Psychological Trauma in Haruki Murakami’s South of the Border West of the Sun | MA English Thesis | TU Thesis
Psychological Trauma in Haruki Murakami’s South of the Border West of the Sun | How to Write a Thesis
Traumatic Concern in Murakami’s South of the Border, West of the Sun
Haruki Murakami’s novel South of the Border, West of the Sun presents the story of two school friends Hajimi and Shimamoto. Their friendship turns into love affair. But due to the various social problems they could not stay together since Shimamoto has to migrate to another location. Due to the migration of Shimamoto, they could no longer meet and share their feelings. After several years, Shimamoto and Hajimi both become frustrated, hallucinated and disillusioned because of their separation and the sweet memory of their childhood. The pang of the characters turns out to be a flashback memory. And, the past memory time and again haunts both of them which results in the psychological trauma.
Hajime, the narrator is a single child, born in 1951 when there were few single children in Japan. He has a close childhood friend, Shimamoto, a girl with a partially lame leg who is also a single child. Murakami presents Hajime as not likable having complex nature. Murakami’s protagonist powerfully affects others but becomes powerless when it comes to setting directions to his own life. There is something that obstructs Hajime to make a roadmap of his own life which does not let him do whatever he wishes. The psyche of the character is traumatized due to the several reasons.
In high school Hajime has a girlfriend Izumi. He hurts her deeply by having a wild sexual affair with her cousin. He goes to college, gets a boring job, and finally gets married when he is thirty. Her father offers him the chance to open his own business, and he takes it and becomes satisfied with it. But the strong feeling that he has in mind does not let him do anything right.
Murakami suggests to forget the troubling past. He also adds that to live with a kind of historical amnesia is a general lack of moral stamina. Murakami’s novel implies that his country appears to have lost some deeper sense of history and direction. Thus, the novel indicates how Hajimi and Shimamoto suffer from trauma due to the love sickness, war, physical and psychological problems which comprise of tension, delusion, stress, disorder and social obligations and at last became the victims of psychological trauma.
The psyche of the characters due to their separation results in drastic transformation of their mind from normality to abnormality. Their mind becomes hallucinated with the memories of their past life activities. The mental disorder is the sole cause of their separation and results in psychological trauma.
Haruki Murakami’s novel South of the Border, West of the Sun has received diverse treatments in the hands of a wide range of prominent writers and critics. It has received plenty of accolade and acclamation. Several critics analyze Murakami’s works for all being very much the same. His novels do share a lot of similar themes, similar characters, and similar situations. The renowned film critic John Wray makes critique of Murakami’s writing. He has criticized most of the representative works of Murakami. Dwelling upon Murakami’s creativity, Wray comments:
Haruki Murakami is not only arguably the most experimental Japanese novelist to have been translated into English; he is also the most popular, with sales in the millions worldwide. His greatest novels inhabit the luminal zone between realism and fable. Whodunit and science fiction: Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, for example, features a protagonist who is literally of two minds, and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, perhaps his best-known work outside of Japan, begins prosaically— as a man’s search for his missing wife—then quietly mutates into the strangest hybrid narrative since Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy. (12)
Murakami’s world is an allegorical one, constructed of familiar symbols—an empty well, and underground city—but the meaning of those symbols remain hermetic to the last. He is also of the opinion that Murakami’s novels represent the duality of mind which is suggested by ‘protagonist who is literally of two minds’. Wray also makes the comment as the protagonist of Murakami’s novels miss something, they are psychologically troubled. The unstable mind of the protagonist also suggests the psychological trauma faced by the characters.
In the same way, Matthew C. Stretches regards Murakami’s works as the blend of magic realism. He asserts:
In most of the works of Murakami the magic realism reigns sovereign. Search for identity and magic realism are the twin hallmark of Murakami’s literary oeuvre. He always presents himself as the ardent follower of cultural cosmopolitanism. He stands in favor of cultural reform. He speaks against cultural isolationism. (9)
Stretcher is of the opinion that most of the works of Murakami blends the idea of magic realism along with search for identity. He is also regarded as the passionate follower of cultural cosmopolitanism. His standing ‘in favor of cultural reform’ also suggests that he wants society to be changed, to be reformed and reshaped. The main ethos of Stretcher’s argument is that Murakami speaks against cultural isolationism. It also suggests that ‘cultural isolationism’ is nothing than the separation of protagonist, his pang, suffering and traumatic experiences. Thus, Stretcher’s criticism will be fruitful for the present research since it paves the way and supports with the main argument of the research.
Malcolm Jones’ response to Murakami’s writing is mild and palatable. He presents Murakami’s writing as a creative work and creative brain. He praises Murakami as:
Murakami paces a story as well as any writer alive. He knows how to tell a love story without getting cute. He understand how to blend realism and fantasy (magical realism if you want to get all literary about it) in just the right proportions. And he has a knack for writing about everyday matters—fixing dinner, going for a walk—in such a way that the events at hand, no matter how mundane, are never boring. (4)
The thematic diversity is the hallmark of Murakami’s writings. His power of imagination and word-power is praised by Jones. He also claims that Murakami has vast knowledge about writing with passion, creating a never-boring subjects of contemporary issues. He praises Murakami for his use of everyday language and matters.
Moreover, Jason Boog is a critic who makes criticism on Murakami’s writings. Regarding Murakami’s formalistic dimension, he comments:
Murakami writes in a new style of Japanese prose, while juxtaposes and merges distinctly American motifs and diction with such traditional junbungaku themes as love, death and the self. Murakami’s fiction frequently alludes to commercial brand names and cultural icons of the United States. Much of his work has been noted for its surreal qualities, blending bizarre plot twists and unique narration. (19)
Boog’s perspective on Murakami’s writing suggests that Murakami juxtaposes different ideas in his writings. His thematic concerned are related to love, death and self’. The ‘self’ has become much important in his writings. His surreal qualities also suggest that he somehow manages to blend magic and realism in his writings. The bizarre plot twists and unique narration suggests that his vibrant quality of his works.
In addition to this, Erik R. Lofgren makes pungent criticism on Haruki Murakami’s South of the Border, West of the Sun. He claims that Murakami’s novels lack ‘happy ending’ and the element of uncertainty and bewilderment leads the major characters to traumatic pitfall. Lofgren further asserts:
Among its many points of divergence, the most striking is the lack of a “happy ending” displaying selflessness, promising friendship, and offering hope for the future. South of the Border forsakes that “trite-and-true” formula and leaves Hajime in a state of bewilderment, unsettled and uncertain, with no easy path ahead.
Lofgren is of the opinion that Murakami’s novels lack ‘happy ending’. The presentation of a major character with uncertainty, bewilderment and challenging path makes the point clear that they are somehow haunted by the traumatic events. Their experiences revolve around the theme of psychological disorder due to the separation of one another. The ‘uncertainty’ also suggests the unstable mind which is nothing more than the haunted psyche, hunted psychological drive of the characters.
