People of The Setting Sun



Close inspection of The Setting Sun by Dazai Osamu allows one to see a particular family battle changing times that are affecting a whole nation of people. Paralleled in many ways by the author\'s own reality, we see how this deep message is more than just a fiction story. As a nation, Japan had just surrendered to the U.S. ending their participation in WWII. With the end of this battle, a new one on the home front began. In a sense, the tradition of Japan died with the war; there is a definite passing of a generation/era of people. The country is now caught in a state of shock as they try to piece together new lives. This is by no means a simple task when tradition is pulling from one side and an influx of modern ways and ideas are pulling from the other. Through the analyzation of Mother, Kazuko, and Naoji, the notion of a nation struggling to grasp a new modern identity while coping with the decline of a social order that has stood strong for so many years is unfolded from beginning to end creating mixed feelings of hope and depression for the people of the setting sun.
Due to WWII, Kazuko and her mother must leave Tokyo and establish residents in nearby village. Kazuko\'s brother, Naoji, has been fighting in the war and upon its conclusion, comes home to his sister and mother with a terrible drug addiction. Naoji has an artist friend who acts as a mentor/drinking buddy. The death of the mother shows the passing of a generation, and the suicide of Naoji exemplifies the feelings of depression and hopelessness that float over Japan. Kazuko becomes the heroin of the story when she creates a positive experience in the middle of this chaotic time. She bears a child which acts as a symbol for a fresh start and new hope during a time when that is just what is needed.
The beginning scene of the novel is a great description for the type of women that Mother was. By explaining how she eats her soup or "wee wee\'s" in the garden, we can see that she is looked at by her children as being a good aristocrat. She had class, but was not afraid to act in her own ways. Eventually people were forced to take care of her due to her failing health, but never once do you see her attitude change to the negative. As she began to die, she never complained at all about her condition. She is among the last of a generation of good aristocrats; her ideals and morals about how life should be lived are dying with her, while the ways of the new times are rushing in with the new aristocracy. "Victims. Victims of a transitional period of morality. That is what we both certainly are." She takes pride in the fact that she has allowed her children a connection to the good of the old days while they attempt to handle the transition into the modern world. This is evident in the way that she treats Naoji on his arrival back home. He receives the same amount of love as Kazuko even while he blatantly disrespects and defiles his body and culture. Her death creates a new life in Kazuko, while playing a part in the ultimate death of her son. Her role in dying sums up her role in the novel, "as her pulse was being taken by the nurse, watched over by Naoji and myself, her two children, my beautiful mother, who was the last lady in Japan."
Kazuko has lived with her mother from beginning to the end. She has treasured the time spent with last of the true aristocrats. When the war has ended, she has to deal with so many issues that a feeling of despair seems to lurk over her character. She makes it clear that love and revolution are what makes the people go, "Before the war, even during the war, we were convinced of it. Since the defeat, however, we no longer trust the older and wiser heads and have come to feel that the opposite of whatever