No Longer Human Summary – Osamu Dazai

No Longer Human Summary - Osamu Dazai
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No Longer Human is written by Osamu Dazai in 1948. The novel is considered Dazai’s masterpiece and is the second best-selling novel in Japan to date. No Longer Human explores themes such as suicide, social alienation, and depression, reflecting the author’s own struggles with these issues in his life. Osamu Dazai’s decision to take his own life after the publication of the final chapter has led many to believe that the book served as his final testament.

Summary Of No Longer Human

The First Notebook Of No Longer Human

An anonymous speaker describes photographs of a man who is later revealed to be Yozo. He has three photos: one when he was a child, one when he was a little older, and one when he was an adult. The anonymous speaker finds each photo disgusting and says he has a hard time recognizing Yozo as a person, but he knows most people would find Yozo good-looking. However, according to the speaker, there is a deep discomfort in Yozo, especially in the last photo, where he is standing in a dilapidated room and staring blankly at the camera.

In No Longer Human he later presents Yozo’s personal notebooks. Yozo begins to describe his childhood, explaining that some things about society and humanity don’t make much sense. For example, he has never understood the meaning of eating large meals, but he always eats large amounts to please others. As a young boy, he becomes depressed by the “dullness of humanity” he feels when he thinks about how people live in a irrational and unaesthetic way. At one point, several of her family’s servants sexually harass her, and she is unable to tell anyone about it. This experience leaves him feeling “broken.”

Yozo feels unwilling or unable to show his “true nature”, so he develops a technique of performing for the people around him. He thinks of himself as a clown who is willing to do anything to make others laugh, and he is very successful in getting people hooked. One day, at school, she falls on purpose and while everyone is laughing, Takeichi, a quiet boy, walks up behind her and says, “You did that on purpose.”

The Second Notebook Of No Longer Human

Yozo is horrified to learn that Takeichi, whom he thought was as stupid as he thought, can see the truth behind all his performance. She decides to get as close to Takeichi as possible, hoping it will allow her to observe him. After some missteps, he manages to bring Takeichi to his house during a rainstorm and gently dries his new friend, whereupon Takeichi comments that women will be crazy about him in the future – a comment that turns out to be true, but offends Yozo.

One day, Takeichi shows Yozo a famous painting. Yozo recognizes it as Van Gogh’s self-portrait, but Takeichi tells him it is a ghost painting. This comment surprises Yozo and causes him to re-evaluate his perspective on art. He realizes that many paintings are not beautiful portraits designed to be passively admired – they are profound images that contain the horrors of life. He decides to paint disturbing paintings that reflect his “true nature”, which is what he hides from other people. He shows these paintings only to Takeichi.

Years later, Yozo lives in his father’s house, a townhouse, to study art at a university in Tokyo. Since his father is a politician, he uses his townhouse during legislative periods in Tokyo. Yozo is mostly unable to see his father, instead spending time with his classmate Horiki, teaching him about the rough and complicated life of a young artist. He introduces Yozo to drinking, smoking, and sleeping with prostitutes.

But despite their new friendship, Yozo doesn’t actually like Horiki, he just appreciates having him as a drinking buddy. Horiki also takes Yozo to a Communist Party meeting. Yozo finds it funny that these people think their Marxist beliefs are actually important, but he fakes feeling the same way and ends up becoming widely popular among his new “camrats”.

No Longer Human
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No Longer Human Summary - Osamu Dazai

Yozo spends all his time drinking, smoking, and doing work for the Communist Party. He almost never goes to classes. However, after a while, his father decides to sell the townhouse. By this time Yozo is living on his small monthly allowance, but he usually uses it up in the first few days of each month. He usually manages to get the things he needs by putting them into his father’s account, but this is no longer possible. He suddenly feels what it is like to experience poverty, but this does not stop him from drinking.

He falls into a deep depression. He’s still afraid of other people and all he wants to do is get so drunk that he can’t feel anything. One night, Yozo goes to a bar and honestly tells the barista that he has no money. But the woman doesn’t mind – she lets him drink for free and joins him in his joyless mood. Her name is Tsuneko and he returns to her apartments that night.

Tsuneko confides in Yozo about being unhappy all night. Listening to him makes her feel connected, like they’ve connected through their pain. The next time they get together, Tsuneko tells him that she can’t handle continuing to live anymore, so they decide to commit suicide together. They throw themselves into the ocean, but Yozo survives. Tsuneko dies.