Some critics have paid attention to the thematic analysis of the novel whereas others have tried to dig out distinctive interpretation like feminism, existentialism, structuralism and so on from different angles. But, none of the researchers has focused upon the traumatic experiences of the characters in his writings. The psychological trauma of the characters, their pathos and mental disorders due to the separation, alienation and disjunction has been largely ignored by most of the critics. So, the present study assumes that Murakai’s characters are haunted by the psychological trauma. The separation of the major characters causes psychological trauma in his psychological drives which results into the pang and suffering.
The above-mentioned evidences prove that Murakami’s novel confer with the trauma faced by the central character Hajimi. To address the problem faced by Hajimi with the psychological trauma, the researcher takes ideas from Dominik LaCapra, Bessel A. van der Kolk and Alexander C. McFarlane and Cathy Caruth.
Psychoanalysis is the kind of theoretical approach which analyzes the psyche of the characters. The psychology of the characters is guided by various elements of the society. One of them is the problem of separation of mutual friends. Murakami presents his characters in such a way that characters are disillusioned, haunted by past memories, fragmented and about to mingle themselves with the hypothetical world. In the novel, Hajime and Shimamoto are the victims of psychological trauma due to their separation.
Psychoanalytic Literary criticism was first developed as a type of applied psychoanalysis during the first decades of the twentieth. It emerged specifically from a therapeutic technique which the Viennese neurologist Sigmund Freud developed for the treatment of hysteria and neurosis at the end of the nineteenth century. He introduced major method, ideas and concepts of Psychoanalysis. Psychoanalysis is an attempt to inquire the irrational territory of human psyche with logic and rationality. Freud focused the unconscious aspect of human psyche. Most of our actions are motivated by the psychological forces over which we have limited control.
Sigmund Freud’s major contribution reached to the peak when he published his famous book The Interpretation of Dream in 1900. Since the publication of this book psychoanalysis has become an autonomous discipline. Freud considers, The Interpretation of Dream, is in fact the real road to a knowledge of unconscious, “the secured foundation of Psychoanalysis” (Osborne 41). Psychoanalysis is the most significant study of the non-rational process that emerge out of the kingdom of unconscious inherent in the depth of human psyche; it is the description of the human mind in general as well as a therapy for nervous and mental disorders.
The importance of testimonies becomes more apparent when they are related to the way they provide something other than purely documentary knowledge. Testimonies are significant in the attempts to understand experience and its arftmaths.
The implication in the effectively charged relationship to the survivor or witness and the special, stressful demands this relationship to the survivor or witness this relationship places on inquiry may have more general implications for historical research, especially with respect to highly sensitive emotionally laden, and evaluative significant issues- issues quite prominent in Holocaust.
Those who have been victimized and traumatized by their experiences a problem that involves the tense relation between procedure of objective reconstruction of the past and empathetic response, especially in the case of victims and survivors.
Among the three, transference is the most pervasive concern of LaCapra that the failure to come to terms with the discursive returns of some traumatic event usually signals the failure to recognize one’s own emotional and ideological investments in the event and its representation. Transference is the occasion for working through the traumatic symptom. It is imperative therefore, to recognize the symptom and the trauma as one’s own, to acknowledge that the trauma still is active and that one is implicated in its destructive effects.
South African Truth and Reconcilation Commission (TRC) provided a forum for the voices of often the repressed, suppressed or uneasily accommodated voice of certain victims who were being heard for the first time in the public sphere. In Trauma, Absence and Loss, LaCapra tries his best to draw and elaborate the distinction between absence and loss. These states certainly include intellectual clarity and cogency but they also have ethical and political dimensions. Post-apartheid South Africa and Post-Nazi Germany face the problem of acknowledging and working through historical losses in ways that affect different groups differently.
Dominic LaCapra, one of the popular critics, in Representing the Holocaust: History, Theory and Trauma talks about two related goals: to intervene in and clarify some of the recent public controversies regarding Holocaust representation; and to elaborate a theory of historical trauma and its transmission. His contribution to trauma theory and cultural transmission is extraordinarily lucid and insightful. His theory of trauma focuses on the three psychoanalytic topics: the return of the repressed; acting out versus working through; and the dynamics of transference. A traumatic historical event as LaCapra argues, “tends first to be repressed and then to return in the forms of compulsive repletion” (574). He is concerned primarily with the return of the repressed as a discourse, rather than with physical returns such as the genocidal repetitions in Combodia and Bosnia, and he outlines two symptomatic possibilities for the return of historical trauma as discourse.
LaCapra wants to create a position that avoids both redemptive and sublime acting out. This acting out refers to the victim plays in real disastrous situation. He sets out to describe a work through trauma that doesn’t “deny the irreducibility of loss or the role of paradox and aporia” (Berger 575) but avoids becoming compulsively fixated. LaCapra states that “If there is no acting out at all, no repetition of the traumatic disruption” (575). LaCapra stresses that there must acting out or acts of the victimized person. If the victim does not involve in any activities there is no repetition of the traumatic disruption. In Murakami’s novel Hajimi acts out; he is busy in work and at time he is repeatedly haunted by the memories of Shimamoto.
Trauma is an essential part of human life. As Bessel A. van der Kolk and Alexander C. McFarlane note, “Experiencing trauma is an essential part of being human; history is written in blood. Although art and literature have always been preoccupied with how people cope with the inevitable tragedies of life. . . ” (3). Here,Bessel and McFarlane provide some insight for the study as they explore trauma as something essential part of human life. They also show the solution as coping mechanism. They state that art and literature have always been preoccupied with such coping mechanisms.
Trauma involves loss, anger, betrayal and helplessness. As Bessel A. van der Kolk and Alexander C. McFarlane emphasize:
The personal meaning of the traumatic experience evolves over time, and often includes feelings of irretrievable loss, anger, betrayal and helplessness. One of the serious complications that interferes with healing is that one particular event can active other, long-forgotten memories of previous traumas, and create a “domino effect”: A person who was no previously bothered by intrusive and distressing memories may, after exposure to yet another traumatic event, develop such memories of earlier experience. (9-10)
Bessel and McFarlane are of the opinion that there are chains of remembering past memories. When a patient is hit with one memory, he may remember and another memory associate with previous trauma. To this effect of trauma they call it “domino effect”.
When the trauma is reenacted, the patient plays two roles either it likes to harm other or accepts self-destruction. Bessel and McFarlane quote the role of a traumatic people after reenactment as:
Loss is often correlated with lack, far as loss in to the past, so lack is to the present and future. By contrast to absence, loss is situated on a historical level and is the consequence of particular events. The nature of losses varies with the nature of events and responses to them and some loss would facilitate while others are not. Furthermore, the conflation of absence and loss would facilitate the appropriate of particular traumas by those who did not experience them, typically in a movement of identity formation.
