Sensei's Suicide In The Book Thief By Soseki

Good Essays
At the end of the novel, Sensei commits suicide, claiming that “the lord he was following to the grave would be the spirit of the Meiji era itself” (Soseki 232). By saying this, Sensei is connecting himself and his lifelong struggle to the very era that he lived through: a time where the modern Western ways existed in conflict with old traditional Confucian values. It makes sense that Sensei decided to end his life shortly after the Emperor’s death, as the struggle that he had gone through reflected his time, and that time was finally over. Sensei lived his life in conflict with modernization and tradition, and this resultantly caused him to take on an isolationist and misanthropic attitude. Throughout the whole novel, Sensei is conveyed as a very introspective…show more content…
When he prioritizes selfish, egotistical, Western morals over Confucian, Japanese morals by asking for Ojosan’s hand in marriage even though K is in love with her, he feels extreme guilt. He also believes that he drives K to suicide by quoting an earlier statement and taking advantage of his vulnerability, causing him to fully separate himself from society. He feels in conflict with himself as old traditions wane in the face of new, individualistic ways. He no longer lives to hold up to a standard of nobility or duty, but instead lets his selfish emotions and individualistic attitude lead, costing him his friend’s life and a life full of shame. The only thing that prevents him from suicide is his wife, whom to him represents the old values unaffected by modernization. Sensei’s eventual suicide in the “spirit of the Meiji era” shows the impossible task of reconciling traditional and modern ways. With the Meiji era’s death, the hope of existing and holding to traditional values shattered. Overall, Sensei was a physical representation of the spiritual conflict of the Meiji era. When the Meiji era died, so did
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