The Setting Sun – Osamu Dazai

The Setting Sun

The plum trees baffled by the reflection of the blossoming tangerines swayed over the little pond pondering the resemblance of the fruit to the radiance of the rising sun. Overlooking the groves of pines, the path from bourgeois to proletariat was burdened with the desolation of social hierarchy. The love for the rising sun made the nimble ocean embrace the tears that flowed through vestiges of human dignity. The memories of the “last lady of Japan” engulfed in the intense flames of the rainbow burgeoning in the perturbing breast; the yearning of love residing in the ashes. The crackling of the viper’s eggs precipitating the tortuous truth within the delicate moonflowers caught between personal and communal war. The silk kimonos drenched in human depravity bared the testament of a revolution simmering within the purplish-blue hues of the setting sun. Man was born for love and revolution; the phrase that had snatched my nocturnal tranquility bestowing the mind with claustrophobic sentiments of Kazuko’s moral insurgency. The hostilities of a transitional era, the vulnerabilities of human survival and the solemnity of self- esteem tapping the helplessness of civilization; like the emptiness of the sky just before the moon arises, the segregation emerging from the changing horizon is daunting and at times engulfed my own solitary apprehensions as I heard Dazai’s empathetic voice reciting the woes of a evolving Japan and its trapped people.

“If it is true that man, once born into the world, must somehow live out his life, perhaps the appearance that people make in order to go through with it, even if it is as ugly as their appearance, should not be despised. To be alive. To be alive.”

Dazai dips into the post-war Japanese society dwelling in between the swelling didactic intensity to the likes of Chekov, Balzac and the moralistic spirituality of a ‘Tale of Genji’. Onset of modernity in the traditional Japanese society had brought along disintegration of class hierarchy with aristocracy vanishing into the humiliated corners of societal mores. The inability of the Japanese people to adapt to the new social order is portrayed through the protagonist’s susceptibilities that adhere to the new environment of an egalitarian existence. Dazai through the sublime voice of Kazuko, claims the Japanese war was an act of depression with the Japanese people becoming the core victims of the psychological malady. Kazuko’s aristocratic heritage had trickled down into speckled manifestations of her mother’s societal and domestic etiquette. Naoji’s self-labeling of being a “high-class beggar” is an oxymoron that elaborated the impoverished state of the Japanese aristocratic rank in the aftermath of the WWII and the subsequent land reforms.

Analogous to his No Longer Human, Dazai trades on the similar grounds of desolation, humiliation, suicide , declining of traditional mores, rebellion to modernity, despair and individualistic war of morality and survival ; all of them being the ominous salient features of a post-war culture. ”Like a leaf that rots without falling” describes the agony of Kazuko and her family’s impecunious existence. It is not at all a surprise that Dazai once again brings up the objective outlook of being a communal outcast. Dazai, himself born into an aristocrat family always viewed himself to be a societal exile; searching for the sanguinity of death. The raison d’être of my fondness towards Dazai’s prose is that Dazai steadily becomes an animated participant in his scripted prose. Through the numerous anecdotes and characterizations, Dazai proficiently interlocks his personal chronicles with those of his sketched actors. Kazuko’s evident struggle between the worlds of “realism” and “romanticism”, defining the safeguard of her privileged ancestry and the festering rebellion to become a “self-styled lover”, becomes emblematic in the struggle to survive in a world where personal desires to live weighs more than customary obligations to the Japanese customs. Dazai romanticizes death through the usage of symbolic metaphors of ‘black snakes’ and ‘swollen hand’ and the refuge of a feeble human soul in the abstraction of addiction. The suicidal tendencies that find chief prominence in Dazai’s prose, somehow in a bizarre manner nurses my disquiet soul in finding harmony through these troubled fictional characters. The moment when one finally unshackles the floating suicidal shadows only to plant the optimism “to be alive”, everything around swiftly brightens up like a rainbow on a sundrenched day. Even the air smells different. I wonder if Kazuko felt related emotions when she decided to stay alive and become a revolutionary in a varying land where the beauty and honor of humanity was defiled by societal doctrines that was itself cramped between the archaic conventions and modernity.

“In our lives we know joy, anger, sorrow, and a hundred other emotions, but these emotions all together occupy a bare one per cent of our time. The remaining ninety-nine per cent is just living in waiting.”

When one waits on the periphery of survival, at times the futile lingering brings with it vast emptiness ravaging the validity of birth. The agony prevailing over whether was it best not to be born, either succumbs in the deathly silence of Naoji’s Testaments or Kazuko’s righteous rebellion for love. The wretchedness of morality and despair gets washed in the alcoholic eddy as piteous souls like Uehara and Naoji stagger into an inexorable hell. However, when rainbows of salvation are formed within the courageous breast, love and revolution becomes the most gratifying thing to human beings. In the espousing “moral revolution”, Kazuko became the pictogram of a brave soul who rebelled the traditional mores and rebelled for the desire of love and life; redefining the norms of the rising sun that no longer abided the principles of the judicious old, but pursued the people of the setting sun hovered by the shadows of black vipers and faint fragrances of crushed moonflowers, into strengthening the spirituality of life rather than making death the ultimate pleasant sanctuary.



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