The Symbolic Night

The action in Murakami’s After Dark takes place in one night, and the concept of night is both very literal and symbolic to the characters. Mari meets an interesting group of people throughout the night, and most of these characters are going through their symbolic night, or darkest place. Takahashi is very unhappy with focusing all of his energy on the band, and he is about to change that and hopefully bring about his figurative dawn. Throughout the night, he tells Mari how discontent and depressed he is, for he is in his figurative night. The Chinese prostitute is also in a very dark place, for she is only nineteen and is having to sell herself for the opportunity to be in Japan. Also, this particular night is especially bad for her, and there is not a much worse situation for Mari to find her in than beaten up and stripped of everything she had. Unfortunately, her figurative night may not be anywhere near ending, and we will never know what actually happens to her. Eri Asai might be in the darkest place of them all when we meet her. She has literally been sleeping for two months in a coma-like state with nothing physically wrong with her. We learn from Takahashi that Eri was extremely unhappy with life and had many regrets, but the kind of pain she must have been in to want to sleep for that long must have been severe. For her, the night has been continual for two months; she has not seen the literal or figurative dawn since then. For each of these people, the process to get to the dawn is very hard, and as the bartender said, “Time moves its own special way in the middle of the night. You can’t fight it.” (Murakami 78) However, each one will eventually get there because the night always comes to an end.



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3 responses to “The Symbolic Night

  1. gpwestland

    The concept of the night as Murakami applies it in his novel After Dark raises many questions and is indeed something to further examine. I do agree with you that all these personalities go through their own symbolic night. I was intrigued by Murakami’s craftiness of putting all these different people in one plot. However, I don’t see why you mentioned that we will never know what will actually happen to Eri and Mari. At the end of the book the author seems to give some hints. There is the faint smile on Mari’s lips and there is the slight movement of Eri while she sleeps. These to me are indicators that the author wants the reader to think that the night had some healing effect on the girls and that the next day is dawning.

  2. Samantha Cooke

    That’s cool. I never thought about all the characters going through night, both figuratively and literally. I agree, though. Each character represented is going through a transition in their life, and at the point in which the story takes place, finds his or herself in a dark period. Mari and Takahasi seem to have a dawn in sight – their presence in the story ends on a happy, optimistic note. Kaoru, though she has problems (some unspecified danger she is running from), seems at peace with the night. It is home to her and she has learned to live with it. Shirakawa, on the other hand, goes to sleep when the dawn approaches – he avoids the responsibility and the life that the light of day reveals to him, choosing to sleep through it and stay up at night. He is nocturnal, but by choice.

  3. autumncassidy

    Not only do I feel like night is a particularly hefty symbol within the text, but the idea of time is as well. Throughout the novel references are made to time and its fluidity. Time is forever “passing”, “slowing”, or seemingly “standing still”. In this novel, time almost takes on a character itself, as you witnessed with the concept of night. On each page is a demarcation of time which seems to enhance the text. Had the novel taken place during the day, the plot would have been much different and the emphasis on the actual time would have been less important. The Night and Time of the novel interplay in order to supplement the text and create an ominous aesthetic quality.

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