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Norwegian Wood

English ISU
by

Raluca Petria

on 11 June 2014

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Transcript of Norwegian Wood

Central Issues and Topics
Characters
Basic Information
Connections
Enjoyment of Novel
Overall rating - 9/10
Norwegian Wood
Intended Audience
Main Theme
Death is a part of life that must be embraced, otherwise one's emotional stability is crippled.
Title - Norwegian Wood
Author - Haruki Murakami
Year - 1987
Country - Japan
Haruki Murakami
Brief Summary
About the Author
Born in Kyoto, Japan, 1949, currently living in Tokyo
Author of many fiction and nonfiction bestsellers
Dance Dance Dance
Kafka on the Shore
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles
1Q84
Norwegian Wood
Japan's most famous contemporary writer
Recipient of numerous prestigious literary awards
Noma Literary Prize (1982)
Yomiuri Prize (1995)
Franz Kafka Prize (2006)
Nobel Prize in Literature (speculated)

Main Characters
Toru Watanabe
Protagonist and first-person narrator
Average university student
Majoring in drama, interested in Western literature
Appearance:
Average height/weight
Short black hair
Dark eyes
Special way with words (not eloquent)
Very observant but not perceptive
Kind, devoted, willing to sacrifice a lot
Quiet and introverted
Apathetic and very lonely
Naoko
First love interest to Toru
Described as beautiful
Long, straight, black hair
Lovely ears and dark eyes
Curvy, soft and smooth skin
Former university student, quits to go to an isolated sanatorium
Emotionally unstable
Extremely quiet and introverted
Serious depression
Gentle and fragile
Can't communicate properly due to mental illness
Incapable of feeling love or physical attraction/arousal
Midori Kobayashi
Second love interest to Toru
Also described as beautiful
Short, straight, black hair
Dark eyes, slim
Wears sunglasses all the time
University student at school with Toru
Loud and exuberant
Talks a lot, usually about inappropriate things
Crazy, disorganized, all over the place
Craves love and affection
Holds grudges
Emotionally strong
Loneliness, Isolation, Communication
Isolation and loneliness pervade in all the characters' lives to some extent
Inability to communicate and isolation create positive feedback loop with negative consequences which ultimately cripple emotional stability
Love, Sexuality, Intimacy
Need for intimacy and exploration of sexuality as a result of isolation
Incapability to feel love or experience physical arousal
Love can't always save someone
Death, Loss, Grief
Focus not on the mind of someone about to commit suicide but rather on the long-term effects of suicide on others
Ability to deal with the loss of a loved one
Death is a part of life that everyone must face eventually

Memories and Nostalgia
Introspective look at youth and college years
Memories and nostalgia contributing to suicide
Memories are a trigger for the events of the book
Evidence
Quote #1
Quote #2
Quote #3
Quote from Toru
Realizes this after Kizuki's death, when he feels the first real blow of pain in his life in losing his best and only friend
Quote from Toru
After Naoko's death, when he finally comes to understand the previous quote
Quote from Naoko
Said after her older sister's suicide, when she finds her older sister's body
She was just a child, very impressionable
The death had an even greater impact on her emotional stability
37 year-old Toru Watanabe recounting the events of his college days
Best friend committed suicide at age 17, leaving behind his girlfriend
Death severely impacts both of them
Naoko and Toru reunite a year later, grow closer, Toru loves Naoko
Naoko feels mentally ill and retreats to an isolated sanatorium
Toru meets and grows closer to Midori in Tokyo
Midori falls for Toru; Toru visits Naoko twice over the course of the year
Toru falls in love with Midori but can't be with her
Naoko grows more and more ill, spirals out of control
Naoko commits suicide, temporarily crippling Toru
Toru leaves for a few months, then comes back to be with Midori

Translation from Japanese
2 translations exist, of which I've read the author-approved newer version
Older version is simpler, newer version is more sophisticated and has higher-level language

American vs. Japanese audience
Extensive pop culture references
Suggested that Murakami purposefully tried to Americanize the novel
3 target audiences:
Japanese teens and adults (original)
Japanese students learning English (1st translation)
American and English-speaking teens and adults (2nd translation)
Due to content matter, not suitable for children
Sex and sexuality
Death
Depression
Alcohol
No specific age or gender demographics

Film
Movie adaptation of the novel
Year: 2010
Director: Anh Hung Tran
Featured at Toronto Film Festival
Starring: Kenichi Matsuyama, Shigesato Itoi, and Rinko Kuchiki
Personal Life
Coming of age novel
Deals with very real, relevant issues (love, isolation, death, depression, etc.)
College experience
Part of what makes the novel so enjoyable
Literature
The Great Gatsby
Both Toru and Gatsby are in love with the idea of love
Girls that they love can't love them back
Toru realizes his mistake - for Gatsby, it's too late
Romeo and Juliet
Main theme of suicide in both works
Inability of main couples to deal with pain and loss of death
Too late for Romeo and Juliet, but Toru manages to same himself

Writing Style
Tone
Plot Development
Character Development
Translation - can get overly detailed
Descriptive and emotive
Paints a picture in your head
Interesting plot twists
General tone of nostalgia and loneliness prevails
First person bias - Toru's emotions influence style
Toru still seems sad and lonely, even recounting 20 years in the future
Seems to want to go back
Interesting character development
Toru
Idea of love changes
Loss of innocence
Acceptance of death
Discovery of inner strength
Naoko
Depression and isolation
Loss of communication
Downwards spiral to ultimate death
Well developed and unique plot
Not an overly complex story but interesting nonetheless
Gripping, keeps you engaged
Great use of setting and allusions
1960's music, esp. The Beatles
Western literature
Western film and actors

Thanks for
watching!
Full transcript