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The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
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Archived 2014 Group Reads > The Wind-up Bird Chronicle by H. Murakami, Book III, Chapters 30-39. THE END

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message 1: by Zulfiya (last edited May 07, 2014 08:49PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Zulfiya (ztrotter) This is the final thread to discuss this wonderfully weird and weirdly wonderful novel.

The questions are twofold. Some of them are specific about the plot and characters in the final chapters and some of them are general questions.

Feel free to post your ideas freely and answer the questions only if they help you to form an opinion or give a certain vector to your thoughts.

1. Was Toru's dream the battlefield of Good vs. Bad?

2. How did Noboru Wataya 'contaminate' Kumiko and Creta Kano?

3. Toru seems to be surrounded by people with supernatural abilities, even Kumiko seems to develop some of them during her pregnancy, again, according to Toru's dreams. Is he also endowed with the same abilities, but so far he has not realized it?

4. Lt. Mamiya's story is nearly an example of Greek Tragedy about Fate. There are also numerous allusions to European culture: music, books, even the quotation from John Donne that no man is an island (meaning that we are all inseparably connected as human beings and one's tragedy is also yours because we are all members of the same community. The line form the same poem was borrowed by Hemingway as a title for his novel For Whom the Bell Tolls) Does it mean that the novel is more European than Japanese?

Does it also mean that there are connections - invisible gossamer threads between people and between past and present?

5. Is the novel unique in its style or does it have some Joycean or Kafkaesque elements as well?

6. Is it essentially the quest to find and understand oneself?

7. How do you define the term 'The Wind up Bird'?

P.S.

I will be travelling this week extensively (across the Atlantic ocean with multiple flights to catch, so I will also try to post two threads for Les Mis tomorrow)

And if I am silent, it means that I am somewhere in the air.


message 2: by Linda (new) - added it

Linda | 1307 comments I just finished. All I've got to say at this point is that I hope John's four page google document helps me understand this book much more than I do at this moment. :)

More later - I need to some time to think about the questions and the book overall.


message 3: by John (last edited May 08, 2014 06:25AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

John (johnred) | 364 comments Oh hi! OK, here are my rough ideas/theories about the book...although I warn you it's probably got as many questions as answers :)

(let me know if that link doesn't work, I have never linked to a document before)

My questions:

1. Does everyone agree that the book had a happy ending, or sad? I feel like it's kind of "bittersweet" happy -- that is to say, the characters have survived the ordeal but with a lot of battle scars. They are worn and weary. I couldn't help comparing this again to 1Q84, where the characters also went through terrible ordeals, (view spoiler) (spoiler is for the end of 1Q84)

2. When Toru beat the figure in the dark, then wanted to shine his light on it, the Woman begged him not to. If he had, would he have seen Noboru? I have heard from several people who feel that Noboru was a reflection of Toru himself. Would he have seen his own face? This is one aspect that I remain very unsure about.

3. What do you think about the "wrap-up" scene with May at the duck pond? I was glad to have a little closure there, but at the same time the scene felt a little out of place somehow. Although I am loath to complain about any scene with May, I loved her :)

I've never read Joyce, but I can definitely see Kafkaesque elements here. Murakami seems to wear his influences on his sleeve and there are a lot of noir/nightmare-reality elements happening here... Although in the end there seemed to be some redemption for the characters, which I'm not sure is common in Kafka?


message 4: by Linda (new) - added it

Linda | 1307 comments John wrote: "3. What do you think about the "wrap-up" scene with May at the duck pond? I was glad to have a little closure there, but at the same time the scene felt a little out of place somehow. Although I am loath to complain about any scene with May, I loved her :)"

Yeah, I also felt the scene felt a bit "wrong", like it didn't fit with the rest of the book somehow. I don't know if it was something about their interactions or the setting or what, but it felt like too happy of a final meeting, a scene I would have expected from a different type of book.


message 5: by Linda (new) - added it

Linda | 1307 comments John wrote: "2. When Toru beat the figure in the dark, then wanted to shine his light on it, the Woman begged him not to. If he had, would he have seen Noboru? I have heard from several people who feel that Noboru was a reflection of Toru himself. Would he have seen his own face? This is one aspect that I remain very unsure about."

