Norwegian Wood _ A Character Review

A brief character analysis of the main characters in Murakami Haruki's novel- Norwegian wood. Mild Spoilers included, read with discretion.

Norwegian wood was the first of Murakmai’s book, that I read. It was in my 25 must read books list.

Stories and characters leave a certain impression on me. I rarely re-read entire books, I only remember certain phrases and context which I read time and again. It is soothing. I have also come to associate my memory of the book with the song, Norwegian Wood, and the song with the story. I picture the three of them together when the song plays.

Watanabe is a complex character to me. Although he is stating his emotions throughout the story very clearly and the story is from his perspective, I could not get a complete grasp or understanding of who Watanabe is. If anything, one can see him evolving throughout the story and to add to it, the author leaves the future of the character to the reader’s imagination. While many things are possible, we know for sure that Watanabe lives on. The description of Watanabe that I could relate to the most was the one given by Nagasawa. Having shared more time than any other friend, Nagasawa has observed him on a level that nobody else could have. To me, Watanabe is not what he appears to be. Most probably because he has difficulty expressing his emotions or understanding them. I wonder if this is where emotional intelligence comes into play. Does Nagasawa understand emotions better than him? As Nagasawa said, he and Watanabe are the same and Watanabe has to realize it. Watanabe does not agree to him, but he does not offer much to understand him otherwise.

Watanabe is different only with Naoko. He loves her. He wants her too. May be that is who he really is. Someone who loved and wanted Naoko. He was always waiting for Naoko to reciprocate his feelings. Kizuki’s death influences both, but Watanabe finds the courage to move on. He realizes that he must live, despite the pain of it, and so he does even after Naoko’s death. Hence, Death exists not as the opposite of life, but as a part of it. For him, it is a way to accept the life around him. A way to understand himself.

Nagasawa and Midori are the most clear-headed characters in the book. They are aware of their desires, their ambitions, their own selves. The confidence of Midori is impressive. In fact, when asked if she was looking for Perfect love, she says she wants Perfect selfishness. How many of us have the courage to open about our desires in the way she does? Where so many of us are still confused about what we really want and often tend to accept any show of affection as love, here is a girl who knows what loving her would necessitate. Similarly, Nagasawa is unambiguous about his own nature and can envision his future self. It might occur to someone that he is shallow considering his lifestyle and his relationship with Hatsumi. However, it is worth noticing that he is confident in his choices and does not give false hopes to people around him, neither does he care about being judged by any societal standards. What seems to be of importance to him is the purposefulness of his life and how he can make the best out of it.

In the end, I see the differences between the characters based on the extent of their self-realization. The more self-aware we are, the stronger is our emotional state of being. It also makes me realize that our everyday life molds us in ways we may not always apprehend. We continue to evolve through our minds.