Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Norwegian Wood Week 4

I have been thinking about two pairs of characters this week: Toru and Nagasawa, and Naoko and Midori. I was reminded of my first year philosophy class and although I don’t remember enough to attach names to the various thinkers we studied, I am going to use the word “intent.”
In the book we think of Nagasawa and Toru as two very different kinds of people. Nagasawa seems like a bit of jerk and Toru is quiet and nice. However when we look at some of their actions they are exactly the same, ie. going out drinking, picking up girls and sleeping with them, while supposedly committed to a single woman. Nagasawa expresses intent while Toru always just seems to be going along for something to do, but it is essentially the same sort of aimless amoral behaviour. On p. 208, Nagasawa actually says, “We’re a lot alike, Watanabe and I,” and I feel this is true. Yet we perceive Toru as the “better” of the two men.
I feel that Naoko and Midori are also flip sides of the same coin, but again our perceptions or evaluations of the two are different. They are both crazy, but Naoko has retreated to the hostel while Midori is out there in the world dealing with matters from day to day. She is presented as a bit wild and maybe promiscuous with all her porn talk, although so far she has not acted on this, while Naoko is leading a “better” more ascetic life. I began to question my judgments of these characters based on their “intent” rather than their actions. Maybe if we look at just the actions, we see that Nagasawa and Midori are just more honest and engaged with the real world than their more passive counterparts.
I was also happy to find out that Toru becomes a journalist, and this seems very apt. He has a profession in which the highest achievements come from eliminating one’s own voice, self and opinions, and accurately documenting the world.
Also too bad about Hatsumi. Has HM chosen a sub-set of Japanese characters who suffer from mental illness or despair or is the book supposed to be a commentary on Japanese society? Or the world in general? Do any of the suicides in this book have any commonalities? How about the survivors? I will think about this myself!

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