I had not thought of the possibility of Noboru being a reflection of Toru, that is interesting. But during this scene, I really thought that Toru was going to discover that he was fighting himself - that there were two Torus, himself from the other reality, and this one in the dreamlike reality, especially when he said that the other man also had a penlight just like he did.


message 6: by Linda (new) - added it

Linda | 1307 comments John wrote: "Oh hi! OK, here are my rough ideas/theories about the book...although I warn you it's probably got as many questions as answers :)

(let me know if that link doesn't work, I have never linked to a document before)"


Thanks John! The link did work, I will take some time to read it over. :)


message 7: by Linda (new) - added it

Linda | 1307 comments John wrote: "1. Does everyone agree that the book had a happy ending, or sad?"

I definitely did not feel like this was a happy ending, but I'm not sure what it was. It seems that Toru is now ready to be again waiting for Kumiko to return (now from prison), and still he has no job and has no need to get one right away since the sale of the Residence will give him enough money to live on for awhile. At least the cat is back and he knows where Kumiko is, and maybe now he will take more action in his life.

I was struck by how May has done a lot of thinking about what she wants to do with her life (in her well at the wig factory, as Anna, I think, pointed out). But Toru mentioned how he had never thought much about his future, that he figured it would just sort of work out for itself, but of course things did not work out. He had his "well experience" much later in life, so perhaps now he will be more proactive.


Anna Moore (ihad2muchcoffee) John wrote: "I've never read Joyce, but I can definitely see Kafkaesque elements here. "

I haven't read Joyce either but I have read some Kafka. I think one Kafka element that stands out the most is the characters' isolation. Also the struggle against the "establishment."


Anna Moore (ihad2muchcoffee) Linda wrote: "John wrote: "3. What do you think about the "wrap-up" scene with May at the duck pond? I was glad to have a little closure there, but at the same time the scene felt a little out of place somehow. ..."

It's also interesting that Toru said he did not receive any of May's letters. I thought he was kidding at first but thinking back, he always commented on recognizing and describing Kumiko's and Lt Mamiya's handwriting when he received their letters.


message 10: by Anna (new) - rated it 5 stars

Anna Moore (ihad2muchcoffee) John wrote: "I've never read Joyce, but I can definitely see Kafkaesque elements here. "

I haven't read Joyce either but I have read some Kafka. I think one Kafka element that stands out the most is the characters' isolation. Also the struggle against the "establishment."


message 11: by Linda (new) - added it

Linda | 1307 comments Anna wrote: "It's also interesting that Toru said he did not receive any of May's letters."

I remember she said in one of her letters that it was easier to write if she was writing "to someone", and it seemed as if the letters were her way of working out what was going on in her head - why she was at the factory, what she was going to do after that, etc. So they weren't REALLY intended for Toru to read, but they acted more as a diary for herself. So perhaps the letters were not sent in the first place? Or she thought she sent them, but really didn't.


message 12: by Anna (new) - rated it 5 stars

Anna Moore (ihad2muchcoffee) #4.: I gave the question whether the novel was more European/Western or Japanese. I read John's analysis and his overall impression is the book is about suffering and whether or not one can overcome his or her suffering. Taken in this context, I'd say the novel is more Japanese based on the Buddhist philosophy--life is suffering, it includes pain, getting old, disease--elements we can associate with the the characters in the story.

Zen Buddhism centers on meditation, being yourself in harmony with the way things are in the universe (the flow?), overcoming the ego to achieve enlightenment.

When Lt. Mamiya is in the well in Mongolia he has an experience seeing a shape in the bright light and is distressed because he can't make out exactly what the shape is. A westerner (or Christian) would believe the shape is Jesus (Jesus is the light) and would give praise to God for sending Honda to save him. His life from then on would have been a lot different under western philosophy.

Zulfiya's observations referring to European literature, music and Donne's quote does support a good case the novel could be about the human connection and fate. Zulfiya asked us to define the ternm "Wind-up Bird" and the first thing I thought of was "omen," which can be defined as something that foretells the future or the advent of change.

Either way, Murakami is brilliant. He can weave many different elements (philosophy, realism, surrealism, grotesqueness, horror, humor, beauty, ugliness, sex, etc.) into his story and create a truly unique and engrossing tale people from different walks of life can relate to and appreciate.


message 13: by Linda (new) - added it

Linda | 1307 comments John, I really liked your analysis. How the theme is of suffering and learning to accept this as a part of life that we must learn to overcome.

The Wind-Up Bird representing tension and resisting the "flow" is nice. Hearing the wind-up bird is a sign that you are not going with the flow. And it's interesting that May never hears this, and is comfortable talking about death and other uncomfortable issues.

I especially liked your analysis of the cat representing Kumiko's self-love, and why and when he disappears and returns.