Giving emphasis on the part of historical trauma, Caruth says that it is not just that the experience is repeated after is forgetting but that is “only in and through its inherent forgetting that it is first experienced at all. And it is the inherent latency of the event that paradoxically explains in the peculiar, temporal structure, the belatedness, of historical experience” (10). Her point is that since we cannot experience traumatic event at the moment of its occurrence, it is fully evident only in connection with another place, and in another time. Caruth further opines that if latency replaces repression, that is important in its blankness- the space of unconsciousness is paradoxically presence the event in its literally. For history to be a history of trauma it is referential to the extent that is fully perceived as it occurs. She says history can be understood in the inaccessibility of its occurrence.
There exists a strong need to carry out research in this novel from a new perspective. Having taken this fact into consideration, the present research will explore the psychological trauma of the major characters— Hajimi and Shimamoto.
This thesis is divided into three chapters. The first chapter introduces Murakami as a Japanese writer portraying trauma of the Japanese people after the World War II. It also brings critics regarding Murakami’s works and also introduces Psychological trauma as a perspective to look at the novel. The second chapter analyzes the text from the theoretical perspective as introduced in the first chapter. It tries to prove the hypothesis of the study for which it brings the critics’ ideas so that the valid argument can be made with their support. Finally, the third chapter comes up with the conclusion. It explores the coping mechanism used by Hajimi. Showing such coping strategies, it offers hope for the traumatic people.
Exploration of Psychological Trauma in South of the Border, West of the Sun
Haruki Murakami’s South of the Border, West of the Sun presents Hajimi, Shimmamoto and Yukiko as the central characters who suffer from psychological trauma. Hajimi and Shimamoto suffer due to alienation, nostalgia and loss of their youth. The separation of the characters is shown in such a way that obstructs them to live happy life even though they are already married. The marriage does not relief Hajimi of Shimamoto’s from their past memories. As Hajimi suffers from trauma, no less Shimamoto suffers from it. Shimamoto does not confess that she is suffering whereas Hajimi, towards the end of the novel, admits himself as a patient of trauma. Likewise, Yukiko also suffers from the trauma. She tries to hang herself to death. The psychological drives of the characters in the novel are more or less affected by the social-cultural obligations as well. As a result of trauma, the characters feel alienated from the world around.
From the very beginning of the novel, the readers can sense how Hajimi feels. Hajimi confesses that he has inferiority complex. He considers himself a different child than any other child which obstructs his psyche. He confesses, “I happened to be one of the unusual ones, since I was an only child. I had an inferiority complex about it, as if there was something different about me, that what other people all had and took for granted I lacked” (4). The readers know that Hajimi is an abnormal child since he confesses it. He confesses that he lacked what other have. He differentiates himself from other child which suggests that he is somehow afraid of his abnormality. This makes him suffer from trauma. Critics of psychological trauma Bessel A. Van der Kolk claim: “Trauma occurs when one loses the sense of having a safe place to retreat within or outside oneself to deal with frightening emotions or experiences” (31). As Bessel and Van confine with the frightening emotions and experiences, Hajimi suffers from the same fate. Hajimi suffers due to the inferiority complex. The afraid Hajimi does not confine himself with normality. The helplessness condition of Hajimi is the result of trauma as Kolk indicates, “This results in a state of helplessness, a feeling that one’s actions have no bearing on the outcome of one’s life” (31). Here, Hajimi slowly and gradually suffers from helplessness. He strikes with the memories of past and becomes nostalgic. Being alone, he considers that his actions have no meaning to his life. He does not consider himself a person with actions to make his life livable. This depression further hurts him more.
Now, at the verge of confession, Hajimi confirms that other people also know about how he feel. He points towards the rumors which are true. He affirms, “But what depressed and hurt me more was something else: the fact that everything they thought about me was true” (5). This indicates the fact that he is not only abnormal from psychologically but also physically. The frightened Hajimi confesses that whatever other thought about him was true and this hurts him more. One of the critics of trauma Vito Zepinic reveals this inferiority complex as:
The inferiority complex is apt to occur when obstacles, internal or external, prevent the development of any possible patterns of excellence supporting re-invention of the self’s coherence and continuity. Internally, the greatest obstacles of the traumatised are traumatic memories of dissociation, macking lack of ability or absence of any ability to cope with the inner conflicts. Such a person is exposed to severe feelings of inferiority and incompetence, and his self-esteem is blocked with no potentialities. (56)
Zepinic opines that inferiority complex occurs when internal or external obstacles prevent the development of any possible patterns of excellence. Due to the incoherence and discontinuity, Hajimi suffers from such kind of inferiority complex.
Moreover, in order to cope with the inferiority complex, Hajimi compares himself with Shimamoto. He is in search of someone with much vulnerable state of mind than his own. He quests for the feeling of superiority by inferiorizing Shimamoto. Thus, he makes a comparison in such a way that gives solace to his mind. He asserts how Shimamoto has a load of psychological baggage:
Compare with me, then, she had a terrible load of psychological baggage to struggle with. This baggage, though, had made her a tougher, more self-possessed only child than I could ever have been. She never whined or complained, never gave any indication of the irritation she must have felt at times. No matter what happened, she’d manage a smile. The worse things got, in fact, the broader her smile became. (5)
It is interesting to note that an inferior person always seeks another inferior to prove himself less worst and it happens with Hajimi also. He compares himself with Shimamoto and concludes that he is not as vulnerable as Shimamoto is. He also explores he only difference between him and Shimamoto as she has the ability to cope with or overcome the trauma and he has not. He reveals that Shimamoto’s broader smile suggested her worsened status. Thus, not only Hajimi suffers in the novel but also Shimamoto suffers more from the psychological trauma but she does not show it. M. A. S. Reid, One of the critics of Psychological trauma opines that people compare with other people in order to overcome the inferiority complex. The same situation can be found in the novel when Hajimi compares himself with Shimamoto. To this state of mind, Reid calls, “People in this situation set out to avoid all occasions in which they are likely to be compared with normal indivisuals” (88). In the novel, Hajimi does not compare himself with normal people but Shimamoto because he knows she is also abnormal. As Reid opines that people with inferiority complex do not compare with normal person, Hajimi finds Shimamoto more vulnerable than himself. This idea also intensifies the fact that he is suffering from psychological trauma.
Another time, Hajimi delves into the past and remembers how he hold the hands of Shimamoto. The experience of holding him back haunts him because he could not hold at the moment. He stresses, “If memory serves, not even once. Whenever we walked home from school together, she never once apologized for holding me back or let this thought graze her expression” (8). Here, Shimamoto does not apologize for holding his back while walking from school to home. The childhood memories of Hajimi makes him nostalgic to the point that they were sweet memories and at the time of crisis or lack of love, he dreams of such days to come into his life again. This can be taken as a coping strategy of Hajimi at the time of crisis also.
