Shifting Viewpoints in Murakami’s After Dark

Reading After Dark, what I found most striking was the perspective through which we are given the story. It is almost like a third-person point of view in that we as readers are removed physically from the actions of the characters, but far more inclusive in that the reader is directly addressed by the author and invited to be a direct witness into the action. Sometimes this is as an imperceptible person, not interacting with the characters, yet beside them as the story progresses: “We are inside a Denny’s.[…] After a quick survey of the interior, our eyes come to rest on a girl sitting by the front window. Why her? Why not someone else? Hard to say. But, for some reason, she attracts our attention – very naturally.” (Murakami 5). Sometimes this is as a camera: “Our viewpoint takes the form of a midair camera that can move freely about the room. At that moment the camera is situated directly above the bed and focused on her sleeping face.” (Murakami 30).  Other times it shifts back directly to a purely third-person point of view, with seemingly no conscious knowledge of the reader.

What is perhaps most striking of the shifting viewpoints to me is that the camera-esque viewpoint appears only in scenes of Eri Asai. Perhaps this is because she is a model, and so most of the world sees her through the lens of a camera. Even she appears to only see herself that way – the only pictures she has in her room are of professional pictures of herself modeling. There are none with family or friends, nothing to suggest she really exists outside of the camera. Even her room is rather bare: “This is by no means a highly decorated room. Neither is it a room that suggests the tastes or individuality of its occupant. Without detailed observation, it would be hard to tell that this was the room of a young girl.” (Murakami 32). When she is observed, it is through a camera through the television.

The other characters, however, are followed in the story via a more involved viewpoint – either that of the invisible observer or the classic third-person view. This may be because, unlike Eri, they are more connected with the world – they interact with each other and do not wall themselves off from the rest of society.

 

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