The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

Themes

  • Desire: The feeling of desire arises throughout the novel in a variety of characters. Throughout the novel, desire seems to manifest itself in negative and almost sickening ways. One example, is displayed through Noboru Wataya, who desires power. This desire for power unfortunately brings him to commit incestuous acts with his two younger sisters. Eventually leading one of them to commit suicide and the other in constant danger. In the beginning, Toru desires to make his wife happy by going on these long day trips to find her missing cat. His desire for her leads him to strange places where he discovers more about his inner self. Kumiko has many sexual desires which leads her to be unfaithful to Toru, resulting in Kumiko catching an STD. Throughout the novel desire leads the characters to dark places[4].
  • Power: The characters in the novel are constantly gaining or losing power and the plot develops around this ever-changing factor. Noboru Wataya is mainly focused on gaining power which in turn causes his younger sister Kumiko to lose power to him, she becomes a victim of his desire for power. The loss of power of the character Kumiko leads Toru to gain power. Once Kumiko goes missing, this event forces Toru to find power within him to step out if his normalcy and comfort zone to find Kumiko and save her from her brother. This leads him on a mission to set Kumiko free of the reins her brother holds her in. Translating to a gain in his sense of power. He finds power within himself and his desire to set Kumiko free. Power also shows in the characters as they try to gain control over their own emotions[5].
  • Polar opposites: Throughout the novel, one can see many examples of the characters being polar opposites. One main polar opposite occurs in the beginning of the book between the two women in Toru's life. The mysterious woman who calls Toru throughout the beginning presents herself very sexually and powerful. She is very confident in speaking with Toru even while he is resistant to hearing what she has to say. Where as, Kumiko, Toru's wife, is very shy and soft spoken in the interactions with Toru. Another example of polar opposites is between Noboru Wataya, Kumiko's Brother, and Toru. Noboru Wataya is hungry for power and is presented as a strong and disrespectful character. Whereas, Toru is presented as a very shy, soft spoken, respectful, and down to earth character. Creta Kano points out this polar opposite within the novel stating “Noboru Wataya is a person who belongs to a world that is the exact opposite of yours.”[6]. The contrast of polar opposite characters provides more depth and individuality to each character alone.
  • Alienation: Throughout the novel the characters are obviously related to each other but they never feel like they connect to one another. All of the characters develop independently and tend to live solitary lifestyles. This can be presented in Toru and Kumiko’s marriage. Throughout the novel, Toru presents himself to be one who seeks solitude. One example is presented as he completes an everyday task, “I went to the Municipal pool for a swim. Mornings were the best, to avoid the crowds”[7]. His desire for solitude also is shown when he quits his job to take care of the house alone while Kumiko goes to work. He enjoys being home alone. In the relationship between Kumiko and Toru, both characters seem to be developing in solitude. Both characters hide many of their thoughts from one another and even though they are married Toru ponders on the fact that he may not know much about his wife[8].

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