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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 304

No Longer Human by Osamu Dazai is a bleak book by an angry misfit. Shuji Tsushima never belonged, in Japanese society, and this made him a misanthrope. His books are catalogs of his suffering, and in this book his characters suffer the most. It's an autobiography dressed up as a novel, with only a transparent plot to conceal the author's struggles, and his depression. Reading it, you get significant insight into why Japanese culture is so insular and unforgiving of outsiders. Its history, from the Shogunate through the disaster of Twentieth Century imperialism to its revival as an economic and cultural powerhouse after the Second World War, is one of discipline and conformity married to excruciating self-reflection. Only a people accustomed to a notion of suicidal honor could have produced the samurai, kamikaze pilots, and such delicate artifacts as haiku and Zen. Osamu Dazai makes perfect sense, in that context. His book is sad, and you should read it. You should also check out the excellent study guide available on this website.

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The book is a painful look at the soul-warping effects of the fear of being different. Compared to its literary familiars, No Longer Human is harder to read, because there's no escape. Dostoevsky's characters can kill or con their way out of despair because Tsarist Russia was oppressive but not suffocating. Jude Fawley suffered in Victorian England, but he simply walked away in the end. Even Holden Caulfield had it better. That's because there was a place for eccentrics, depressives and sociopaths in Russia or England or America. Japan doesn't admit them. It never has. So, when we get inside Yozo's head, we realize he'll eventually destroy himself, not in some grandiose gesture, but one bit at a time, his brain grinding away at his heart, under the weight of his despair.

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