Not only Hajimi suffers from the memories of walking from school to home, but he suffers from the lost smile that Shimamoto gave him while she played songs in her home. He confesses that such a memory at present hit him, “Only when the record was safely back on the shelf did she turn to me and give a little smile. And every time, this thought hit me: it wasn’t a record she was handling, it was a fragile soul inside a glass bottle” (9). In order to confess his miserable existence he says that Shimamoto wasn’t handing a record but ‘fragile soul’ which suggests that he is spiritually impotent. His spiritual satisfaction is lost. The trapped situation of his soul is also suggested by “fragile soul inside a glass bottle” (9). He feels as if he is trapped somewhere and he does not have a power to escape from the trap. Regarding this situation of Rosine Hajimi and J. Perelberg one of the writers of Time and Memory explore how people suffer from feeling of being trapped as, “. . . his own identity and his feeling of being trapped by the repetitive compulsion to go on recreating the same scenario. This reminds of Freud’s development of his theory of the death drive (1920) as opposed to a life drive” (142). In the novel Hajimi suffers from the same fate as Perelberg has described. Thus, in the present world, Hajimi suffers from dissatisfaction, spiritual corruption, blackmailing and which counts in general as a trauma. The trauma in the then society of Japan is caused due to the lack of spiritual satisfaction. The problem lies in the psyche of the character that is not at peace.
Fear got the best of Shimamoto and in panic he turns to blame the society. As he indicates the difference between him and other people, he calls to invite the readers to judge how he was betrayed. Thus, from the very beginning of the novel, the readers can sense how frightful he was to face the separation with Shimamoto. Hajimi indicates the changes in his thinking as: “Our friends were different, so were our uniforms and textbooks. My body, my voice, my way of thinking, were undergoing sudden changes, and an unexpected awakerdness threatened the intimate world we had created” (15). The confession of Hajimi does not give an objective and only meaning as the tone of his confession shows some kind of fear in him and readers also can sense that he is now well known about the physical and psychological changes. The words “unexpected” suggests that he is not known about the physical changes in him which makes him frightened. Here, the fear of the Hajimi is rightly addressed by one of the critics of trauma Peter A. Levine and Maggie Kline. They developed a checklist of teen trauma symptom. He claims, “Abrupt changes in relationships like sudden disinterest in favourite people; becoming detached and withdrawn; and radical changes in grades, life attitudes, and/or appearance” (67). As Levine and Kline has quoted the symptoms, Hajimi suffers from the same fate. He fears due to the radical changes in his life attitudes and appearance which he confesses as, “My body, my voice, my way of thinking were undergoing sudden changes” (15). Hajimi fears that the union between him and Shimamoto will be torn apart due to such changes. He calls the environment he created with Shimamoto ‘world’. He believes that there is no other world outside for them. It suggests that they are too much obsessed with one another that they cannot live separated from each another.
Moreover, to be sure that physical changes occur to him, Hajimi observes himself in front of the mirror, “I was no longer the kind of sickly child who ran a temperature at the drop of a hat and took to his bed. Often I stood naked in front of the bathroom mirror, scrutinizing every nook and cranny of my body” (17). Here, Hajimi is a bit little conscious about the changes so he goes in front of the mirror naked. The psyche of the character seems a bit conscious about the changes but to be sure, he likes to see with his own eyes. The physical and mental changes make adults curious and same curiosity is seen in Hajimi. But, the way Hajimi has not accepted the changes, troubles him.
Sometimes Hajmi feels alienated and ponders in silence with mournful heart but here he feels happy being alone. This shows his loneliness and that is how he is stuck-up loner. He emphasizes, “I felt happy just being me and no one else. In that sense I could be called stuck-up loner. I disliked all team sports. I hated any kind of competition where I had to score points against someone else” (18). Hajimi feels alienated and it is not his wish to be alone. This shows that the situation is not the wish and want of Hajimi but he was stuck-up in it. He dislikes all team sports which also suggests that he does not like to be social. This idea is further intensified by his hatred towards competition. He does not like to compete because he already confessed that he lacks something what others have, “what other people all had and took for granted I lacked” (4). Thus, he prefers to be alone just because he knows he cannot compete with other people. This is caused by his psychological trauma which he feels as “inferiority complex”. Relating this kind of trauma of Hajimi, Martha Bragin, critics of trauma psychology explores five stages of grief and mourning as, Denial, Anger/ Protest, depression, bargaining and acceptance. She asserts the psychology of 13-18 years adolescents as, “Adolescents, ages 12 to 18, are entering a phase where both their bodies and their rains are developing rapidly. Their capacity for complex thought is in the process of development due to changes occurring in the brain” (202). Thus, to be sure that Hajimi suffers from the trauma, according to Martha he must be in the process of psychological development. The changes which creates fear in him count to ‘denial’.
Being traumatized by the social obligations, Hajimi ponders in deep silence which he confesses as “I much preferred to swim on and on, alone, in silence” (18). It confirms that Hajimi does not like to be a sociable person because he thinks that he lacks something that all other people have. Thus, due to the fear that he will lose, he does not like to compete. In order to show that he is interested in sports he at least prefers to swim so that other people will not notice that he is physically and physically abnormal. This always makes Hajimi sad but he conceals it and seeks for the solution.
Nostalgia is one of the elements that shows trauma of the people. Here, Hajimi becomes nostalgic while he holds his wife. He remembers Shimamoto all the time when he is with his wife. He reveals, “She placed her palm above my heart, and the feel of her hand and the beat of my heart became one. She’s not Shimamoto, I told myself. She can’t give me what Shimamoto gave” (25). The comparison of Yushiko with Shimamoto suggests that Hajimi is more obsessed with Shimamoto than his own wife. Being dissatisfied with his wife he dreams of Shimamoto. It is also interesting to note that Hajimi is dissatisfied with his wife yet he holds her; he cannot abandon her. The memory of his childhood friend Shimamoto remains engraved in his memory which frequently haunts and obstructs him.
Izumi further reveals the abnormality of Hajimi. She confesses that she could not understand him. Though she is with him, she does not know where his mind actually is. This shows that Hajimi is not concentrating on Izumi rather he is lost in thought of Shimamoto. Izumi charges, “There’s one thing I just cant’s understand, Izumi said. ‘You say you like me. and you want to take care of me. But sometimes I can’t figure out what’s going to inside your head” (33). It reveals the fact that people simply cannot understand Hajimi due to his abnormal behavior. Though Hajimi confesses his love to Izumi, she knows that there is something in his head that is refusing to take her. Thus, Izumi becomes dissatisfied with Hajimi. It is known to the reader that since Hajimi is obsessed with Shimamoto he cannot profoundly share his feelings with any other girls. Traumatized Hajimi suffers when he does not find something that he felt with Shimamoto. Hajimi feels nostalgic which makes him out of his mind.
