The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

Main characters

While this book has many major and minor characters, these are among the most important:

  • Toru Okada: The narrator and protagonist, Toru is a passive and often apathetic young man living in suburban Japan. He is Kumiko's husband and continually follows the orders or wishes of others. Toru comes across as your average man and he is the embodiment of passivity. A graduate of law school but has chosen to leave his job at a firm. He spends his days doing house chores, cooking pasta, listening to the radio, and searching for their missing cat. In the beginning of the novel, one could say his life is mundane. Toru spends a lot of his time alone and the reader can see that he is not in control of many aspects of his life. It is the search for their missing cat that leads him onto interesting adventures[2].
  • Kumiko Okada: Kumiko is Toru's wife and, as the breadwinner of the couple, is the more autonomous of the two. She works in the publishing business. Following the disappearance of their cat, she disappears as well. Kumiko's childhood was stifling because her parents wanted her to take the place of an older sister who had committed suicide very young, and which in turn was also an apparent obsession of their older brother, Noboru Wataya.
  • Noboru Wataya: Noboru is Kumiko's older brother. He is presented as a mediagenic figure; the public loves him, but Toru cannot stand him. Noboru appears as an academic in the beginning, becomes a politician in the story, and has no apparent personal life. He is said to be hidden behind a façade — all style, and no substance. He is the antagonist. Noboru is constantly changing his image only to defeat his opponents but nobody seems to notice his inconsistencies except Toru. The relationship between Toru and Noboru can easily be compared to good versus evil[3].("Noboru Wataya" is also the name Toru and Kumiko gave to their pet cat, whom Toru later renames Mackerel, like the fish; the character name also appeared in "The Elephant Vanishes" and "Family Affair", both translated by Jay Rubin, in The Elephant Vanishes collection.)
  • May Kasahara: May is a teenage girl who should be in school, but, by choice, is not. Toru and May carry on a fairly constant exchange throughout a good deal of the novel; when May is not present, she writes letters to him. Their conversations in person are often bizarre and revolve around death and the deterioration of human life. Even more bizarre is the cheerful and decidedly non-serious air with which these conversations take place.
  • Lieutenant Mamiya: Lieutenant Tokutaro Mamiya was an officer in the Kwantung Army during the Japanese occupation of Manchukuo. He meets Toru while carrying out the particulars of Mr. Honda's will. (Honda had been a Corporal, therefore Mamiya had been his superior.) He has been emotionally scarred by witnessing the flaying of a superior officer and several nights spent in a dried-up well. He tells Toru his story both in person and in letters.
  • Malta Kano: Malta Kano is a medium of sorts who changed her name to "Malta" after performing some kind of "austerities" on the island of Malta for some time. She is enlisted by Kumiko to help the Okadas find their missing cat.
  • Creta Kano: Malta's younger sister and apprentice of sorts, she describes herself as a "prostitute of the mind." Her real given name is Setsuko. She had started as an actual prostitute during her college years, but quit after her session with a young Noboru Wataya, who had effectively raped her with a foreign object as he was impotent. Disturbingly, for Toru, Creta's body bears a near-identical resemblance to Kumiko's from the neck down.
  • Nutmeg Akasaka: Nutmeg first meets Toru as he sits on a bench watching people's faces every day in Shinjuku. The second time they meet she is attracted to the blue-black mark on his right cheek. She and Toru share a few strange coincidences: the wind-up bird in Toru's yard and the blue-black cheek mark appear in Nutmeg's World War II-related stories, and also Nutmeg's father and Lieutenant Mamiya (an acquaintance of Toru's) are linked by their experiences with violence and death in Manchukuo and the rise and dissolution of the Kwantung Army during World War II. "Nutmeg Akasaka" is a pseudonym she chose for herself after insisting to Toru that her "real" name is irrelevant.
  • Cinnamon Akasaka: Cinnamon is Nutmeg's adult son who has not spoken since age 6. He communicates through a system of hand movements and mouthed words. Somehow, people who've just met him (who presumably have never lipread or used sign language) find him perfectly comprehensible. "Cinnamon," too, is a pseudonym created by Nutmeg.
  • The Cat: Named Noboru Wataya symbolizes marital happiness between Kumiko and Toru. The cat leaving signifies the leaving of happiness in Kumiko and Toru’s marriage. Once the Cat leaves Kumiko and Toru suffer many difficulties but when the cat returns it signifies that Toru is now ready to communicate with Kumiko and save her from the trap she is in by her brother[3].

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