Themes and Meanings

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

In Wonderful Fool, End has made it his mission to explore and explain the chasm between the nontheistic East and the Christian West, especially the spiritual abyss that separates them. Specifically, he has chosen to draw attention to the person of Christ in His native culture by creating an unforgettable and endearing but ultimately ironic Christ figure in Gaston Bonaparte. Gas arrives in a Japan pervaded by moral apathy and a desperate need to find an ethical center rooted in eternal values—something which, in End’s view, can only be provided in the Divine Incarnation.

The Japan represented in Takamori, Tomoe, and the criminal End “sucks up all sorts of ideologies, transforming them into itself and distorting them in the process.” Rather than merely mirroring this moral and social malaise about him, however, the novelist has sought to foster and exemplify such religious concepts as sin, redemption, and resurrection in the confrontation between Gas, End, and Kobayashi, the target for End’s revenge. Wonderful Fool dramatizes, in the novelist’s words, the Japanese “numbness to sin and guilt,” juxtaposing it with Gas’s tender conscience when he refuses to stand aside and allow “nature to take its course” and chooses to interpose himself between End and his wicked plans.

Wonderful Fool is thus a parable about faith, the inevitable fate of a trusting soul who determinedly opens up his life and his heart to all he encounters. His naivete leads him to offend every significant social norm of Japanese society and even most patterns of everyday common sense. The final scenes of the novel powerfully capture End’s vision of contemporary Japan: a social mudswamp in which a wise fool battles with all of his strength to redeem two hoodlums who want neither redemption nor life, but whom he redeems all the same.