Young Girls Should Be Afraid of the Dark

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.



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3 responses to “Young Girls Should Be Afraid of the Dark

  1. siegvald

    I think this is an insightful post. Many people did ask Mari why she was out late at night by herself, but no one really questions why Takahashi is out on his own after hours. We can see this distinction of how respectable girls get treated when Kaoru is chaperoning Mari to the bar(“seeing her somewhere” 51), and hooking her up with a “buddy” at the Skylark who will “take care” of her (60), because as is seen from what happens to the prostitute, bad things happen to girls who are out late at night on their own.

  2. ashleighbarraca

    I think this is a great point to bring up. The title After Dark itself brings up its own set of images: illicit meetings, intimacy, scary stories. There seems to be a general fear to nighttime amongst others in regards to “respectable girls”, which is why many times you will see teenage boys with later curfews than teenage girls. There is definitely a double-standard. Girls are told that no one else can be trusted at night; but, it seems as though everyone else cannot trust the girls to take care of themselves. Mari, for example, seems quite capable of taking care of herself. I also think it’s a great point that Mari keeps her name while “the prostitute” does not seem worthy of one – I never thought of that! Yet another double standard.

  3. aeernst

    This is very interesting, because I did not even realize this double standard existed until just now. Mari is asked on numerous occasions why such a nice girl is out in the dark, but people expect that the night is the perfect time to see a prostitute. I also think you could make the argument that Eri should be afraid of the dark. She has been sleeping, and therefore in a never ending dark, for two months, and nobody knows what is wrong with her. It is very odd that she seems perfectly fine but has been almost continuously sleeping, which makes it even more scary.

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