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Commercial Asset

Murakami conveys her opposition toward commercialism in After Dark with her portrayal of Eri Asai, and her fall into a dark, lonely, and entrapping alternative universe. The room Eri gets sucked into acts as a symbol for her own inner turmoil as an objectified young woman, victimized by the shallow institution of commercialism. The grim narrative elucidates Murakami’s disdain for the industry and its effect on women.

When Eri awakes in this alternate universe, she immediately “verifies that she is her usual self: a beautiful face and well-shaped breasts. I’m a lump of flesh, a commercial asset” (Murakami 110). This indicates how sadly conscious Eri is of what defines who she is: these transitory and superficial traits. One of the most indicative statements of Eri’s desolation comes from Meri when she says “Pills and fortune telling and dieting: nobody can stop her when it comes to any of those things” (Murakami 119). Her drug abuse and obsession with fortune-telling indicates how damaged Eri is, and how she is trying desperately to fill a void. How she seeks to fill this void is how countless young women try to, by becoming these glossy photographs that have the power to draw in masses, an obsession which serves as the foundation for commercialism. What commercialism cannot seem to sell to these young women is depth. When Eri is first seen in the novel, her room is described to have only a few things, including large magazines, and “as the room’s only decorative touch, five photographs in small frames are lined up on a shelf, all of them photos of Eri Asai. She is is alone in all of them” (Murakami 26). This immediately implies that she is superficial and self-centered. When Eri is sleeping, she is described to be completely beautiful and motionless, as if she were a mannequin. Eri’s vacuity is clear from the fact that she is never given a voice in the novel except for when she is in the alternative universe, and instead she is only talked about and talked for.

Just as how a television has sucked Eri in, media continuously sucks young girls into living a vacuous lifestyle for their capital gain. With her Prada bag, magazine shoots, and “natural radiance”, it is clear that Eri is beautiful, glamourous, and loved in this reality, but in the alternative reality that functions as her inner turmoil, she is alone in this inescapable realm of commercialism (Murakami 194). From this vindictive symbolism, Murakami presents her abhorrece for an industry that manipulates young women for financial gain, as well as its influence on society to alienate bright women like Meri.

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Violence: A Way to Teach Morality & Add Depth to Story Characters

Back when public executions were commonplace, such violence in fairy tales only depicted real life scenes. Nowadays, if children were to read the original Little Red Riding Hood and Bluebeard stories, their innocent minds wouldn’t know what to make of “clotted blood” (145) or the flesh of Little Red Riding Hood’s granny on a pantry shelf (10) . Such depictions of violence were the primary method of instilling fear in children and scare them into behaving well, but for children of the 21st century this violence is just too traumatizing.

For example, if children today read the original Little Red Riding Hood, they may never “stray from the path” (14). Better yet, they may never even insist on leaving their house! Young girls who read Bluebeard would reject the idea of getting married for a very long while. Our generation would be spooked to bits, but just imagine how much violence was needed in fairy tales to instill a fear in children who saw people disemboweled and executed in public on a regular basis?

Violence in these fairytales was needed, partly to show the horrible consequences that followed disobedience. For example, Little Red Riding Hood could have kept her grandmother alive has she not strayed from the path like her mother instructed her. Bluebeard’s wives would have stayed alive had they listened to Bluebeard’s warning. Yet, aside from violence being a delinquent-preventive measure, so it is also used to thicken the tales and build the characters.

Consider the wolf in Little Red Riding Hood. The wolf is just a wolf until he is actually described killing Little Red’s grandmother. Bluebeard is simply “a sorcerer who would disguise himself as a poor man” (148) until he is shown mercilessly hacking a young girl into pieces (149). The Pig King is only a dirty pig until he strikes his new wife “with his sharp hooves…so that he killed her” (44).Violence incorporates a richness to the sinister nature of the villainous character; there is truly no substitute.

Though violence in fairytales are not generally accepted in the 21st century, it’s ability to transform the characters and establish a dark plot can be interchangeable with nothing. Besides, the majority of our media is filled with as much violence as these tales are. It’s probably safe to say that today’s readers, no matter how distasteful they find these violent tales are for children, won’t resist the urge to turn the page of a Brothers Grimm fairytale to see what happens next.

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