“No Longer Human” is a Japanese novel written by Osamu Dazai. It is considered as Dazai’s masterpiece and categorized as the second-best selling novel in Japan, whereas “To Live” was written by Yu Hua is a Chinese fiction. “No Longer Human” is describe as a labor of fiction, the novel is recited in the first person and have several elements which laid down an autobiographical source, such as suicide, a recurring theme in the author’s life whereas, the story of “To Live” started some time in the 1940s.
The main character of this sotry is Xu Fugui who is a local rich man’s son and habitual gambler, who lose his family property to the tricky Longer, driving his father to his grave in the process. His attitude also causes his long-suffering wife Jiazhen to leave him with their daughter, Fengxia and their unborn son, Youqing, the same thing with Oba Yozo in “No Longer Human”.
The novel “No Longer Human” covers the portrayal of the life of Oba Yozo, who is a trouble soul not capable of revealing his true self to others and who is instead forced to uphold an impression of worthless jocularity. This story tells the emotional and interesting story of a young man who is caught between the disintegration of the traditions of a northern Japanese aristocratic family and the impact of Western ideas.
The novel is made up of three chapters which narrate the life of Oba Yozo from early childhood to late adolescence. In the first chapter of the novel, it deals on how the overcome by an extreme feeling of alienation and finding it nearly impossible to socialize with those who besiege him, Oba Yozo can but resort to buffoonery in order to ascertain an interpersonal relationships and fit into place in a vain effort to disregard the furious sexual abuse he was subjected to by a couple of servants during his childhood.
In the second chapter, Oba Yozo becomes more and more troubled over the potential penetrability of his cheerful impression, which, together with the pressures of academic life, leads him into a violent cycle of drinking, smoking and harlotry, ending in a one-night stand with a married woman with whom he planned to commit double suicide. Though he survived, the woman passed away, leaving him with nothing but an unbearable feeling of guilt. In the this chapter, several years later, Oba Yozo is dropped out from High School and commits into a relationship with a destructive woman, who immediately betrays him with another man.
Oba Yozo is once again driven to the edge of committing suicide, but was not able to do so because he becomes an alcoholic and a morphine addict. The story comes to a close with Oba Yozo’s confinement in a mental institution where he finally assumes he is no longer human, neither happy nor unhappy, but merely a man of excesses. The story of “To Live” is somewhat similar to the novel “No Longer Human” in a sense that both the main characters of the novels were engaged into alcoholism, drug addiction and losss of their families.
However, in the novel of “No Longer Human” the main character’s story ended upon his confinement in a mental insitution, while in the story of “To Live” the main character after he loses his entire family fortune, eventually reunites with his wife and children, but is forced to start a shadow puppet troupe with partner Chunsheng to support his family. The story of “To Live” during the Chinese Civil War is in full swing, and both Fugui and Chunsheng are forcibly enlisted into the Kuomintang forces during a performance.
After a heavy battle, Fugui and Chunsheng are captured by the communist side, where they quickly become entertainers for the troops. Eventually Fugui is able to return home, and once there, finds out that Fengxia has become mute due to a fever. The story of “To Live” gives emphasis to the peak of the Great Leap Forward. During this period the local town chief enlists Fugui and Jiazhen to donate all scrap iron in their possession to the national drive to produce steel and make weaponry for liberating Taiwan.
As an entertainer, Fugui performs for the entire town, which has been devoted entirely over to producing steel. They enter this work with great passion, and the movie devotes some time to portraying the family’s unity and happiness. For example, the young boy Youqing defends his sisters from bullies picking on her for her muteness. Aside from the Great Leap Forward period, the novel also give attention to the period of Cultural Revolution. The village chief advises Fugui’s family to burn their shadow puppet drama props, which have been deemed as counter-revolutionary as they are traditional cultural elements.
