Norwegian Wood

Norwegian Wood Summary and Analysis of Chapter 8


In the middle of the same week after his visit to Midori's dying father in the hospital, Toru cuts his palm open at work. After getting it bandaged, he goes to talk with Nagasawa, who invites him to dinner with him and his girlfriend Hatsumi on Saturday. The three eat at an expensive French restaurant, and the conversation appears to go nicely until Nagasawa broaches the topic of swapping girls to sleep with and tells Hatsumi that Toru has done this with him. Hatsumi, disturbed by this, insists that Toru tell her about it, to which he responds that he despised what he was doing, sleeping around, but felt the need for human intimacy. Nagasawa proclaims that he and Toru are essentially the same, both complete egoists who cannot care about others. Deeply hurt by this, Hatsumi asks Nagasawa why he cannot consider her feelings. The dinner ruined, Hatsumi decides to leave in a taxi with Toru instead of Nagasawa. The two go to a bar, a pool hall, and then Hatsumi's apartment, where she changes Toru's bandage. Toru senses that there is something very special about her and, as the author of the frame story, mentions that not long after Nagasawa left for his job, Hatsumi killed herself. The next day, Sunday, Toru writes his customary letter to Naoko telling her about what has been happening in his life and how she is the only one who can understand his thoughts of Kizuki.


Like so many other episodes and descriptions in the book, the cut that Toru receives on his hand is far from a stray detail thrown in to give the book a sense of everyday realism; to be sure, it accomplishes that role, but to restrict it to that would be to ignore its deep symbolic significance. Even though there are no magical cats and fantastical "Little People" in this Murakami novel, there is still a marked division of the world into the natural and the supernatural, although the supernatural is that which is so familiar we forget its magic: the emotional.

"I hadn't noticed that one of the glass partitions in a record shelf was cracked. I could hardly believe how much blood gushed out of me, turning the floor at me feet bright red…I felt no pain to speak of, but the blood wouldn’t stop" (200).

It is this cut that leads him to Nagasawa, dinner with him and Hatsumi, his inability to continue playing pool with Hatsumi, and then his visit to Hatsumi's apartment in this chapter; so one can notice at least that it is almost the dominant motive force in this chapter. Beyond that, we can read Toru's surprise at the severity of his wound as something indicative of his emotional life; although he considers himself a thoroughly "ordinary" person who seems not too perturbed by things going on in and around his life—political upheaval does not stir him, and though the suicide of his friend disturbs him, he does not crumple emotionally as Naoko does—there are these times when his inner self will contradict this self-conception by rising up irresistibly, usually when he comes into direct contact with something that could resurrect his painful memories, such as reading Naoko's letter or visiting her.

The three sentences about the cut, quoted above, share a similar structure; Toru makes a negative statement—that he hadn't noticed something or that he felt nothing—and then the rest of the sentence contradicts him. He assumed that the record shelf was intact, but it was in fact dangerously broken; we might read this as his mistaken optimism regarding Naoko's recovery, which indeed will later be shattered. Moreover, even when cut he is surprised that there is such an immense force within himself; it is this force that throws him into depressions and eventually, after Naoko's suicide, into his month-long journey, something he had no control over. Finally, there is a strange sense in which he is still unable to feel the pain within him, and because of this it cannot be truly cured or stopped.

Another interesting hidden detail is the set of sentences in the Spanish lesson that Nagasawa listens to on television: "I have never seen such terrible rain! Many bridges were washed away in Barcelona" (201). Nagasawa tells Toru he finds this stupid, but it might be best to see this as Murakami poking fun at himself—or at his readers. Rain has been highly significant for every other scene in which it appears, and in a way this talk of rain—and Nagasawa's ignoring it—serves as a premonition of his falling out with Hatsumi, which of course centers on his ignorance and callousness towards her feelings.

When Nagasawa explains why he is asking Toru to dinner with him and Hatsumi, Toru finds himself in a painfully familiar situation: "'No, it'd be better with you there. I'd be more comfortable, and so would Hatsumi.' Oh no, it was Kizuki, Naoko, and me all over again" (202). Although Toru is able to provide a link between couples and bring out the best part of each, just like Ami Hostel this also makes those people more vulnerable and often ends up causing each pain. His conversation with Nagasawa draws out the essence of some of these problems: Nagasawa explains, "Look, the world is an inherently unfair place. I didn't write the rules. It's always been that way. I have never once deceived Hatsumi. She knows I'm a shit and that she can leave me anytime she decides she can't take it" (202). That the world is unfair and that one should be honest is a conclusion that Toru would agree with wholeheartedly, and yet it is more than obvious to any reader that Nagasawa is meant to be a foil for Toru—and for Kizuki, as Toru mentions in comparing the two. Yet with Nagasawa's clever interpretations, it seems as if the two are surprisingly alike.

The crux of their difference lies in what they do with their primarily self-centered worldview: Nagasawa embraces this worldview completely and coldly, working only for his own benefit, whereas Toru struggles with it. As Hatsumi points out, Nagasawa's characterization of Toru as someone who is suffering out of denial of this truth is far from fair: "What human begin doesn't hesitate and feel hurt?"(208) In fact, it is this imperfection and possibility of sustaining hurt that makes Toru more human and allows him to understand other people.