It takes the story of people seeking absolutes and shows them just how ambiguous life can really be sometimes. They are looking for spiritual truth in a filthy, polluted river which is also surrounding by…
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Naruses relationship with Otsu is at the heart of how the reader perceives the character and eventually comes to interpret his death as an idealist. Dressed in rags and essentially a penitent, Otsu is seen by Naruse in a completely new light—very different than how she saw him as a young man when she cruelly spurned him. He has lived his belief. He is not the sort of religious figure who leads a superficial spiritual life or does so in order to gain status in society. He is principled down to his very last breath. As Endo writes towards the novels end: “Otsus words were substantiated by the life of misfortune he had led.”
However, Otsu does not teach Naruse anything about the Christian doctrine. Instead he reveals to her a sense of possibility. She says in the novel, “I have learned though that there is a river of humanity. Though I still dont know what lies at the end of that flowing river. But I feel as though Ive started to understand what I was yearning for through all the many mistakes of my past.” He is changing her idea of what is possible and what it means to believe and to lead a good life. But he isnt handing her a copy of the Bible and telling her she should read it. He is living an example that is more complex than any particular teaching. Otsus god is also the god of all other religions. It could be said he is pantheist who believes god is everywhere and in everything. That is part of the reason he calls god an “onion.” Onions have many layer and it is clear that Otsu believes god has many layers and faces too.
Unlike in traditional Christianity which is about duality and good and evil. Otsu seems to find things ambigous as do all of the chracters who see moral ambiguity in Indian culture and society and the teeming crowds are the Ganges River and the living mixing with the dead. Life is more complicated than any religious teachings. It is more various and it makes less sense. Otsu is a
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