“On the Conduct of Lord Tadanao” (Tadanaokyō Gyōjōki 忠直卿行状記) is a tale written by Kan Kikuchi (菊池寛) and published in 1918. It recounts the story of a feudal lord of the Echizen Province (越前国) during the Edo period (江戸時代), whose behavior degenerates progressively, causing the demise of many of his retainers and finally resulting in his banishment to Kyushu by order of the Shogunate. The tale is often interpreted as an attempt to explore the psychology of a tyrant, unraveling the motives that could lead a despot to perform vile acts. Nonetheless, an examination of the author’s own statements about his story and a careful analysis of its contents reveal that “On the Conduct of Lord Tadanao” is not a historical novel about a feudal society. Rather, it is more appropriately characterized as a thematic novel, centered on the issues of alienation and solitude. Although it uses Tokugawa Japan as its background, it actually deals with problems contemporary to Kikuchi’s time and describes the characters’ interrelations and emotions closer to the behavior of modern society.

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