Here, the readers come to know another cause that Hajimi always remembers Shimamoto. Izumi reveals that since Hajimi prefers to look things over all by him he does not like people looking inside his head. She elaborates:
You prefer to think things over all by yourself and you don’t like people looking inside your head. Maybe that’s because you’re an only child. You’re used to thinking and acting alone. You figure that as long as you understand something, that’s enough. She shook her head. ‘And that makes me afraid. I feel abandoned’. (34)
It suggests that Hajimi does not like to interact with people around him since he considers himself inferior as he confesses that he lacks something all other people have. Izumi giving solace to his loneliness responds him with positive words. She also consoles him that he does not need to understand everything, understanding something is enough for him. She also shows her dissatisfaction with his ways. Regarding this situation of Hajimi critic Jose R. Maldonado and David Spiegel in Trauma, Memory and Dissociation claim, “Many trauma victims describe experiencing a sense of detachment from their surroundings occurring at the time of trauma” (61). It intensifies the fact that Shimamoto feels abandoned. The behavior of Hajimi troubles her much; it makes her afraid and abandoned. Due to the indifference of Hajimi not only he but Izumi also suffers from trauma. She feels as if abandoned from Hajimi yet she is with him. The spiritual disconnectedness haunts her more than the physical nearness.
When Hajimi was with Izumi, he feels as if he was walking down the road, he feels hooked. He feels as if stuck by the silent bolt of lightning. He confesses, “Still, the first time I laid eyes on her, it was as if I were walking down the road one afternoon and a silent bolt of lightning struck me smack on the head. No ifs, ands, or buts – I was hooked” (36). It shows the hesitation of Hajimi. His awkward feeling shows that he is haunted by the memories of Shimamoto. He cannot enjoy with any other girls except Shimamoto. It was of course not the bolt of lightning that struck him but it as the imagination, the remembrance of Shimamoto. There was nothing that smack on his head but he feels it which is his imagination. Being imaginative, he fears the worldly things. He does not accept the change. Thus, he becomes a loner; a misanthropist in general. This ideology suggests that Hajimi is suffering from deep down rooted aloneness, inferiority complex and nostalgia.
It is one of the characteristics of traumatic people that they cannot distinguish between dream and reality. Here, in the novel, Hajimi suffers from the same fate as he cannot distinguish between world of dreams and real world. He confesses this confusion as, “For me the boundary dividing the real world and the world of dreams has always been vague and whenever infatuation raised its almighty head, even during my early teens, a beautiful face wasn’t enough to get me going” (36). People with trauma sometimes suffer from the vagueness. Hajimi faces the same fate in his teens. He confesses that he could not create a boundary dividing the real world and the world of dreams. It suggests that at daytime the world things seem like dream and at night whatever he does in his dream he thinks that he really did it in real life.
Traumatic people often refuse the worldly environment and worldly things. Here, Hajimi refuses something that is quantifiable and external beauty. He confesses that he is obsessed with something absolute which is not possible in practical life. He describes:
I was always attracted not by some quantifiable, external beauty, but by something deep down, something absolute. I liked that certain undefinable something directed at me by members of the opposite sex. for want of a better word, call it magnetism. Like it or not, it’s a power that ensnares people and reels them in. (37)
Traumatic people search for something that is not worldly. The same happens with Hajimi as he says that he was attracted by something “deep down, something absolute”. This astonishes the readers that one cannot find something ‘absolute’ and ‘deep down’. He cannot say for sure what something ‘deep down’ is. Thus, his psyche is operating with fantasy not with the reality. He is much controversial when he says that he likes certain ‘undefinable’ something. It creates a kind humour in readers since one cannot ask for something undefinable. Everything in the world is definable and Hajimi asking for undefinable is beyond the metaphysical world. They ponder in silence and ask for something that does not exist. Traumatic people sometimes go beyond the metaphysical world. Hajimi is even guided by libidinal desires which he expresses as he likes something undefinable from the opposite sex.
Traumatic people like to live solitary life. They are considered as less sociable. They do not like to engage in the activities that concern with the society. They even hate the social doings. Hajimi suffers from same fate as he does not like to be in a mass. He does not like the slogans of freedom. He expresses, “I couldn’t feel the requisite solidarity with the people around me. The scent of violence that hung over the streets, the powerful slogans of the day, soon lost their point” (43). It indicates the fact that Hajimi is indifferent towards the social happenings. He does not like people around him. He feels as if he is a misanthropist. Hajimi cannot distinguish whether violence has its scent or not. He does not know violence has its purpose, color and longing for power. The loss of the powerful slogan is also the symbol of his loss. He believes that since powerful slogans cannot do anything, his voice, his words are not of prime importance. He becomes pessimistic regarding the world around him.
Moreover, Hajimi confesses his disappointment and deep rooted loneliness. He confesses, “Years of disappointment and loneliness. And silence. Frozen years, when my feelings were shut up inside me” (45). It indicates the fact that Hajimi is suffering from being trapped. His silence also suggests that he is reluctant to be sociable. And, as a result of which he feels trapped inside. He could not share his feelings and emotions with other people. Thus, loneliness haunts him more than ever. Regarding his condition, one of the critics of Trauma and Memory, Rosine J. Perelberg asserts, “The actual ruins would symbolize in this way the remains of his dead objects as well as his own identity and his feeling of being trapped. . .” (142). In the novel Hajimi suffers from the same fate as he feels trapped.
Traumatic people remember the images engraved in their memory and suffer for not having them in real world. Hajimi also suffers from such trauma as he cannot forget Shimamoto. He confesses as, “I never forgot her. Her face was engraved on my memory” (69). It indicates the fact that the image of Shimamoto recurs in his mind. To properly address this traumatic condition, one of the critics of trauma Roger Luckhurst claims, “Trauma is engraved in the mind under distinct conditions, etched in by the heightened adrenaline of the physiological reaction to bodily stress. It is also an explicitly non-verbal, non-narrative memory” (148). Here, we come to know that the memory which is engraved in traumatic person is caused due to the bodily stress. Luckhurst also confirms that such kind of memory can be non-verbal and non-narrative.
Very often traumatic people talk with ambiguity. This is how Hajimi is portrayed in the novel speaking ambiguous sentences. At first he confesses that he does not know, later on he admits that he’s not unhappy. Murakami expresses: “I don’t know. At least I’m not unhappy, and I’m not lonely. A moment later I added, ‘But sometimes the thought strikes me that the happiest time of my life was when we were together in your living room, listening to music” (82). Hajimi fails to quote the exactness in his voice. He confesses that he is not unhappy and he is not alone. The remembrance of Shimamoto strikes him at the moment and he recalls those memories when they were together in living room, listening to music. This intensifies the fact that Hajimi suffers from the past memories.
The readers come to notice that only Hajimi but Shimamoto also suffers from separation. She confesses her suffering as: “Or maybe we’re just unlucky, she said. Lots of slip-ups and we end up missing each other” (84). She admits that due to the social obligations and lots of slip-ups they miss each other. They cannot live conjugal life. Thus, Shimamoto suffers from the past memories as well.
