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Literature / The Big Wave

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The Big Wave is a 1948 children's story by Pearl S. Buck, about two boys who grow up on the coast of Japan. Kino is the son of a farmer, who lives with his parents and younger sister, Setsu, on a mountainside farm overlooking a seaside village. Jiya is the son of a fisherman, who lives with his parents and elder brother in the seaside village. One day, a tsunami destroys the village, and Jiya, orphaned, comes to live with Kino and his family.

Provides Examples of:

  • An Aesop: About living in the face of tragedy and continued danger, and not being consumed by grief or fear.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling: Setsu is Kino's sister, and she plays tricks on him and hides things.
  • Arc Words: "Life is stronger than death." Repeatedly stated by Kino's father, to remind him that, despite tragedy, life still goes on.
  • Doomed Hometown: Jiya's village, containing over twenty houses, which is destroyed by the tsunami.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": Old Gentleman's name is never given; he is simply known as Old Gentleman.
  • Friend-or-Idol Decision: After he is orphaned, Jiya is offered the chance to grow up in luxury, raised by the wealthy Old Gentleman, as opposed to growing up in poverty with Kino. He chooses to live with Kino.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Prior to the tsunami, Kino's father and Jiya warn him about the danger they face from the sea and a nearby volcano. Although the tsunami is the immediate cause of the village's destruction, the volcano also plays a role in the disaster.
    • Much more subtley, Jiya's marriage to Setsu is foreshadowed throughout the book, even before the tsunami.
  • Giant Wall of Watery Doom: The eponymous big wave that destroys Jiya's village.
  • Heroic BSoD: Jiya, after watching the tsunami destroy his village. He immediately collapses and spends the next several days either sleeping or barely responsive.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: A non-romantic example. Although both Uchiyama and Kino want Jiya to live with them, they try to persuade him to accept Old Gentleman's offer to raise him. (Kino's attempts at persuasion are a bit half-hearted, though.)
  • My Sister Is Off-Limits: Averted. Kino has nothing against Jiya marrying Setsu, but can't figure out what he sees in her.
  • No Name Given: Kino's mother is not named; neither is anyone in Jiya's family.
  • Only One Name: All of the named characters, specifically, Kino, his sister Setsu, their father Uchiyama, and Jiya.
  • Red Sky, Take Warning: The evening before the tsunami, the sky turns red, giving Kino's family and the villagers their first warning that things are about to go horribly wrong, and prompting the men to keep watch all night.
  • Shown Their Work: The author explains, in age appropriate terms, the cause of the tsunami.