The notion of “victims” has been well illustrated in the novel “The Setting Sun” by Osamu Dazai as it highlights the devastating effects of the Second World War and the ensuing evolution from a traditional Japanese society to a modern one.
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Through an analysis of the main characters in the novel, Naoji and Kazuko, this paper attempts to provide an elaboration of what it means to be a “victim”, and also to demonstrate a relationship of how the main characters are made “victims” by the vicious effects of war along with the transition of Japan from a traditional society to a modern one.
In the context of this particular novel, to be a “victim” implies to undergo a considerable amount of hurt or suffering from a historical condition that one has no control of.
In this description, it is important to note that Naoji and Kazuko are not “victims” by their own volition, but rather by the historical conditions brought by the Second World War and also by the historical circumstances caused by the transition of Japan from a traditional society to an industrial one immediately after the war.
Drawing from this definition, it is agreeable to suggest that Naoji and Kazuko are “victims” by virtue of the fact that they are ultimately harmed by repulsive historical events they cannot control despite their positions in society.
After the Second World War, for example, the aristocratic family of Kazuko loses all its wealth, and the shifting social dynamics existing during postwar years force this family to relocate to the countryside to restart life all over again.
Consequently, it can be argued that Kazuko is a “victim” of a Japanese society, which has been increasingly exposed to untold social and moral predicaments arising from the unfavorable events of the Second World War and the evolution of society from a traditional paradigm of doing things to a modern one.
Naoji, who is a soldier by profession, is also a “victim” of these historical conditions experienced in Japan without adequate preparation. In particular, it is noticeable how Naoji has been disoriented by the twin notions of the nobility class and hypocrisy, as demonstrated in his “Moonflower Journal”, and also by his damaging addiction to narcotics and opium.
Although very little is said of this character during the formative stages of the novel, it is clear towards the end that Naoji commits suicide due to the destructive effects of the Second World War and the unprecedented evolution from a traditional Japan to modern society.
Indeed, in my view, it is the ensuing social and moral crises from the mentioned historical circumstances that lead Naoji to embrace a life of drugs and to ultimately commit suicide due to the disillusionment of the new life.
In the novel, the “victim” mentality is seen in light of the immense shifts in social dynamics and interactions that Japan experienced as the country attempted to adjust to the upset of being defeated by the allied forces during the Second World War.
More importantly, the “victim” mentality demonstrates how the social fabric can be destroyed by historical events and how such destruction adversely affects the society and its populace. Kazuko is definitely a “victim” of the destruction of the social fabric due to the war experience.
It is this destruction of the social fabric that rallies Kazuko to start searching for self meaning in society irrespective of the fact that she did nothing to contribute to the sad turn of events.
In the same vein, Naoji is not directly involved in the destruction of the aristocratic nobility, yet he goes on to pay a heavy price due to his disillusionment. Consequently, these two characters are victims of circumstances, as indicated in the description.
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Parallels can be drawn between what happened in Japan during the postwar years and what happens in contemporary society to reinforce the “victim” concept further, as depicted in the novel.
Kazuko and Naoji are “victims” of the destructive effects of the Second World War, particularly in light of how they appear lost between a rapidly disintegrating traditional society and a future society that has no real interest in issues of nobility or social class.
Similarly, in places such as Iraq and Afghanistan, we are increasingly witnessing situations where people have become “victims” of the American’s war on terrorism and the ensuing social and moral crisis.
Issues dealing with suicidal ideation and suicidal attempts are well captured in the novel, with Naoji eventually succeeding to commit suicide due to the historical situations of the Second World War and the evolution from a traditional Japan to modern society.
Similarly, in contemporary times, people in Iraq and Afghanistan are increasingly questioning the meaning and essence of life, particularly in light of continued interruption or destruction of the social fabric and class issues by circumstances beyond their control.
Overall, therefore, it is concluded that Naoji and Kazuko are “victims” due to the fact that they undergo a considerable amount of hurt and suffering from the destructive effects of the Second World War and the ensuing social and moral decadence triggered by the transition from a traditional Japan to a modern society that appears to be disinterested in issues of nobility or social class.