It is also interesting to note that traumatic people sometimes find a way to hypnotize by themselves. Murakami asserts how Hajimi finds a way to hypnotize himself:
Maybe it was an illusion, I thought. I stood there a long time, gazing at the rainswept streets. Once again I was a twelve-year-old boy staring for hours at the rain. Look at the rain long enough, with no thoughts in your head, and you gradually feel your body falling loose, shaking free the world’s reality. Rain has the power to hypnotize. (86)
First, Hajimi is confused whether it is an illusion or not. Standing on the roadside he gazes long into the rainswept street. Gradually, he feels his body falling loose. Hajimi becomes hypnotized by the rain. As he claims, “Rain has the power to hypnotize” (86). The readers come to know that staring long at something cannot easily hypnotize people. Only traumatic people who ponder long get hypnotized. Regarding this idea, critic Jose R. Maldonado and David Spiegel explain, “We believe that some trauma victims may accidentally learn how to use hypnotic-like techniques in order to avoid the full impact of a traumatic experience” (61). So, Hajimi in order to avoid the impact of trauma, pain in his heart, hypnotizes himself with rain. He became too much concentrated on water that finally he believes that rain has the power to hypnotize people. As Maldonado and Spiegel believe Hajimi in the novel suffers from the same fate.
In addition, Hajimi also faces the same problem while flipping through the pages of books as he faced while staring at the rainswept street. Now, he again is lost in aimless musings. He confesses as, “I sat at the bar of my other place, flipping through the pages of books, lost in aimless musings” (87) Here, readers can sense that Hajimi is at towards the crux of his trauma. He is lost in thought whenever he tries something for a long. It also indicates his abnormal psyche. The psychological abnormality obstructs him to face the reality.
People with psychological trauma find everyday life boring. They think that there is no room for them to stay because every place is crowded for them. They refuse to involve themselves in productive and creative works. Hajimi, the central character of the novel also suffers from the same fate. Murakami explores the psyche of Hajimi as, “The work was a complete bore. Absolutely no room for using your imagination. I was sick of it. I couldn’t stand going to work any more. I felt as if I was choking, as if every day I was shrinking and one day I would disappear completely” (91). Here, once again Hajimi shows his dissatisfaction. Now, he believes that work is a complete bore. He even thinks that in work there is no room for using imagination. Being sick of work also suggests the pessimistic view of Hajimi. He refuses to go to work as he says, “I couldn’t stand going to work any more” (91). His feeling confirms this as he feels choking and shrinking. He is afraid that one day he will completely disappear. Here, the psyche of the character is haunted by the worldly reality because one day everyone will disappear. But, Hajimi does not accept the universal truth. He does not accept that even if he abandons his work, he will one day disappear from the face of the earth.
Moreover, we find Hajimi confused. He expresses that he looked deep into his own eyes but he cannot identify himself. He cannot reveal his identity. The lack of identity is cause by the traumatic pain, and detachment from the society. Murakami explores the feeling of Hajimi as, “For the first time in a long while, I looked deep into my own eyes in the mirror. Those eyes told me nothing about who I was. I laid both hands on the sink and sighed deeply” (98). It is also interesting that Hajimi seeks to identify his own existence. He looks into the mirror and finds nothing about who he was. The ‘sighed deeply’ also suggests his tiresome status. The psyche of Hajimi is dull at the moment.
To be sure that Hajimi is suffering due to the separation, Murakami explains the relationship between Hajimi and Shimamoto that was too close at the beginning and when they were separated from the high school, both of them became the patients of trauma. The following conversation explores the trauma of both the characters as, “I’ve messed up your life. I know I have, Shimamoto said in a small voice. ‘Look, let’s stop talking about it’, I said. ‘We’ve come all this way, so let’s talk about something more cheerful'” (101). Here, Shimamoto confesses that she ruined the life of Hajimi. But Hajimi does not like to confess the truth. The avoidance of truth is also significant to note here because traumatic people do not like to face truth. They either deny the truth or escape. He likes something cheerful. It also suggests that he is in search of a traumatic healing. And, Shimamoto and cheerful talking with him can be taken as a method of healing his trauma.
It is also important to note that no one wants to reveal their secrets and no one wishes their secrets have been known to other people. But traumatic people in their subconscious state wish to reveal such secrets. Here, Hajimi wishes his wife to know that he is with Shimamoto. He reveals, “Subconsciously, I was hoping my wife would find out about my coming here with Shimamoto” (109). Regarding this, one of the critics of trauma Cathy Covell consider that trauma happens continuously to the person with subconscious mind. Covell further quotes: “The fact is, on the subconscious level, a person experiences unresolved trauma all day and all night long, like a broken record. To the subconscious mind, the trauma is happening continuously” (74). Since trauma is happening to Hajimi, he does not consider the consequences of what he speaks. That is why, he like her wife to know the truth. It is the nature of the traumatic people that they fear with truth but in subconscious level, they sometimes speak regardless of the consequences.
When Shimamoto leaves Hajimi, he becomes insane which he confesses later on. Here, Hajimi suffers from the fear of losing Shimamoto forever. Traumatic people often suffer from the feeling of meaninglessness. Murakami portrays Hajimi, “As I drove away, I thought this: If I never see her again, I will go insane. Once she got out of the car and was gone, my world was suddenly hollow and meaningless” (110). It indicates that lack of Shimamoto makes Hajimi go insane. He does not see any meaning of his life. The sudden change in his life suggests that he is more obsessed with Shimamoto. The feeling of meaninglessness is rightly addressed by the Critic of Traumatic Stress, Bessel A. van der Kolk and Alexander C. McFarlane as, “Usually suffering does not bring an increased sense of love and meaning; rather, it results in loneliness and disintegration of belief. Some traumatized people deal with their encounter with unpredictability and meaninglessness. . .” (26). The readers come to know that due to the suffering Hajimi lacks sense of love and meaning which results in loneliness. The alone Hajimi feels as if his life is meaningless and unpredictable as well.
Traumatic people are depressed when the feel being trapped. The same experience of Hajimi confirms that he is suffering from psychological trauma. His experience can be seen as, “It depressed me. Little by little, I would get snared by the world out there” (116). The readers come to know that Hajimi feels trapped by the world around him. Since he does not involve in social activities and other ceremonies organized in the society, he feels alienated and trapped at the same time.
Traumatic people fail to find the meaning of their existence. Here, Hajimi is not sure of his own existence. The problem in his existence shows that he is psychologically abnormal. Murakami portrays Hajimi as, “Both hands on the wheel, I closed my eyes. I didn’t feel as if I was in my own body; my body was just a lonely, temporary container I happened to be borrowing. What would become of me tomorrow I did not know” (124). This intensifies that Hajimi fails to recognize his own body. His words are so confusing that he questions his own existence. There, loneliness exists and he cannot feel anything even his body. He compares himself with a temporary container which is not relevant for the normal people. The readers can find the unpredictability towards the future as indicated by the critic Kolk and McFarlane in Hajimi.
