In Haruki Murakami’s After Dark, the relationship between darkness and young girls is presented as a contradiction. Though people of both genders and all ages roam the streets past dark, it is blatantly obvious that it is much safer for boys or older men than it is for women. This is something most young girls will be told over and over as they grow up: “Try your best to not leave your house past dark, and if you must then don’t go alone.” Even then, this rule is not applied to all young girls; only “respectable” (70) ones.
After the prostitute was taken away by the man on the motorcycle, Kaoru asks Mari, the way Takahashi had done so earlier in the story, if her reason for staying out so late had to do with a quarrel with her family. However, this is a question Takahashi is never asked, because no matter his reason for being out so late, whatever lurks in the darkness will not hurt him. In fact, Takahashi is able to wander aimlessly as he simply “chooses and direction and begins walking” (105), unconcerned with what awaits in his path.
The significance of being a “respectable girl” is directly reflected when Mari and the prostitute communicate. The prostitute is nineteen years old, the same age as Mari, but has been taken up by men in the night to sell her body in exchange for shelter. Mari always retains her name while the prostitute – even after her name is known – is still referred to as “the prostitute” (56). Prostitutes, no matter their age, are expected on the streets, but not “respectable girls”. Mari knows this, and carries a varsity jacket and cap that makes her look “like a boy – which is probably why she always has it with her.” (65)
For some girls in the story, this lesson has reached them too late. That does not, however, take from the many moments in which Murakami stresses the opposing relationship between young girls and darkness. In fact, using young women who are not exactly “respectable’” gives the reader a clearer understanding of what is meant by it, and what sort of young girls should maintain abstinence from what the world becomes past sun-down.