The Dephasement of Society
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“The Setting Sun” is regarded to be a famous Japanese novel written by Osamu Dazai. Basically, the story reveals the truth about the decline of family that was the typical problem in post-war Japan. “No One Writes to the Colonel” is a novel that was published by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. The plot depicts the problematic period of disobedience of law, where most of essential services, order and security were not provided by the civilian authorities, because they failed to function properly. In this essay, we are aimed to compare how numerous social changes in post-war societies are reflected through family and marriage, financial welfare and drug abuse, symbolism and significant images.
First of all, it is easy to notice that family crisis and conflict are illustrated in each text.
In “The Setting Sun”, the author describes that families cannot only be affected by relationships, but also by the social changes. And although the aristocrat family, consisting of Kazuko, Naoji and their mother, nearly reflects the typical Japanese family, all the characters are negatively affected by the variety of factors. Kazuko was married once, but was destined to get divorced. Socially and historically, Japan faced the post-war period of transition from the traditional country to industrial one. And that was the reason for most families who were lacking affordability to buy even the basic things necessary to survive. That is why, the family in the story is depicted in crisis and decline. Naoji, the drug addict, is rebellious and cruel towards his mother as well as towards his sister, disregarding them greatly. Apart from that, we can also see that the health and death are in constant interaction and interdependence. In “The Setting Sun”, we notice that Kazuko's father dies early and her mother passes away soon because of tuberculosis. And all this is linked to the vicious family circle suffering from vengeance. The family is seen to nearly approach the side of death resembling the animal extinction. Naoji is noticed to commit suicide one day because of his nonsense in life. In his note he mentions that life is so ugly that humans should have the right to choose to live or not. Only Kazuko is the one who manages to handle all the difficulties in her life and accept the harsh daily routine. The abovementioned vicious circle of death implies the philosophical representation of that day social being. People were forced to abandon their past and start new life. For Kazuko, the start of new life was to accept and come to terms with her pregnancy as well as raise the child on her own being ready to adequately perceive the fact that people still keep leaving her (Dazai 67). But, philosophically, we do recognize that those people are the ones who failed to accept new life and were forgotten in the memories of the past. Even more globally, the author implies that it is better to get rid of the old morality for the sake of starting a new life. That is why, no wonder why Osamu Dazai calls most Japanese “the victims of the transitional period.” (Dazai 69)
In “No One Writes to the Colonel” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, we also see the reference to the post-war period. In this case, that was the period after the Thousand Day’s War lasting from 1899 till 1902. Various social issues are broken within the family framework. We can see that the retired colonel still hopes to receive his pension from the government, but he is the victim of the martial law, which essentially violates the rights of civilians. Respectively, the family faces numerous challenges due to having practically no money. The unity of the family rests upon the future expectations and hopes to have the financial stability. But due to the fact that the colonel fails to receive his pension for the army service, the husband and wife also fail to recognize values in life. So, keeping the cock alive, the colonel still searches for all possible ways to discover some important things in life, except for only eating. The death is widely represented in the text. It is obvious from the funeral at the beginning, the memory of Augustin’s murder and some minor reminders of death. The family model constantly grounds upon the pessimism-optimism opposition.
Secondly, social disorder is maintained by means of financial instability and even poverty. The financial instability within the countries represented in the two books is widely understood by the policy of martial law, when all basic provisions from the side of authorities were not maintained and the social disorder was a widespread phenomenon.
“The Setting Sun” is a nice example of poverty and financial instability. In “The Setting Sun”, we also see that the overall social turmoil leads to drug and alcohol abuse. Naoji is addicted to opium and the sense of life to her is in drugs and self-satisfaction. It does not tend to be difficult to see that Naoji is disappointed about the reality of life, because, in his “Moonflower Journal”, he shows why people always lie and why the world is so cruel being under narcotic poisoning.
In “No One Writes to the Colonel”, the colonel lives during the period of 'La Violencia' in Colombia which is marked by the countryside conflict between Colombian Liberal Party and the Colombian Conservative Party. Financial instability in colonel’s family is clearly understood, because at that time the rights of soldiers were severely violated and the earned rewards and benefits were not taken into account. Politically, individual living was totally insignificant for Colombian authorities. The financial instability of the colonel’s family leads to the lack of socialization and, despite the fact that colonel interacts with many characters during the entire story; he still remains to be isolated from the whole society because of his personal misfortune. Financial instability is observed as the thing that needs to be fought.
Finally, the clear vision of that day society is reflected via symbolism and significant images.
In “The Setting Sun”, we can see that the title itself refers to the territory of Japan as the place for social change. This symbolic tool has the historical reference to the land of the rising sun denoting the period in Japan after the World War II. In the last Kazuko’s letter, we notice that Japan is struggling against the old morality “like the sun.” The second symbol in “The Setting Sun” was a black snake and it was the hidden indication of upcoming death. In the text, the snake was present on the porch twice. Thus, the black snake symbolized not only the physical death, but the philosophical death of old life giving the start to the new life. For example, once Kazuko said, “I was conscious of the snake with its head lifted against itself. Hostility. It was an emotion close to hatred, which stiffened my body” (Dazai 143). The fire in “The Setting Sun” represents that fall of Kazuko’s family after they move to the countryside. Additionally, the fire is noticed to denote not only the decline, but also Kazuko’s strong and desperate feelings towards Mr. Uehara.
In “No One Writes to the Colonel”, the symbolic meaning of the cock is very clear. From one side, it is the hope for receiving pension; on the other hand, it is the reminder of the probable existence of couple's son. Umbrellas with holes symbolize the corrupt models of society, where all the ordinary people were negatively treated (Marquez 121). Newspapers without news reflect the emptiness and the lack of value in life (Marquez 56). Everything is decided instead of civilians and they are prone to moral and physical degradation.
All in all, it is clear that both stories reflect social changes in post-war societies through the problems in family as well as challenges related to financial welfare and drug abuse. We see that the families in both texts face numerous challenges. If in “The Setting Sun” the idea of the family is solved by means of death, in “No One Writes to the Colonel”, the situation remains to be in crisis till the very end. “The Setting Sun” has more to do with personality interactions, whereas “No One Writes to the Colonel” concentrates primarily on the idea of earning a living. One controversial point between the two texts is that, in “The Setting Sun”, the characters are involved in self-destruction process supported by the drug and alcohol addiction. In “No One Writes to the Colonel”, we do not notice the opposite situation, where the colonel refuses to accept the harsh reality of life preferring to fight against injustice. In both texts, the fate of the family is linked to the loss or death.
Financially, both families were forced to handle poverty, and, in two cases, this poverty was the consequence of the political disorder in the respective countries. Both plots are developed at times when the political situation was difficult and extremely anti-social. The events took place at times when the individual life was not important and the human rights were substantially violated. Such symbolic representation of the plot aids us to better remember and understand the events and interpret them correctly via the actions of the characters.