You've definitely given me more to think about!


message 14: by Anna (new) - rated it 5 stars

Anna Moore (ihad2muchcoffee) Linda wrote: " it seemed as if the letters were her way of working out what was going on in her head - "

That makes good sense. :)


message 15: by Anna (new) - rated it 5 stars

Anna Moore (ihad2muchcoffee) Linda wrote: "John wrote: "1. Does everyone agree that the book had a happy ending, or sad?"

I definitely did not feel like this was a happy ending, but I'm not sure what it was..."


Murakami doesn't seem to like to tie up all of the loose ends, that's for sure! I can't say the ending was happy, but I do feel relieved and hopeful, you know what I mean? When Noboru Wataya died it seems like the rest of the characters found peace.


message 16: by Linda (new) - added it

Linda | 1307 comments Anna wrote: "I can't say the ending was happy, but I do feel relieved and hopeful, you know what I mean? When Noboru Wataya died it seems like the rest of the characters found peace. "

Yeah, definitely.


Zulfiya (ztrotter) Let me comment on the Joycean idea in writing. The Ulysses is possibly his most famous book, and its narrative structure is characterized by fragmentation, segmentation, different viewpoints, no explanations for certain mysteries in the plot, different sub-genre in the narrative (letters, newspaper articles, diaries, instructions, etc) and of course, stream of consciousness. In that aspect, I think indeed, this book reminds me of Joyce.

And as many of you mentioned here, the absurdity of existence, the no-way out feeling, the multiple labyrinthine buildings - all these are similar to Kafka and his style, so as John mentioned here, Murakami indeed wears his literary influences on his sleeve.

By the way, John, I do really like your notes. They are very insightful. I also suspect that the novel is the desire to find oneself, and Toru as well as Kumiko are confronted by their other selves throughout the novel.


Zulfiya (ztrotter) Anna wrote: " the first thing I thought of was "omen," which can be defined as something that foretells the future or the advent of change."

I also think it is the omen for certain changes, but it is true that such changes will make you go against the flow. So in that aspect, everyone is right.

As you said, Murakami comes from a different culture, and the philosophy of Zen-Buddhism permeates the fabric of his novels.
One of the tenets of Buddhism is that knowledge often brings suffering, and maybe trying to relieve our sufferings, some of the answers are not provided, but yes, Toru's desire to find a cat, Kumiko, the mysterious woman who turned out to be Kumiko, Mamiya's desire to find answers, Toru's desires to find answers, all their attempts are either thwarted or the answers are quite painful, and bring sufferings to the ones who acquire knowledge. On the other hand, many characters are on the road of self-discover, the hidden truth about themselves that they subconsciously knew but are either unwilling to accept or blissfully unaware of this knowledge.

Overall, a thought-provoking novel with the European elements and strong Eastern philosophy as foundations for this unique book.


Deana (ablotial) 3. Toru seems to be surrounded by people with supernatural abilities, even Kumiko seems to develop some of them during her pregnancy, again, according to Toru's dreams. Is he also endowed with the same abilities, but so far he has not realized it?

I believe Toru did have the ability for some sort of supernatural powers, after all, Nutmeg had tapped him to take her place in her very strange job. However, I think that when the mark disappeared from Toru's place, he lost this ability.


Deana (ablotial) Question: so does anyone/everyone think that the Woman in the hotel room at the end of the book was the same Woman who was calling Toru for phone sex at the beginning of the book? It was never explicitly stated who she was, I think. In which case, was it Kumiko calling for phone sex in the first place, maybe trying to give him a hint of what was to come, and she'd just changed her voice so that he didn't recognize?


Deana (ablotial) And answers to other questions.

I believe that if Toru had shone the light on the man he beat with the baseball bad in the hotel room, he would see himself.

And I do not see this as a happy ending. Everything is all messed up. Toru and Kumiko can never go back to the life they shared before.


Zulfiya (ztrotter) I agree - it is Toru's assumption that the woman is Kumiko, and we all tend to believe that it is so based on his emotions and experience. There are hardly definitive answers in the novel for many questions. because Murakami uses the first person narrative, many of our conclusions are based on Toru's conclusions, and as we have learned, he is not the most insightful person in the book.:-)


message 23: by Linda (new) - added it

Linda | 1307 comments I really enjoyed this novel, and especially reading everyone's interpretations. I would not have gotten nearly as much out of this book if I had read it on my own.


