The Wind-up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami details the adventures of Toru Okada, an unemployed man living in Tokyo, Japan (extend?) Written after World War II, the novel explores the superficiality and the loss of individual identity resultant of the economic boom in that era. As Toru’s escapades lead him to exploring the nooks and crannies of Tokyo and meeting an ensemble of peculiar characters, Murakami draws the readers into the storyline and comments on Japanese society with his unique first-person narration and integrations of conventions of the hard-boiled detective genre.
Haruki Murakami’s fascination with western literary styles
Murakami employs the conventions of a hard-boiled detective novel in a novel that pinpoints the
The development of the hard-boiled detective genre is credited to Dashiel Hammett (Fisher) and is characterized by
Murakami’s deliberate homage to the hard-boiled detective style of writing is evidenced, firstly, in his choice of location. Hard-boiled detective fiction is often set in metropolises: urban centers bustling with blatant corruption, rampant superficiality, or other social immorality (Bird). This genre’s conventional metropolitan setting is used in the novel as a reflection or embodiment of Japanese society’s unscrupulousness, and the characters’ descriptions and the novel’s narration, a frame for the perspective of the author on the issues it represents. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is set in Tokyo, the capital of Japan, and the reader discovers the societal flaws Murakami pinpoints by peering at the storyline and the city through the eyes of Toru Okada. A character describes her surroundings as “totally empty”, as “fake” (Murakami 323).
Murakami parodies the narrative voice of the hard-boiled detective genre in order to paint a world that adheres to reality. Hamilton, in her study exploring the conventions of the hard-boiled detective genre, characterizes the style with “simple, stripped-down sentences”, and this short sentence structure was prominent throughout the entire novel. For instance, when describing Toru picking up the phone, Murakami writes, “This time it phone call was Kumiko. The wall clock said eleven-thirty. ‘How are you?’ she asked”(Murakami 7). The language is not excessively eloquent. Instead, adhering to the hard-boiled detective style, each sentence is clipped and straightforward, with a single subject and predicate. This provides an every-day life feel, an authenticity to the writing, binding the events of the novel to reality. Murakami employs the blunt authenticity of the conventional voice of the genre in order to portray an ordinary world readers easily recognize as a manifestation of their own, allowing clear parallels to be drawn from the social issues alluded to in the novel to reality.
A hard-boiled detective novel is also characterized by the comparable extensiveness of the descriptions of inanimate objects and those of characters (Hamilton). Murakami use of this conventional
The social immorality manifests itself in the physical surroundings and objects.
It must be noted that although The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle incorporates numerous conventional stylistic and literary devices of hard-boiled detective fiction, it deviates from the genre in one especially important way; it is not a detective story. Instead, it is a postmodern piece with intermingling conventions from various genres and texts. Whereas hard-boiled fiction is narrated from a singular perspective, the storyline, the quest of identity, of the novel is presented to the reader from multiple perspectives, with multiple text types. This intertextuality is evident in the adoption of various styles of Murakami’s writing, through the integration of chapters that reveal different characters’ perspectives or take the form of tabloids, or letters. From the jolting interjection of a chapter from the perspective of a young boy amid the first-person narration of Toru Okada (Murakami 357) to a chapter entirely dedicated to Setagaya, Tokyo: The Mystery of the Hanging House (Murakami 390), a tabloid article outlining the gossip surrounding the suicides linked to a local house, the multiplicity of voices present in the novel subverts the reader’s expectations
and allusions to parallels to Japanese folklore
(synopsis in relation to ‘borrowing’ from many genres and using them to subvert reader’s expectations .. intertextuality—multiciplicity of perspectives/voices, whereas detective fiction is all narrated from a singular perspective
Ambiguity present in both — detective novel is suspense whodunnit ambiguity
Uses the conventions of western literature to tell uniquely Japanese story?
Discuss Murakami’s influences and perhaps some of his own contexts à link to identity? (Fischer)
Whereas hard-boiled fiction also rejects the supernatural or surreal, Murakami uses this straightforward style to explore the power of a
magic realism detective fiction is grounded in reality bleed
Furthermore, Toru Okada also deviates from the conventional “detectives” that tend to star in hard-boiled detective fiction: a cigar smoking, borderline alcoholic cynic with a smart mouth (Bird). In fact, as well as quitting smoking, replacing that addiction with lemon drops (Murakami 14), throughout the novel, despite all his misfortunes, Toru stays optimistic. After reading the letter his wife writes him after leaving him, instead of drowning in self-pity, he thought that because she “was planning to institute divorce proceedings, that meant she had no intention of killing herself” and that “gave me him some relief” (Murakami 277). Later on, he told a friend he would “save” her
Literature is often a voice for social commentary