Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Norwegian Wood Week 3

One motif that repeats throughout this section is silence, versus noise. Toru seems hyper-conscious of the quiet at the sanitarium perhaps because the whole situation is so novel. He notices everything related to this, for example the absence of people walking around, the curtains drawn, etc. On p. 102 he talks of steeping himself in the silence, which then brings memories of Kizuki to him. Then he experiences the dining hall; there are people, but they are quiet and subdued in their conversations. He is “surprised to find himself missing the buzz of people. He wanted to hear people laughing and shouting for no reason, and saying overblown things.” He says he can’t relax in the quiet.
Yet he sleeps so soundly on Naoki’s couch. It is as though he is at peace in these surroundings.
This seems quite Canadian in a 21st century way. Most people have to go out of their way to be with nature and experience “peace and quiet” literally. I think of all the cottagers and visitors who travel up our way to be able to sit by a lake with their phones and other distractions removed. They find this rejuvenating and seek it out whenever they can. I know that when my son and I lived in Toronto we certainly did this, taking off regularly to go camping. I still remember how my ears would ring as I tried to fall asleep in the silence.
It also reminds me of decisions I have made in my life, first to move north and secondly to pursue living in locations that have very little background noise, whether of traffic or appliance motors. However this is all relative. We chose not to offer to purchase my father-in-law’s place in Emsdale because of the hum from Highway 11… but my friends who live in town couldn’t hear it and couldn’t understand this!
I am also reminded of a friend who can’t fall asleep without noise of some kind – and runs a fan in her room constantly to provide it.
But back to the story… I think Toru is refreshed by the silence while finding it unnatural. At least he is questioning the setting and its role in the lives of the various inhabitants.

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