he settles for a mundane and mediocre existence is a lowly clerk, or of Oyone’s inability to have a child, the emptiness which permeates their lives made up for by the abundance of love which flows between them. Their love is not a passionate or intense one, but one which is marked with commonplace exchanges; whether Sosuke can buy a new scarf of Oyone a new scarf or what they would eat for dinner that evening, the very ordinariness of their conversations concealing the intensity of the emotional connection which exists between the two.
There is something quintessentially Japanese about Soseki’s understated style; from the gradual uncovering of Sosuke and Oyone’s secret about how they met and fell in love beneath the surreptitious snowfall of a long winter whilst Oyone was married to Sosuke’s friend, to the mysterious robberies which take place in the house of a wealthy neighbour or the spectre of Sosuke’s brother who haunts their house and disturbs the gentle rhythm of their lives. ‘The Gate’ is a novel in which nothing appears to happen when, in fact, a lot takes place, namely Sosuke’s spiritual apotheosis upon finding out that the friend from whom he took Oyone has returned. His spiritual crisis takes him to a zen temple, where