Opposing Effects of Darkness in After Dark by Haruki Murakami

When reading Murakami’s After Dark I was intrigued by how he plays with light and dark and estrangement. It seems that both the darkness and the daylight have contradicting effects on the characters in the book. On the one hand we see that the lives of very different characters (college girl, trombone player, former wrestler en hotel manager, Chinese prostitute and computer expert) get intertwined during the dark hours of the night. However, when the daylight dawns Murakami through his helicopter view also stresses how patterns of human beings become the same.

When zooming in on the main character we see at first a very ordinary 19-year old college girl sitting in a Denny’s; nothing special or noteworthy about her. Her clothes and appearance are ordinary, maybe even to be called dull and plain. However, Murakami puts her at the center of the attention makes her an intriguing character to the reader going through intense experiences. While her gorgeous sister is a sleep, Mari is awake and goes through her own nightmare – that of being the ugly little sister of of Eri, the model- and of others – the beat up Chinese prostitute who she’s translating-. But it seems to be a healing experience for her. As Murakami closes of with “Could she be dreaming? or is the hint of a smile on her lips the trace of a memory? […] Mari has made her way through the long hours of darkness, traded many words with the night people she encountered there, and come back to where she belongs”. Murakami seems to say that going through the darkness has changed her, has helped her dealing with her problems.

This story made me think of the Biblical parable of the prodigal son. Mari just as the prodigal son went away from home to face the world by her self. And finally they both come back and in both cases the experienced has changed them.


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