The past memories and remembrance of someone makes people with trauma suffer. Hajimi feels pain in his chest when he looks at the photograph of Shimamoto. He feels awful as:
The photograph brought a pain to my chest. It made me realize what an awful amount of time I had lost. Precious years that could never be recovered, no matter how much I struggled to bring them back. Time that existed only then, only in that place. I gazed at the photo for a very long time. (128)
Here, we observe that Hajimi suffers from the pain in his chest. He realizes that he lost the precious time. He stares at the photo for a long. It is because he cannot avoid it. Traumatic people often have problem with recurring memories of the past. This condition of Hajimi is best describe by critic Bessel A. van der Kolk and Alexander C. McFarlane as they reveal that past haunts traumatic people more than the present experiences. It fails to appreciate the present. They argue:
Despite the human capacity to survive and adapt, traumatic experiences can alter people’s psychological, biological, and social equilibrium to such a degree that the memory of one particular event comes to taint all other experiences, spoiling appreciation of the present. This tyranny of the past interferes with the ability to pay attention to both new and familiar situations. When people come to concentrate selectively on reminders of their past, life tends to become colorless, and contemporary experience ceases to be a teacher. (4)
It is important to note that traumatic people often found with alternation is psychological, biological and social equilibrium. The memory of Shimamoto comes into Hajimi’s mind so that all other experiences and present has been forgotten. To this, Kolk and McFarlane call “tyranny of the past” which interferes with the ability to pay attention to both present and past. As a result of which Hajimi’s life becomes colorless and present experience fails to guide him.
People with trauma have problem with sleep. They cannot sleep quietly. This happens to Hajimi as well. He cannot sleep well at night. He confesses as, “It was as if a tree were growing inside my body, laying down roots, spreading its branches, pushing down on my organs, my muscles, bones and skin, forcing its way outwards. It was so stifling at times that I couldn’t sleep” (131). This suggests that Hajimi feels awkward. He feels trapped and some kind of pain inside him makes him feel uncomfortable. This uncomfortable situation as he clarifies is that he feels as if a tree were growing inside him; spreading its branches; pushing down his organs, muscles, bones and skin.
Separation with Shimamoto has long-lasting effect on Hajimi. He is torn by the memory of Shimamoto. Now, he wants a talk that would lead back to Shimamoto. He declares, “What I wanted was harmless, meaningless talk, talk that would lead anywhere but back to Shimamoto” (133). It suggests that Hajimi is not interested in any other women than Shimamoto. He is obsessed with the past memories.
Now, towards the end of the novel Hajimi becomes more selfish when he says that he could throw all the people to be with Shimamoto. He reveals the truth as:
But they didn’t know the truth. That on a certain snowy winter day, if my plane had been grounded, I would have thrown them all away to be with Shimamoto. My job, my family, my money- everything, without flinching. And here I was, my head still full of Shimamoto. The sensation of holding her, of kissing her cheek, wouldn’t leave me. I couldn’t drive the image of Shimamoto from my mind and replace it with my wife. (134-35)
Here, Hajimi is seen selfish. He does not care about the people around him. The memory of Shimamoto is engraved into his mind which makes him confess that he could sacrifice his job, family, money and everything to be with her. The obsessed Hajimi even confesses that there is only Shimamoto in his head. The sensations and physical relation with Shimamoto come into his mind vividly. He even confesses that he could not drive the image of Shimamoto from his mind and replace it with his wife. This suggests that he denies the present reality. He says that he cannot replace Shimamoto with his wife and practically he is replacing her in his life. There is gap between what he says and what he actually does.
Sometimes people with trauma suffering from the absence of someone they love. Here, Hajimi also suffers from the absence of Shimamoto. Murakami shows Hajimi trapped on the surface of the moon as:
But since Shimamoto had stopped coming to see me, I was struck on the ariless surface of the moon. If she had gone for ever, no one remained to whom I could reveal my true feelings. On sleepless nights I’d lie in bed and replay over and over in my mind that scene at the snowy Komatsu Airport. (136)
Here, the readers clearly understand the logic behind Hajimis’ suffering. He feels as if struck on the airless surface of the moon. This idea is beyond the metaphysical world. Thus, it counts as an imagination and people with trauma often imagine the impossible things. He also confesses that if Shimamoto is gone forever from his life, there remains no one with whom he can share his feelings. It connotes that Hajimi does not believe on the existence of other people without the presence of Shimamoto.
Hajimi believes that he holds himself back on the surface of the moon. His psyche is not imagining the things which are out of his control. He believes that he is stuck in the lifeless world. He confesses as, “Yet I held myself back, back on the surface of the moon, stuck in this lifeless world. And in the end she left me and my life was lost all over again” (136). Now, the memory of Shimamoto once again comes into his mind which truly affects his psyche. He believes that without Shimamoto his life is sure to end. He thinks as if she is the life for him and without which he can no longer breathe.
People with trauma often wish for the things which lack the human quality. Here, Hajimi imagines of being fish. He also thinks that thinking is a very hard job and he wants to avoid thinking. He wishes as, “I imagined I was a fish. Just a fish, with no need to think, not even about swimming” (138). It indicates that being a human, Hajimi wishes to be a fish. Thinking about various things in the world became boredom for him. Thus, he believes that life of a fish is wonderful. That is why, he wishes to be a fish. It has nothing to think over not even about swimming. Here, ‘swimming’ is the everyday routine of fish. Since Hajimi is suffering from the everyday tasks, he cannot imagine that fish has to continually work; at least swim in order to live in the water. If he has ever thought about the routine of fish, he would not have wished to be a fish.
Yukiko cares Hajimi and finds him ‘sighing’ all the time. She finds that something is bothering Hajimi. She reveals the fact as, “‘And you sigh all the time’, she said. ‘Anyhow, something’s definitely bothering you. Your mind’s a million miles away'” (142). It suggests that Hajimi’s mind is not with him. It is thinking about the things which are million miles away. It indicates to the memory of Shimamoto which frequently haunts him. Thus, being haunted by the sweet memories of Shimamoto, Yukiko, his wife comes to understand his behavior.
Previously, Hajimi wished to be a fish but now he thinks that he has no will to move. The controversy lies here is that since fish has to move all the time and Hajimi has no will to move, how could he imagine himself being a fish? Hajimi reveals that he has no will to move, “But what about my life? Was there any consistency, and conviction to speak of? I felt deflated, utterly lacking the will to move” (143). Since, there is no consistency in his life, Hajimi feels deflated, he lacks the will to continue his life. Since there are turmoil in his life, he rather likes to abandon his life. As a result of which he confesses that he has no will to move ahead.
Hajimi confess all the things at this moment. He realizes that his words lost their strength. He feels as if he is parted from the reality. He also reveals that for him the rain twisted time and reality as, “My words lost their strength and, like raindrops glued to the window, slowly parted company with reality. On rainy nights I could barely breathe. The rain twisted time and reality” (174). The psychological pang makes him trapped. And, in such a trap he feels breathless. He charges rain for twisting time an reality. But, it is interesting and child-like talking of Hajimi that rain cannot twist time and reality but the time can twist reality and rain as well.
