Themes and Meanings

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

For Dazai, post-World War II Japanese society is an utter wasteland. In order to survive in this wasteland, one must lie, cheat, and be an aggressive fighter against one’s “fellow humans.” This state of affairs is too much to bear. An existential laugh of despair is all that he can manage. To be weak (and Yozo is primarily a weak person) is a sign of goodness, not evil. On the contrary, the evil ones are those who have no sympathy for human weakness. These weak people are all too painfully aware that their sufferings and sometimes wild behavior are really attempts to ward off the ugliness and filth of life. Dazai sees a very basic human depravity and is moved by the experiences of those who suffer because of the depravity.

Both men and women suffer because of evil and their knowledge of the nature of society, but men generally want to commit suicide while women generally want to live. It seems that women are more capable of understanding evil and are also stronger. In Dazai’s previous novel, Shayo (1947; The Setting Sun, 1956), the heroine, Kazuko, determines to have a baby out of wedlock at the end of the book, in effect defying the standards of society. In No Longer Human, Yozo tries to commit suicide numerous times, prefiguring Dazai’s own answer to the problem: He himself committed suicide less than a year after finishing the novel.

Although the bulk of the novel consists of the discovered journal,...

(The entire section is 406 words.)