There are so many literary Easter eggs in this episode that I almost don’t know where to start. Possibly one of the most important ones is that Dostoyevsky (and Dazai) are being held in a secret prison somewhere in Europe known as “Meursault.” While Meursault is an actual Medieval French town built on Roman ruins, it’s more significant that it’s also the name of the protagonist of Albert Camus’ novel L’Étranger, because it implies the existence of Camus as a Skill user in the series’ world. As readers of the novel may remember, part two takes place in prison, where Meursault eventually dies, so it’s not a good reference for Dazai. (Dostoyevsky can stay there, for all I care.)
How F. Scott Fitzgerald uses Margaret Mitchell as a bargaining chip is equally interesting. I don’t need to remind you about the many, many references to Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby (Manhasset, the Eyes of God, etc.), but the fact that he will help Atsushi and the rest of the Agency only if they save Margaret’s life is interesting. It suggests parallels between Fitzgerald and his real-life counterpart – his devotion to his wife Zelda – and Jay Gatsby’s obsession with Daisy Buchannan, as well as a sort of cynical romanticism seen in many literary works of the 1920s. Love is great and all that, Old Sport, but really, when you come right down to it, what can it do for you? Fitzgerald has had ample proof of how it warped Nathaniel Hawthorne (all he deserves for that “damned mob of scribbling women” comment back in 1855), who yet again tries to kill him at Dostoyevsky’s behest this week, and he sees no problem with using it against him. If Yosano can cure Margaret, that’s precisely what he plans to do.
This all hearkens to Margaret Mitchell’s only novel, 1936’s Gone with the Wind. Mitchell herself remarked that survival was the theme she believed she wrote about in the book, saying, “I wrote about people who had gumption and people who didn’t.” That’s an apt way to describe how the Armed Detective Agency is functioning right now: they’re trying to muster up the nerve to survive while their world is falling to pieces. Happily, Bungo Stray Dogs doesn’t trade in the institutionalized racism that Mitchell’s novel does. Still, the idea that you must have strength to survive is a timeless idea that this story arc tries to capture. Even the fact that Margaret hasn’t succumbed to her injuries is in service of this theme: like Scarlet O’Hara, she’s surviving so that she might send money back to help restore her family’s fortunes, an echo of Scarlet’s determination to rebuild Tara.
Alongside these literary goodies, this week’s plot is pretty good, too. Dazai getting himself arrested and sent to Meursault to put his virtual chess skills to the test against Dostoyevsky is both very Dazai and a solid move that thus far has helped to save Fitzgerald, allowing Atsushi to bargain with him. (Plus, Dazai and Dostoyevsky in prison hamming it up is pure gold.) Chuuya doesn’t get much screen time, but his moments are still excellent because sometimes you need a nattily-dressed dude with a foul mouth to come in and save the day. Hopefully, his day-saving extends to somehow using his powers to keep Kunikida from blowing up as well. While that would be an impressive way to go out, I’d hate to see him die, and I think Tanizaki would have a total breakdown if he did. It’s also worth noting that we continue to see the effect Odasaku has on Ango and Dazai this week, with his dislike of “one is sacrificed to save the many” potentially traceable back to the loss of his friend. Odasaku believed in saving everyone, which may be why Ango is so disdainful of his boss’ math.
The fat’s truly in the fire now. With Dazai and Dostoyevsky trying to outwit each other and very real life-or-death hanging in the balance, everyone must pull their weight. Is Fitzgerald setting up a double-cross? Can Hawthorne be redeemed? What will Akutagawa do when he realizes where Dazai is? We’ll just have to wait and see.
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