Animals in After Dark and Blu’s Hanging

When reading After Dark, I found it interesting to consider the similarities between the perceptions of animals in this novel and the one we read last week, Blu’s Hanging. It’s interesting to consider how animals in Blu’s Hanging were viewed as good luck symbols to the Ogata children. Big Sis tells Ivah that “you put that black cat on your stomach and the bugga pull all your sadness into herself” (Yamanaka 83).  For the children and people of Hawaii animals were a symbol of comfort and happiness, but in After Dark, when animals are mentioned they instill fear. Takahashi tells Mari that, “any single human being, no matter what kind of a person he or she may be, is all caught up in the tentacles of this animal like a giant octopus, and is getting sucked into the darkness. You can put any kind of spin on it you like, but you end up with the same unbearable spectacle” (Murakami 99). Takahashi believes that behavior in humans is caused by this evil creature that lives at the bottom of the ocean, ultimately causing people to do things that are out of their control.  I think it’s interesting to consider the opposing viewpoint of animals in these two novels. Although they initially may be viewed as somewhat minor parts of both novels, I think that they bring up important cultural ideals and give insight to the reader as to how animals, most of the time, can carry ritualistic and magical symbolism—sometimes positive and sometimes negative.



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2 responses to “Animals in After Dark and Blu’s Hanging

  1. I thought the personification for After Dark was interesting. In the beginning of the novel, when Murakami is describing the dark city as a gigantic creature, I felt a sense of fear. To imagine a city having a mind of its own, being so large and capable metabolic activity, presents the terror of such an ordinary entity having the ability to metaphorically swallow people up. This creature is continuously importing and exporting data and consumables, so I feel like she is trying to present her opposition for capitalism’s proliferation of vacuous consumption by comparing the urban culture with this giant consumerism monster.

  2. I am not sure that I completely agree with animals being a representation of fear in After Dark since Takahashi speaking of the octopus is only one encounter we get with animals in this book. To equate animals with fear by use of just one observation, I think, is a rash judgement. I did however, find a different similarity in animal symbolism between After Dark and Blu’s Hanging. I think it is interesting that in Blu’s Hanging we learn that the Japanese view many cats as luck, or that some have the capability to take away sadness and in After Dark there is a scene where Takahashi and Mari are feeding and petting cats. It would be interesting to analyze this scene and what the placement of cats by Murakami in the park could mean. Will playing with these cats bring luck or take away the sadness of Mari and Takahashi as it does in Blu’s Hanging?

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