Also, Fugui’s daughter is now grown up. Her family arranges for her to meet Wan Erxi, who is a local leader of the Red Guards, a worker with a salary, and also a kind-hearted and caring man, but lame in one leg. They fall in love and marry. During Fengxia’s childbirth, her parents and husband accompany her to the county hospital, where they find out that nurses are in charge as all doctors have been sent to do hard labor for being “reactionary academic authorities”.
The nurses assure the family that they have nothing to fear, but the family is skeptical, and manages to retrieve a doctor from confinement to oversee the birth, under the pretext of making the doctor “see his revolutionary mistakes”. As the doctor has not eaten for several days, the family purchases for him seven steamed buns. However, the young woman begins to hemorrhage, and the nurses panic, admitting that they are only students and do not know what to do. The frantic family and nurses seek the advice of the doctor, but it is found out that he has overeaten and is semiconscious.
The family is helpless, and Jiazhen can only hold the hand of her daughter as she slowly dies. The story ends several years later, with the family now consisting of Fugui, Jiazhen, their son-in-law Erxi, and grandson Mantou. The family visits the graves of Youqing and Fengxia, where Jiazhen, as per tradition, leaves dumplings for her son. Erxi buys for his son a box full of young chicks, which they decide to keep in the puppet drama prop chest, now empty of its contents.
“To Live” such is not the same as “No Longer Human” because as you can see the character of the novel “No Longer Human” is more on of being useless to the family and to the society because Oba Yozo just ended up in confinement because his woman had another man. Another distinction between the two stories was that the character of “To Live” realized and did something good for himself and for his family, whereas in the novel “No Longer Human” the main character shows no changes in his life. “No Longer Human” on the other hand is basically autobiographical, founded on events from Dazai’s own life.
He was a literary rock star, but a deeply unhappy guy, attempting suicide several times before finally succeeding. There is in fact a monument at the spot where he killed himself that is, along with his mistress. The book is uncommon from what we think of as autobiography, in that the reason for writing is not so much to tell a story – there is no real employment, beginning, middle, and end in the traditional sense, but rather, the text is a sort of rambling exploration of the self. There is no forced form, instead, an effort to create a straightforward relation between author and reader, to explain a precise point of view.
The book itself is very fascinating. It makes the reader want to learn Japanese, for beginners, because no matter how talented the translator, there is no getting throughout the fact that the grammatical structure of Japanese is completely different from that of English in that it is completely possible, and even ordinary, to compose a sentence in Japanese with no subject. Clearly, the entire book is written in this form, which would be particularly appropriate to the work itself. The book is the related story of a very unhappy guy who is essentially chronicling his downward spiral.
Nevertheless it is hard to say if it is really a downward spiral, that is, though he does identify a moment at which he came to an end to be human, it is not totally clear that he was ever really human, through his own definition, to begin with. One question is what it means, in his eyes, to be human. . Oba Yozo’s character is raging against rationality, and the way, in which it dehumanizes people, so in a sense, though he calls himself a mouse, etc, he could be seen as claiming that he is really the only human.
Dazai’s character, Oba Yozo in the novel, sees himself as inhuman, primarily, it seems, because he lacks certain fundamental human character. He maintains for instance, that he has in no way felt starving. On the other hand, there is also a certain issue of domination at play like; he is not capable to say no to anyone, to refuse permission for anything. In this sense, one could say that he is entirely determined by the outside world. Notwithstanding the fact that he has an inner life, he maintains it hidden from the outside world.
As a matter of fact, his behavior is entirely, he claims, an act, he “plays the clown” for the pleasure of others, declining to let his own emotions reveal. The main characters of the novel have a clear similarity to notes from deeply unhappy men who are convinced of their own uniqueness, but there are definitely differences the way they choses to end up their stories. References: Dazai, Osamu. No Longer Human. New York: New Directions, 1973. Yu Hua. To Live: A Novel. (1993). Trans. Michael Berry. New York: Anchor-Random House, 2003.
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