It is debatable whether morality is a code of conduct that is considered right by society or whether it is a code unilaterally decided upon by an individual. When we consider morality as a tool used by both Shusaku Endo in Wonderful Fool and Albert Camus in The Outsider, this debate holds immense relevance. Wonderful Fool, heavily influenced by Christian doctrine, addresses the degeneration of Japanese society and the way moral issues are presented in the novel reflects this. In Wonderful Fool Shusaku Endo looks upon morality as the value system defined by the Bible, where Jesus Christ is regarded as the epitome of true goodness. In his portrayal of the main character he draws upon examples from Christ’s life to recreate a character whose morality is nearly flawless. The Outsider as a philosophical social commentary uses moral issues to demonstrate the absurdity of existence. Camus chooses to present morality as the code of conduct that an individual chooses to uphold regardless of the views of society or religion. He creates a character that lives according to his own “morality”. Although supposed by most readers to be amoral, this character, Meursault appears to be true to his personal convictions of objectivism. Meursault’s commitment to objectivity makes him moral in my opinion. Coined post-Camus, moral objectivism in this context refers to objectivity being used to guide one’s actions as opposed to subjective emotions or traditions. Both writers utilize characterization to present moral issues concerning honesty, consistency and non-conformity in a manner that supports their respective viewpoints.
In both texts characterization is frequently used as a vehicle through which morality is presented. In Shusaku Endo’s novel Gaston is presented as a clumsy ‘horse-like’ (Endo 43) Frenchman who is incongruous with the modern slick Japanese city of Tokyo. This ‘fool’ who descended from greatness (Napoleon) is very much like Jesus who is also an unwelcome descendant of a ruler (King David). Gaston, like Jesus, is not physically attractive . Both were rejected by people in society, especially the fashionable, rich or powerful. Jesus was rejected at Nazareth his hometown. People scoffed, “He’s just a carpenter, the son of Mary” (Mark 6:3), whilst Gaston is constantly referred to as the “foreigner,” never integrating into Tokyo. His rejection is best characterised by Tomoe. “’hope you are satisfied…bringing that fool into our home,’ she said with deep resentment” (Endo 51). She did not welcome his presence in her house. Gaston makes companions of the lowliest members of society: prostitutes, murderers, and stray dogs. In this way he resembles Christ who befriended the outcasts of his society, such as lepers and prostitutes. He demonstrates selflessness and patience as he attempts to befriend a thug that was beating him up. “No matter what trick…he was of such a temperament that he could not hate his persecutors” (Endo 83). This demonstrates a parallel with Christ who forgave those who taunted him on the cross.
His self-sacrificing, unconditional ‘childlike faith’ (Psalm 116:6) in the goodness of people bears a strong resemblance to Jesus and this presents him to the reader as being morally good. Shusaku Endo uses Gaston’s character as a foil, against which he shows the individualistic nature of Japanese society. Endo conveys his disapproval of this societal trait by painting a positive picture of Gaston’s selflessness against the gloom of Japanese hedonism. Gaston is seen by the reader as being altruistic and therefore the reader is led to feel that Japan is self-seeking because of the harsh contrast between his magnanimity and the city’s self-absorbed nature.
This contrast is created through other character’s response to Gaston as well as the scenes in which Gaston’s tale is told. The other...