What is life? What is death? What about life is so different from death? These questions come up a lot in the story of Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami. Set place during the 1900’s in Hamburg Germany, Tory Watanabe is a 37-year old man who recalls his past through the whole story.
After that brief introduction, the book time shifts back to the 1960’s where Toru Watanabe was in his blossoming years and he was trying to figure out just everything basically that he feels he doesn't know too well of. It is revealed early in the story that Watanabe, his classmate Kizuki, and Kizuki's girlfriend Naoko are best friends. Kizuki and Naoko seem rather closer to each other but Watanabe just happily accept the fact that they might truly be soulmates. However, it is also revealed quite early in the novel that this tranquility is shattered when Kizuki commits suicide on his 17th birthday, touching both friends deeply. From then on, there are just more and more drama that goes on in the story like Watanabe and girlfriend of dead Kizumi Naoko sleeping together as a sort of rebound from the tragedy that struck them.
In the novel, Norwegian Wood, two themes that are shown and addressed throughout the entirety of this novel is the point of life and death; and loneliness and isolation . In my opinion, I feel like these two themes are the two most important themes in this book, and the reason being is that these two are constantly reminded throughout the whole story. Not only are they portrayed in the book multiple times, but also they bounce off of each other to form even greater themes.
First off, Death and Loss. Watanabe is around death almost all the time in the novel. Starting off with Kizuki’s death, he feels depressed and grieves for quite some time. But the worst part is that that is not the only death that occurs around Watanabe. Watanabe feels like it's hard to get over the death of one of his best friends, and it leads him to be a bit out of his normal state. Making him do things he wouldn't usually do and stuff. This sounds way more harsh than what actually happens but it's still a result of grief so, yeah. The. After a few months, he is alerted that Naoko has killed herself during her stay at the sanatorium. This leads to the second wave of Watanabe’s emotional destruction. However, thanks to Midori, he gets over the loss without too much trouble as he realizes that his love for her was stronger than the grief that he has been through.
Second off, the characters’ emotional stability causes isolation and alienation. After Naomi and Watanabe sleep together, Naoko feels vulnerable and goes to a sanitarium, leaving both her and Watanabe lonely and isolated. Naomi feels alone because she feels she has no one that is especially for her and feels she has no one to turn to. Watanabe feels alone because the one person he thought was the only person he would love this much left him to go to a mental hospital. Later in the novel, Watanabe develops feelings for fellow drama student, Midori. However due to lack of consideration towards her and lingering feelings for Naoko, he alienates her from his life. Which obviously didn't work out once he realized his feelings for her and went back to her.
In Norwegian Wood, Isolation and loneliness is the very result of the deaths in the novel. It's not just one death in the novel, but there are a few and it really sets off the characters’ loneliness and feeling of rejection. Due to Kizuki’s death, Watanabe and Naoko cannot cope well with it leading to some reckless decisions, which results in just more isolation, as they are lonely after death but Naoko leaving to the sanitarium isolates the two even further. Due to the death of her boyfriend and feeling alone in the sanatorium, her emotionally stability crippled even further, leading her to her suicide. Her suicide then leading to Watanabe becoming so torn apart as it was his third time fully feeling alone.
Curious as to how the book concludes? Well then, I will gladly recommend this novel to you. It is quite short at 296 total pages but each page offers so much detail that it feels like a 500 page novel. If you have any questions, feel free to comment then below!