The Other Side of Happiness

One thing that Shusaku Endo’s Silence and Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis have in common is the aftertaste they leave in the reader’s intellectual palate. Unlike most authors, Endo and Kafka refuse to oblige the readers with a satisfying happy ending, opting instead for a less predictable but more dramatic finale. Despite the innocence of the central characters, both stories reach their zenith in the downfall of those characters: Rodrigues ends up a prisoner and an apostate, while Gregor dies alone in his room without ever regaining his humanity. In both books, the powerful though unhappy ending is balanced by a hopeful note that the character’s downfall has contributed to a happy ending in another place and time. The hopeful addition is important in emphasizing the moral message in each story, which lies in how the central characters are able to find gratification in their defeat.

The transformations of the characters in each work culminate in their respective downfalls, which come with other positive repercussions for themselves. In Silence, Rodrigues’ downfall is epitomized in his new identity as an apostate and a prisoner. However, the positive repercussion of Rodrigues’ apostasy is his amplified understanding of God’s...

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