Haruki Murakami – 1Q84, volume II

The character and concept chart as revised for volume II is posted below.  In addition to the concepts outlined therein, I have two major points to discuss about this middle section.

The first involves something of a trope I’ve observed in a number of works of fiction, namely the idea that people choose to die as they grow old.  In 1Q84, the doctor caring for Tengo’s father speaks of growing old, past the age of 7o specifically, as a process of deciding when to stop living, and Tengo takes this assumption as granted.  I’ve seen this idea elsewhere, including in a rambling lecture for a completely useless Anthropology class.  (Don’t take that as a shot at Anthropology; this class was useless because the lecturer had evidently given up on being a professor and abruptly retired after two or three lectures, giving everyone unearned A’s.)

As a person who has been sick (though not at a life-threatening level), and has watched older people lapse into unconsciousness and eventually die, I have a hard time accepting this.  Murakami takes the common stand that people have the sense of unfinished duties or business that they have to see accomplished before they can die.  It’s kind of a romantic idea: the old man hangs on just a few hours longer, long enough to tell his grandson about the hidden will he’s left.  And, this news delivered, he lies back, contentedly passing on, his use fulfilled.

This bothers me because A. it’s hard to accept or imagine happening in real life, and B. it’s utilitarian to think of humans as a conduit for duty.  Isn’t the very phenomenon of life meaningful enough, without imagining that people are put on this Earth to complete some great task?

Writers like the idea of being able to hold on until an arbitrary “finish” line because they like the idea of control over fate that they get from moving characters around on a board.  Furthermore, to a person who gets to close a story with a perfect ending on a regular basis, real life’s often abrupt ending can be frightening, with its loose ends and frayed edges.

The second point is the fluctuating binary set up between Aomame and Tengo in the second volume.  They have begun thinking of the other in earnest now, even thinking of the other with their name—not “the Society of Witnesses girl” or “the boy from 3rd and 4th grade”—,  have explicitly begun to seek each other out, and even have come *holds up nearly-pinched fingers* this close to being reunited.  The last chapters end somewhat ambiguously, with the two characters’ arcs, which have been converging for the novel’s duration, radically veering apart, with Aomame and Tengo choosing entirely different answers when faced with the questionShall I go on?

As for the layout of the chart, I removed the connections between related concepts because it was an impossible-to-follow mess and consolidated the colors to the two sides of the title.  As for arrow connections, regular blue is a normal connection, either connecting two related ideas or characters (as before) or identifying the figure a metaphor is discussing.  Black arrows connect two characters that could be the same person (as discussed separately in the two halves of the book); red arrows connect two characters that are the same person.

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