Deana (ablotial) Zulfiya - that is not quite the question I was asking though. I agree with Toru that the woman in the hotel room was Kumiko, especially since events that took place there directly affected the 'real world' (if there is such a thing in this book). However, is this the same woman who called him for phone sex in the beginning? If not, who would it have been? Malta? creta? nutmeg? my only reason for thinking it was this hotel room woman is because the phone sex woman kept insisting that he knows her, and he hadn't meet any of those other women yet... but of course he had met Kumiko.


message 25: by Linda (new) - added it

Linda | 1307 comments I am leaning towards the woman on the phone being Kumiko, Deana, for the same reasons that you state. Since Toru had not yet met Malta, Creta, May, or Nutmeg when the first phone call occurred, the only other woman that we (the reader) knows that Toru knows is Kumiko.


message 26: by John (new) - rated it 5 stars

John (johnred) | 364 comments Linda wrote: "the only other woman that we (the reader) knows that Toru knows is Kumiko."

I agree that Phone Sex Woman was the Hotel Woman, who was an aspect/manifestation of Kumiko.

However to play devil's advocate -- what about the woman who Toru spent the night holding in the past? She would fit the bill as well. In fact, I don't remember any discussion of that particular episode, I wonder if it signifies anything beyond a general step in the deterioration of Kumiko's psyche (and their marriage)?


message 27: by Linda (new) - added it

Linda | 1307 comments John wrote: "what about the woman who Toru spent the night holding in the past?"

Oh yeah, I forgot about her. You're right, we didn't talk about her role very much, if at all.


message 28: by Sera (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sera I believe that Lt. Mamiya's story is actually related more to Kumiko than Toru. His inability to kill the evil man from his past results in future cursed life. Similarly, I feel that if Kumiko didn't kill NW, then she would have led a future cursed life as well - having the same inability to love or to be loved as Mamiya. It's the killing of NW that frees her. Therefore, I see Mamiya's story as support for Kumiko's later decision to kill her brother.

I don't know whether one can say that the story had a happy ending, but I did feel that Toru and Kumiko would be able to start over with their relationship without all of the baggage that it had previously. Getting a second chance is at least a positive outcome to me.


message 29: by John (new) - rated it 5 stars

John (johnred) | 364 comments Sera wrote: "I believe that Lt. Mamiya's story is actually related more to Kumiko than Toru. His inability to kill the evil man from his past results in future cursed life. Similarly, I feel that if Kumiko didn't kill NW, then she would have led a future cursed life as well"

Great observation!


message 30: by Linda (new) - added it

Linda | 1307 comments Sera wrote: "I believe that Lt. Mamiya's story is actually related more to Kumiko than Toru. His inability to kill the evil man from his past results in future cursed life. Similarly, I feel that if Kumiko di..."

I like your interpretation here!


message 31: by Sera (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sera Thank you both!


Zulfiya (ztrotter) Indeed, Sera, a very good and well-grounded point - a world that has your alter egos that express your hidden ambitions, desires, or projections of one's personality in different personae.


message 33: by Sera (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sera Thanks, Zulfiya.

I was also thinking this morning that changing the name of the cat from NW to Mackerel is another example of removing NW's presence from the lives of Toru and Kumiko. Looking back now, I think that it may have been a form of foreshadowing on the author's part.


message 34: by Deana (last edited May 14, 2014 09:00PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Deana (ablotial) Good thought about the cats name change. I have to agree about the possible foreshadowing there.

I think this book was a little too weird for me. There were a lot of great one-off quotes, but there are so many unanswered questions and there are many scenes and symbols that I still do not understand their meanings. I felt the same way about 1q84. I loved the adventure of reading with all of you and bouncing thoughts and ideas off each other... this book probably would have gone unfinished otherwise... this will probably be my last Murakami.


message 35: by John (last edited May 15, 2014 08:05AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

John (johnred) | 364 comments Deana, I can definitely understand where you're coming from there -- but if you ever feel inclined to give HM another try, I know some of his earlier works, like Hard-Boiled Wonderland and Norwegian Wood, are much more straightforward & less heavy on the symbolism and enigmas.


Deana (ablotial) Thanks, John. I'll keep that in mind. I know a lot of people love his books. I actually had a lot of fun reading this one with the group, but it would have been a completely different experience reading on my own. Maybe someday I'll do a buddy read on one of those earlier novels :)


Alana (alanasbooks) | 456 comments I still honestly don't know how I feel about the book. I know I enjoyed reading it, right up through the end. There were so many neat odds and ends that he created, and he weaves such poetry in his words. But I kind of felt unfulfilled by the ending, because I didn't really understand it. But I also can't help but wondering if that's the point?


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