Norwegian Wood

Norwegian Wood Symbols, Allegory and Motifs

The firefly Toru releases from the dormitory roof (symbol)

The symbolic significance of the firefly that Storm Trooper gives to Toru is immediately established by Storm Trooper's suggestion that Toru give it to his "girlfriend," i.e. Naoko. Toru sees the firefly somewhat as he sees Naoko: a creature once bright and free that has lost much of its life and become caged. Looking at its pale glow in the dark night, he thinks not of the present but is instead flung back into memories of a past with brighter fireflies. When he frees it on the rooftop, it is still for such a long time that Toru begins to doubt whether it is still alive; but he waits, as any true lover waits, and finally the little bug takes flight, tracing an arc in the air that seems to reclaim a lost past, and then flying off into the night. Although this image is very positive for the firefly, Toru is left grasping in vain at the trail of light it left behind in his mind.

Moonlight (motif)

Although there are no explicitly magical scenes in this Murakami novel, one can be sure that nearly anything that happens under the moonlight has been charged with a special significance transcending everyday reality. Naoko, who already possesses a decidedly otherworldly character due to her unnaturally clear and bottomless eyes, enters into an even stranger state when she is in the clear moonlight. The scene in which she exposes her naked body to Toru only makes sense if one considers the supernatural atmosphere created by the moonlight; conversely, it is only when the clarity of the moon, and her eyes, has been blocked by the mist of heavy rain that she is able to experience (painful) intimacy with Toru the night of her birthday when Toru sleeps with her.

Rain (motif)

Perhaps the weather condition that occurs the most frequently in the story, rain is a crucial figure to the novel. From the very beginning of the novel when Toru's plane lands in Hamburg in the rain to such climactic scenes as the night Toru sleeps with Naoko, rain creates a presence of the supernatural, or at least an emotional charge that far exceeds that of everyday life. In fact, even when there is no rain, such as the fair day when Toru and Naoko walk through the meadows near Ami Hostel, rain makes itself felt through its absence.

Midori's hunger (motif)

Toru first meets Midori while he is having lunch. Thenceforth a great many of their dates involve getting lunch together, as opposed to the extensive and aimless walking that Toru did with Naoko. Moreover, when Toru first visits Midori at her home, she shows off the cooking skills, which she has determinedly honed. Though she is small and importantly vulnerable, unlike Naoko she is not abashed to express her hunger for love to the world, and in doing so she stirs up a certain vitality in Toru that no one else does.

Letter writing (allegory)

If we want to identify Toru's first letter, it would either be the note that he left with Naoko the morning after he slept with her or the letter he sent to her home after he found that she had moved from Tokyo. It contains the crucial theme sustained through their correspondence: the desire for understanding and dealing with pain. Apart from Toru's two visits to Ami Hostel, the letters that he exchanges with Naoko remain his one link with her, and during the month that he is cut off from all people, including Midori, his letter writing becomes the only thing connecting him to the world outside himself at all, just as letter writing was for Naoko.