Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Norwegian Wood Week 2

Congratulating myself for not peeking at your posts – here is my Week 2. I am really looking forward to reading your thoughts and commenting this week.
In this section of the book there are several points in which truth or honesty are either discussed or reflected upon. The more I though about this, the more I see Toru emerging as a character who we are to take at face value. He may not have much depth so far, but he seems an honest observer of himself and others, and I think he is getting drawn into complex relationships that will sweep him into whirlpools of deception. The chapter opens with him reacting angrily to the hypocrisy of the striking students. This is the most emotion we have seen yet from the youthful Toru.
I think he would like to go through life taking people as he finds them but I fear this may get him into trouble. When he first meets Midori, she asks him if he likes her hair. When he says ‘yes’ she asks, ‘you’re not lying are you?’ and he replies ‘I like to think of myself as an honest man.’ Later on that page he assures her ‘I’m just an ordinary guy. Like everybody else.’ But these are two quite different states.
The scene where he tries to reach on the phone Midori is troubling. On p. 54 he is told that she is at the hospital, but then when they get together she tells him that her mother died two years previous and her father ran off to Uruguay. And she doesn’t feel like discussing the hospital. Later on she admits that she manufactures information for her map-writing – what a contrast to Storm Trooper. I hope Toru becomes more discerning as the story unfolds. I wonder if she is as crazy as Naoko – the result of having a mother who is either sick or dead, and a father who rejected her and abandoned her. If any of her story is true. All she admits to is having a ‘cold streak.’ p. 76
Midori herself discusses honesty – she tells Toru, ‘I’m not trying to be different. But when I speak out honestly, everybody thinks I’m kidding or playacting.’
This however is nothing compared to Naoko’s thoughts on the subject. In her letter she writes at length about honesty, asking is ‘fair’ the same as ‘honest’. She seems to think so, using the words ‘fair, honest and universally true’ as synonyms. I am not sure that this is the case. Fair can mean simply balanced, as in treating two people the same. Honest and true are perhaps more synonymous.
I thought the discussion of death on p. 77 had some bearing on Toru’s earlier thoughts. Here we have Midori deploring the kind of death that devolves into endless pain and suffering, ‘the shadow of death slowly eating away at the region of life.’ Toru has earlier talked about how he now sees death in life, but he is not ill, there is no disease or pathology. In contrast we have Kizuki’s death. He precedes his suicide by winning at pool because ‘he didn’t want to lose today,’ and then methodically controls the end of his life.
I was waiting for a picture of Tokyo to emerge and was not disappointed! In this section there are great descriptions of schools, restaurants, Midori’s family’s store and apartment, and especially Toru’s trip by public transit to get to her place. I also like the descriptions of the trip to visit Naoko. The author makes it sound so remote – forests, mountains country scenes, and then we learn it is 40 minutes out of Tokyo! Fascinating.

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