I guess I don't really understand you yet…I'm not all that smart. It take me a while to understand things. But if I do have the time, I will come to understand you—better than anyone else in the world ever can.
Toru remembers telling this to Naoko while the two walked in the meadows. For him the essence of his love is his attempt to understand Naoko and her pain, because their shared loss of Kizuki is what primarily binds them together. As he tells her later on, he is intensely optimistic and so is able to promise her very simply (but wholeheartedly) that, with his help, she can overcome her problems.
2. Death exists, not as the opposite but as a part of life.
After the death of Kizuki, his one true friend, Toru and Naoko find themselves alienated from life and decide to move away from Kobe to Tokyo in order to be somewhere where they do not know anyone. However, their attempted escape from the fact of death only leads them back to each other and the eventual realization that such personal tragedies as the one they experienced happen to everyone and make up the very experience of living.
I was always hungry for love. Just once, I wanted to know what it was like to get my fill of it—to be fed so much love I couldn't take it any more. Just once.
When she invites Toru to her house, Midori tells Toru about how she wasn't loved as a child by her parents, who somewhat paradoxically were bound together by an extremely intimate kind of love. Expressing this wish to Toru, she longs to experience that kind of supremely selfish love and begins to realize that he may be able to share it with her.
As long as we are here, we can get by without hurting others or being hurt by them because we know that we are "deformed." That's what distinguishes us from the outside world: most people go about their lives there unconscious of their deformities, while in this little world of ours the deformities themselves are a precondition.
When Toru first visits Ami Hostel, Reiko explains to him how in their special, self-enclosed world, patients and doctors alike live in complete honesty with each other, neither concealing their own deformities nor ignoring the deformities of others. However, this is not to say that only people at the sanatorium have deformities: it is a far more universal and existential condition that is simply brought into the open there, whereas it is repressed in general society.
The dead will always be dead, but we have to go on living.
Naoko realizes this hard truth: despite her extraordinarily close relationship with Kizuki, his death has transported him into a different world with which she, as one of the living, can no longer maintain any connection. Despite her longing to be with him, the fact of their separation means that she must choose to live, which is what she does by being with Toru.
Because we would have had to pay the world back what we owed it…the pain of growing up.
Naoko tells Toru about how she and Kizuki grew up together like children on a desert island, insulated from all the growing pains of childhood and adolescence. Providing everything for each other—most importantly intimacy—they took each other for granted. Out of the "fairness" that Naoko is ever aware of later on, she predicts that, had Kizuki continued to live, she and he would have had to experience unhappiness.
To hell with your fucking system!
Hurt and enraged by Nagasawa's self-satisfied and callous talk of his "system" of living, Hatsumi explodes at him during the dinner they have with Toru. Toru notes that this was the only time he ever saw her yell. In a sense, this presages her later suicide, as it demonstrates Hatsumi's vulnerable interior, which one might not expect given her well-composed exterior.
Hey, there, Kizuki, I thought. Unlike you, I've chosen to live—and to live the best I know…I'm going to mature. I'm going to be an adult. Because that's what I have to do. I always used to think I'd like to stay seventeen or eighteen if I could. But not anymore. I'm not a teenager any more. I've got a sense of responsibility now. I'm not the same guy I was when we used to hang out together. I'm twenty now. And I have to pay the price to go on living.
There are several times when Toru talks to Kizuki as though the two were chatting or as though he were writing a letter to him. Even though he usually writes letters to Naoko, Midori, or Reiko, Kizuki's presence is always felt throughout the novel, and for Toru he seems to have been frozen in time at seventeen years old. However, Toru recognizes that, since as a living person he lives in time, he must follow time’s constant flowing forwards and grow up instead of dwelling in the fixed past. His love for Midori represents the love corresponding to this way of living, as opposed to his love for the otherworldly Naoko.
O.K. I'll wait! I believe in you…But when you take me, you take only me. And when you hold me in your arms, you think only about me. Is that clear?
After Toru and Midori reunite following the two months Midori ignored him for his ignoring her hairstyle change, they kiss and become aware of the love between them. However, Toru still has an attachment to Naoko, so he asks Midori to wait for him to figure things out. Similarly to how Hatsumi decided to wait for Nagasawa, Midori decides to wait for Toru. However, whereas Hatsumi almost knows for certain that Nagasawa will never care for her, Midori has faith in Toru's sincerity, that the love they felt together then had to come to some fruition eventually.
We were alive, she and I. And all we had to think about was continuing to live.
Kissing Reiko goodbye at the train station at the end of the novel, Toru no longer cares about the stares of people nearby. He is caught up in the joy of being alive, which he feels especially intensely with Reiko, who, like him, is a survivor of Naoko's suicide.
Norwegian Wood Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Norwegian Wood is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.