Norwegian Wood

Norwegian Wood Summary and Analysis of Chapter 3


Naoko calls Toru the Saturday after they first ran into each other (May 1968), and then on Sunday the two meet for another long aimless walk through Tokyo, always talking—but never about the past, and especially not about Kizuki. Toru is happy to be with Naoko, although he feels that she desires something he cannot provide; without any specific intentions, the two enter a custom where every week she calls him on Saturday and then walks with him on Sunday. In October of the same year Toru meets Nagasawa, a highly intelligent and impressive upperclassman living in the same dormitory, who introduces him to the practice of picking up girls at bars to sleep with. In November, Toru turns 19. In the winter, he begins working at a record store in Shinjuku.

On Naoko's 20th birthday in mid-April 1969, Toru brings a cake through the rain to her apartment, where the usually reticent Naoko becomes uncommonly talkative, going on for hours; however, Toru senses that something is wrong, and when late into the night he interrupts Naoko to say it is time for him to leave, she breaks down into violent sobbing. Sensing that she wants him to give her physical reprieve, Toru has sex with her and discovers to his surprise that she is a virgin. When he asks her why she hadn't slept with Kizuki, she begins crying again and seems lifeless by the time Toru reluctantly leaves her the next morning. A week later Toru revisits her apartment, but finds that she has moved; so, he writes a letter to her home in Kobe. At the end of May, the historic 1969 Tokyo student protests begin. In June, Toru pens Naoko another letter, and then he receives a reply from her in July, in which she writes that she has left school and entered a kind of sanatorium. At the end of the month, Storm Trooper gives Toru a firefly, which Toru tries to release from the roof of their dormitory. At first the bug is almost lifeless, but then it flies into the night sky.


Much of the novel is structured as the narrator's later introspections on the traumatic events of his past, these being such episodes as Kizuki's suicide, the night he sleeps with Naoko, and Naoko's suicide. A sensitive character with a painful past, Toru (and Naoko) cannot view memory as a neutral act. As Toru remarks on his second walking-date with Naoko: "We talked about whatever came to mind—our daily routines, our colleges; each a little fragment that led nowhere. We said nothing at all about the past. And mainly, we walked—and walked, and walked. Fortunately, Tokyo is such a big city, we could never have covered it all" (26).

Although the two have gained some distance from the shared tragedy of Kizuki's suicide by moving from Kobe to Tokyo and living through another year, neither space nor time has eradicated the sadness within each of their breasts, which Toru describes in his own case as a "hard kernel in my heart" which prevents him from loving and which he sees in Naoko as "a clarity [in her eyes] that had nowhere to go" (28). Having tried to forget and run away, neither has processed their grief, and in order to avoid confronting it they must continue trying to outpace it. The calls from Naoko that Toru awaits in his dormitory lobby on Sunday nights and the long walks that they go on every Sunday provide a seemingly stable structure to their lives, and the vast space of Tokyo suggests that this custom is sustainable; however, the coming trouble makes itself evident in Toru's dissatisfaction with his life and need to satiate his sexual drive by womanizing with Nagasawa.

Toru intimates that both he and Naoko might be drawn towards the other in a need for intimacy, but he also realizes that "My arm was not the one she needed, but the arm of someone else. My warmth was not what she needed, but the warmth of someone else" (28). That "someone else" is undoubtedly the dead Kizuki, who had while alive been the one link between Toru and Naoko and now, in a mysterious and tacit way, continues mediate between the two, such that even when Toru enters into a stable relationship with Naoko, he cannot but think of her as "my dead friend's girl" (29). Long before he actually sleeps with Naoko, Toru senses that she is trying unsuccessfully to say something to him. However, he is sensitive of the three-way relationship that they are still in with the absent Kizuki, and so he feels that he cannot move forward in the usual manner: "I wanted to hold her tight when she did these things, but I would hesitate and hold back. I was afraid I might hurt her if I did that. And so the two of us kept walking the streets of Tokyo, Naoko searching for words in space" (29).

At this time, Toru lives a very blank and seemingly meaningless life: he thinks, "I had no idea what I was doing or what I was going to do," "There was nothing I wanted to be", and constantly questions himself, "What did I want? And what did others want from me?" (29.) These two questions will prove to be of the utmost importance for the novel as a whole: his relationship with Naoko is very much a quest to figure out what she wants from him, and his calling Midori in the end demonstrates that it is Midori (or what she represents) that he wants.

The night of Naoko's birthday, when Toru has sex with her, she begins by talking a great deal, although as Toru realizes significantly, she still cannot broach the topic of Kizuki. As Toru had learned from their conversations while walking together, Naoko is often unable to express herself well in words and yet has something intensely important to get out; this he reads in the voiceless communication of her remarkably clear eyes. This phenomenon, both verbal and ocular, comes to a climax when the feeling, a need for intimacy bound up with her painful memories and her sexual desire, takes full possession of her, making her words fail completely and her eyes become clouded (39). It is in this state that she becomes open to Toru and he enters her; however, this becomes itself another trauma and is the only time that Naoko is able to have sex—she was painfully dry when Kizuki tried to have sex with her and the later times when Toru tries to have sex with her, despite the fact that she herself is willing in both cases.