The Third Notebook

Yozo is taken to the hospital. When he wakes up, he is arrested on charges of “assisting suicide”. He spends a night in jail, but the authorities are not too harsh on him as he is still recovering from the incident and has a bad cough. He is released the next day and placed under the care of an old family friend named Eşeyken. Yozo’s father refuses to talk to him, but his brothers send money to Flatfish.

Also, since he was expelled from college, he spends his days at Flatfish’s house without doing much. One evening, Flatfish invites him to dinner and asks him what he wants to do in life. He tells Yozo that he’d be happy to help, but he wants Yozo to come up with a plan. Yozo can realize that Flatfish wants to hear something specific, but can’t figure out what it might be. Flatfish gets angry because Yozo’s life lacks direction, and laughs when he finally says he wants to be a painter.

The next morning, Yozo escapes from Flatfish’s house. He leaves a note with Horiki’s address, but he doesn’t actually intend to go to Horiki’s house. And yet, as he wanders the streets, he realizes he has nowhere else to go, so he actually goes to Horiki’s house. Like everyone else, Horiki has heard about Tsuneko’s incident, so he gives her a cold welcome. Even though she doesn’t want him there, he still lets her in. In time, a woman, Shizuko, stops by and comes to pick up an illustration Horiki made for a magazine. Yozo eventually goes home with her and seems happy to take care of her, acting drawn to her sadness.

Yozo lives at Shizuko’s house with Shizuko, who has a daughter named Shigeko. Shizuko’s husband died a few years ago and now she is happy taking care of Yozo. However, Yozo soon becomes restless, so he starts making drawings and cartoons for the magazine where Shizuko works, and buys alcohol and cigarettes with the money he earns. He falls further into a deep depression, at which point he meets up with Shizuko, Horiki, and Flatfish. Together, they decide that Yozo should marry Shizuko and have no further contact with his family. However, when Shigeko says she wants her “real” father back, Yozo decides to leave.

Yozo goes to a bar in the Kyobashi neighborhood and the bartender gives him free drinks and permission to stay in an upstairs apartment. During this period, Yozo begins to drink even more, until he meets Yoshiko, a 17-year-old woman. One night, Yozo gets drunk and begins to think that Yoshiko must be a virgin, and suggests that they marry her – as if he wants to experience what it’s like to have sex with a virgin.

Yoshiko agrees to marry Yozo on the condition that Yozo stops drinking. Yozo accepts Yoshiko’s condition, but breaks his promise the next day. However, because Yoshiko is so reassuring, he doesn’t believe she will keep her promise. They eventually have sexual intercourse and get married shortly after.

Final Notebook Of No Longer Human

Yozo and Yoshiko move to a new apartment. For a while their life goes well. Yozo stops drinking and begins to think that he has a chance to be happy. But then Horiki comes back into his life. Yozo starts drinking again. One night, Yozo and Horiki go out to find Yoshiko being raped by a man in a room in Yozo’s apartment. He is horrified by what he sees, but does not intervene. Later, Yoshiko says that the man assured her that nothing would happen, and Yozo thinks Yoshiko is too trusting.

Yozo starts drinking even more. One night, when he comes home drunk, he finds a box of sleeping pills and takes them all, hoping they will die. He wakes up three days later, Flatfish gives him some money and suggests he go for a spa treatment for her. Yozo goes, but drinks constantly throughout the trip. When he returns to Tokyo, he is in worse shape than before, frequently coughing up blood and stumbling home drunk.

To remedy his situation, he goes to a pharmacy and feels a strange connection with an elderly pharmacist. He can tell there is another unhappy soul, and he seems to notice the same thing as him. She gives him morphine, telling him to stop drinking. Yozo soon becomes completely addicted to morphine and constantly turns to the pharmacist for more medication. She starts an affair with him so she can get more medicine.

In No Longer Human, Yozo decides to commit suicide again, but before he does so, Horiki and Flatfish take him to a psychiatric clinic, where he feels like a “rejection” and thinks he is “disqualified” as a human. After his discharge, a relative sends him to the countryside, where he lives with an old maid who takes care of him. His notebooks end by stating that Yozo has been in the countryside for three years, and although he is only 27 years old, he appears to be a much older man.

The final chapter of No Longer Human returns to the unnamed speaker with the glassmaker who gives Yozo’s notebooks to him. It appears that Yozo sent him the notebooks 10 years ago. The speaker encountered the tumbler while traveling the country and thought he could turn the notebooks into a novel, but decided to present the notebooks as they were, without altering them.

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