People with psychological trauma doubt the present reality. They also deny the reality and like to live in the world of dream and imagination. Here, Hajimi charges memory for being bias, “Because memory and sensations are so uncertain, so biased, we always rely on a certain reality- call it an alternate reality -to prove the reality of events” (176). The readers come to know that Hajimi does not believe in absolute reality, he calls it alternate reality. Alternate reality helps to prove the reality of the events. This idea is quite tough that readers cannot sense the exactness from Hajimi. Since he likes to live in the world of dreams, he often rejects the world around him.
Hajimi once again tries his best to clarify the concept of reality but he cannot. He is quite vague in his definition of reality. According to him, the reality becomes reality only after it is supported from another reality which he calls alternate reality. He goes on describing reality and finally explores reality which he calls third reality as:
Therefore, in order to pin down reality as reality, we need another reality to relativize the first. Yet that other reality requires a third reality to serve as its grounding. An endless chain is related within our consciousness, and it is the maintenance of this chain which produces the sensation that we are actually here, that we ourselves exist. But something can happen to sever that chain and we are at a loss. (176)
Now, what do we have here is that Hajimi confessing his psychological trauma. He goes on exploring the chains in his psychological drive which are needed in order to distinguish reality. And, towards the end of the quote he accepts that people suffer from trauma because of the break in a chain of reality. This clearly points that Hajimi is suffering from such a loss as a result of breakdown of the chain.
Now, as a result of breakdown of the chain of reality, Hajimi is dumbfounded and speechless which he confesses as, “I stood there dumbfounded, speechless” (178). Now, he fully admits himself as a patient of trauma. Since trauma haunts if not treated, Hajimi cannot speak at all. He confesses, “For several days afterwards, I couldn’t speak. I’d open my mouth to talk, but the words would disappear, as if the utter nothingness . . .” (179). It suggests that due to the severe attack of trauma he cannot control himself and he is about to lose his mind completely. His becomes dumb. He speaks but he feels as if it has produced no voice at all.
Hajimi gets haunted by the recurring dreams. He dreams of Shimamoto. He dreams that something is chasing him and he wakes up in the middle of the night, covered with sweat. He admits, “Sometimes I have this dream. . . Still, something is chasing me. I wake up in the middle of the night, covered in sweat” (184). It intensifies the fact that Hajimi suffers from all the symptoms that trauma patients have suffered. He neither distinguishes between dream and reality nor accepts the worldly truth. He often runs from the world, society and in general from himself.
To sum up, Hajimi confesses that he is at the same place where he began. At the beginning he was feeling indifferent; he believed that he lacks something that other people have and now, he feels the same. He admits the truth that he is where he has began, “I’ve been in that void before and forced myself to adjust. And now, finally, I end up where I began and I’d better get used to it” (186). Hajimi was in void in his childhood where he lacked true meaning of life. He felt as if he is different from the people around him. He was afraid of the society. And he felt trapped in a vicious circle and he knows there is no escape at all.
Towards the end of the novel, the readers can judge Hajimi as a patient suffering from psychological trauma. He suffers from trauma caused by the separation, loss, loneliness, nostalgia and dissatisfaction. He fears to accept the truth and in search of finding a place to safeguard himself from such fear he ponders alone into deep silence. From the very beginning of the novel, he denied people around him except Shimamoto; towards the middle of the novel, he is haunted by the memories of Shimamoto and at the end suffers from the separation. Thus, the entire novel hovers around the theme of psychological trauma and it stands as a milestone in the area of psychological trauma.
Coping with Trauma in South of the Border, West of the Sun
Haruki Murakami’s South of the Border, West of the Sun portrays major characters Hajimi, Shimamoto, Izumi and Yukiko and all of them are, to some extent, suffering from the psychological trauma. The background of the all characters is that they are born after the World War II which caused millions of the lives in Japan.
From the very beginning of the novel the readers can see Hajimi and Shimamoto share their feelings. Hajimi at that time was suffering from fear, indifference with people around him. But at least he was coping with the environment around him quietly. But, their separation caused them a kind of trauma which frequently haunt them. As a central character in the novel Hajimi suffers more from the trauma than Shimamoto. The separation with Shimamoto makes him dull and he even cannot distinguish between dream and reality. But at least he manages to live his life and Marries Yukiko. The marriage is a symbol of his coping strategy because a person who feels different from other people might not accept marriage. Marrying means being sociable and Hajimi hated being sociable. But, marriage works him as a medicine and he begins to think about the future. At times, he is also haunted by the memories of Shimamoto, but busying with his work as an editor, he overcome the trauma.
Later, when Hajimi leaves the work as an editor, idea of business comes into his mind and he starts business; he opens a bar. Opening a bar is one of the coping strategy of Hajimi because if he stays without work, he might go insane. Thus, he involves himself into work. He works hard in his own bar and serves guests. Later on, he comes to know about Shimamoto from one of the school friends of his and gets struck by the past memories. Though he remembers Shimamoto all the time, he manages to open another bar in the city. His business progress also suggests that he coped with trauma and almost overcome towards the middle of the novel until Shimamoto appears in his bar.
Though Hajimi suffers more on the absence of Shimamoto he has social obligations which makes him continue his life being normal. He has the duty to take care of his daughters. At this moment he has more works to do from the morning to night. Running tow bars at the same time and fulfilling the desires of his wife and being accountable is hard for him but he manages to do all.
When Shimamoto again disappears for a long time, he becomes trapped and imagines of unworldly things. He beings to think that his life without Shimamoto is useless. He finds no meaning of life and yet he continues it. The continuation of the life is another coping mechanism. He ponders into silence and once staring at the rainswept street he feels hypnotized by the rain. He believes in the power of rain to hypnotize people. In fact, it was his psyche that accepted being hypnotized. Thus, being hypnotized is another coping mechanism which gives temporary relief to him.
Now, when Shimamoto again appears, Hajimi does not like to miss her again. He stakes his family, business, money and whatever he has to be with Shimamoto. He finally lost the meaning of life without Shimamoto. The recurring dream and images of Shimamoto haunt him more. At that time too, he has to fulfill his duty to his wife and his children. Thus, he is bound to do the daily work. He cannot abandon going to school and handling his business.
Towards the end of the novel, Shimamoto blackmails him and she runs for ever. From this time one, Hajimi suffers more from the trauma, but he manages to continue his everyday life. He sometimes talks of reality created by the chains of truths and other times he goes on accepting the society. He finally comes to know that he cannot easily escape from this world. Thus, he is obliged to cope with the environment around him and live accordingly.
In conclusion, Murakami as a Japanese writer quite seriously portrays Hajimi as an only child. It is also significant to note the effect of second world war which affected many people and they became impotent. The symbol of only child also is important if we go on searching the historical causes of trauma. There are several areas on which studies can be conducted on South of the Border, West of the Sun since it has background in Japan, it was largely affected from the second world war as based on such background a study on historical trauma can be conducted. Further, the modernist sense of loss can be one of the areas of study for the researchers who have interest on it.