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An Enlightening Analysis of The Willow and the Storm By Mitchell Masuda

Mitchell Masuda, the author of The Willow and the Storm utilizes a combination of diction, imagery and his own personal experiences to express the importance of patience as a virtue. Masuda chooses specific words to create a sense of humor that maintains the readers interest. However, the words also augment the somber and reflective tone found in the last half of the short story. The addition of events that were based on occurrences in Masuda’s life makes the story more authentic and believable. These events are made realistic by Masuda’s use of visual imagery. Each literary element contributes to the context of the story that concludes with the maxim embodied in a quote.

In the third paragraph of The Willow and the Storm, Masuda utilizes uncommon and amusing words and phrases to lighten the atmosphere while doing the opposite in the fifth paragraph, conveying the somber tone. In the last paragraph, Masuda also uses particular words to express the feeling of contemplation enjoyed by the narrator. In the third paragraph, the narrator mentions that his breakfast was not settling down, and situates that tragedy on the same degree as a class IV rapid. That comparison is humorous because a mere stomachache would not be near as serious as a dangerous whitewater rapid. Masuda also emphasizes the next bathroom as a "bright blue porta-potty." The fact that the narrator is looking forwards to this is very entertaining. In the fifth paragraph, the combination of "tremendous" and "dash" in the same sentence emphasizes the power of the river as well as the hazardous situation that the narrator enters. In the next sentence, "submerged" is an active participle and again demonstrates the power of the river. There are several words in the last paragraph that accentuate the reflective tone. The word "trial" in the second sentence brings out the fact that the narrator underwent an ordeal, not a mere accident. "Yielding" in the fourth sentence allows the reader to realize that the narrator did not struggle, but surrendered as much of his power as was necessary. The most important individual word in the last paragraph is "wisteria." It alludes to Masuda’s religion, Buddhism, in which the wisteria crest hung over Buddha, or the enlightened one.

Aside from the allusion in the last paragraph, Masuda intermingles some of his own memories with fiction to allow readers to relate to the story. The incident mentioned in the story is actually a dramatization of one of Masuda’s whitewater rafting experiences. Masuda uses that incident in conjunction with his many backpacking trips to produce humor with regards to needing a restroom. He is not a stranger to the predicament of waiting for hours or using a bush. The finale of the story is most likely taken from Masuda’s passion for running and the euphoric feeling that is gained from finishing a race. While racing, Masuda frequently reflects on past experiences and more often that not grasps a new conclusion at the finish line.

There are many instances when Masuda uses an image to augment the current setting. The first image is in the third paragraph when the "deep, ominous chuckle" of a large rapid is heard. Also in the paragraph, Brad’s scream is described as "bloodcurdling" and "hair-raising." In the fifth paragraph, the sunlight is depicted as being "brilliant and golden." The river is also described as having "roiling waters" as well as "blessed calm water." The last image in the story is of a willow bending over in a storm. It allows itself to be bent very far and in doing so prevents itself from wasting energy, instead just barely holding on.

This image and the quote that corresponds to it contain the lesson encompassed in the story. In The Willow and the Storm author Mitchell Masuda employs many different techniques and literary elements to intensify the story before its climax. Each element combines with another to lead to the significance of the story. Patience is a virtue that can overcome any obstacle. Those who have patience are those who are enlightened.


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