Murakami Monday: Close reading the final pages

“As the dawn approached, I gave up trying to sleep. I threw a cardigan over my pajamas, padded out to the kitchen, and made some coffee. I sat at the kitchen table and watched the sky grow lighter by the minute. It had been a long time since I’d seen the dawn.”

The final passage of Murakami’s South of the Border, West of the Sun marks the beginning of a new journey for Hajime, the end of the novel but nonetheless a beginning for Hajime. He suggests in the line “It had been a long time since I’d seen the dawn” that a time of change and new beginnings is something he has not done for a long time. The simile of the dawn being “like blue ink on a piece of paper” represents the start of a new story for Hajime, that the past is now behind him and his future will be newly written. The ‘brand new page’ ideology is echoed in the “cloud so sharply etched you could write on it” metaphor a few lines later. The new dawn and beginning allows Hajime is let go of his past, his memories of Shimamoto “had faded”.

The theme of beginnings present at the very end of the novel create a circular narrative as the novel also opens with the theme of beginnings, Hajime was born in the “first week of the first month of the first year of the second half of the twentieth century”, and he tells us his name means “beginning” in Japanese. For the book to open and close with the theme of beginnings suggests that although the novel is coming to a close there is so much more story for the character of Hajime, this is not the ending for him, and his story will go further than the constraints of the pages.

In the novel rain is frequent and often appears when Shimamoto does. The presence of the sun in this passage reiterates Shimamoto’s assumed death; the sun evaporates water from the earth, leaving it dry. Hajime’s world no longer has the presence of Shimamoto in his life, the sun has replaced her rainy presence. Hajime’s thoughts of “rain falling on the sea” portray that although her physical presence has gone from his life and he has decided to start a new beginning the memory of her will linger with him, probably for the rest of his life. Shimamoto’s death is also symbolized in the cemetery; suggesting that Hajime’s old life has been put to death, and further, his old self, as he “was about to be clothed in a new self”.

The mood of this passage is melancholic yet hopeful. Melancholy is conveyed through the motif of rain and remembrance of Shimamoto, yet hope is present in the rising sun, it is also seen in the image of his children. These children give him a purpose to live and he has taken it upon himself to “weave dreams for others”.

“I don’t know if I have the strength to care for Yukiko and the children, I thought. No more visions can help me, weaving special dreams just for me. As far as the eye can see, the void is simply that — a void. 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. No one will weave dreams for me — it is my turn to weave dreams for others. That’s what I have to do. Such dreams may have no power, but if my own life is to have any meaning at all, that is what I have to do.”

Artwork by Jee Hwang

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