These young women stay asleep throughout the visit and while men can sleep next to her, they cannot sleep "with" her. The warden of the brothel warns Eguchi in the very beginning of the novel: "He was not to do anything in bad taste, the woman of the inn warned old Eguchi. He was not to put his finger in the mouth of the sleeping girl, or try anything else of the sort." (p. 13)
The curiosity of the old men to see what actually happens in this house and the mystery of the sleeping girls opens many doors of discussion. It brings many questions to the mind and the reader is provoked to seek his own answers.
How is sex connected with death here Why are sexually impotent men allowed in this house and why these men would want to sleep next to sleeping young girls Death is critical to the discussion because the entire novel revolves around it. The old man's age puts him closer to death, the sleeping girls resemble dead people and lack of noise and sound in the house also signifies death. I do not however agree with Eguchi that sex and death are related. There is a link between the two but that is in their sheer contrast and not any similarities. Sex is a completely opposite force. It injects life-force in people and makes them even more aware of their existence. The lack of sex in the place is thus closely connected with the onset of death.
The quest begins with Eguchi's need for erotic gratification. He is sexually potent but needs to know more than having sex. He wants enlightenment and the experience forces him to confront who he really is. The youth and beauty of his companions at first excite him: "He caught his breath. She was more beautiful than he had expected. And she was young too. It was as if another heart beat its wings in old Eguchi's chest" (pp. 18-19).
Eguchi feels young again and this is where we get an idea of why old men might choose to come to this place. Their main purpose was to drink from the well of youth that lies next to them. By looking at youth and its beauty, they feel a difference in themselves. However the reason Eguchi feels death is close to sex is because lack of later in this house makes old men even more aware of their old age and their death. When he looks at the girl, he wonders if she is alive because she looks dead.
The silent and stagnant position of the girl forces him to think about how the girl had been turned into a living toy:
" Though this girl lost in sleep had not put an end to the hours of her life, had she not lost them, had they sink into bottomless depths She was not a living doll for there could be no living doll; but so as not to shame an old man no longer a man, she had been made into a living toy. No, not a toy; for the old men she could be life itself." (p. 20)
The girl represents much more to Eguchi at first. She is a symbol of life for him because of her youth and freshness. He carefully observes her body and features and realizes she was quite young: "She could be life itself." (p.20). His friend had also told him that he would "feel alive" sleeping next to such a woman. But Eguchi is still scared. There is fear in his soul as if something bad was about to happen.
The fear becomes very real when near the end, the girl mysteriously dies. Eguchi informs the proprietress who gives a shocking. The whole crux of the story lies in that