Haruki Murakami explores the struggles men face in determining their identities through the protagonists of his novels The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Norwegian Wood, and Sputnik Sweetheart. The main characters in all three novels are men in their early thirties who face harsh societal pressures to conform, resulting in arrested development. As a result, the men feel as though they must depend on relationships with women in order to find happiness and they feel obligated to act as heroes for their female counterparts in order to feel a sense of purpose and accomplishment. When these women suddenly disappear, the protagonists struggle with crippling isolation. As they attempt to cope with this sense of loss, they further separate themselves from society, especially through their advanced thinking about subjects such as death and existence. Through these contemplations, the protagonists come to a better understanding of themselves and their identities. This character development shows that when an individual separates himself from society and stands alone, rather than conforming, he can experience growth.
Similarly, in the Women’s Suffrage Movement, women of color found it difficult to determine their place in society. Because they were both female and African American, they faced double oppression. Although their values aligned with the principle values of the Women’s Suffrage Movement, their contribution to the movement was not always recognized. Several white female leaders of the movement adamantly opposed suffrage for African American women. As a result, women of color questioned their place within the movement. It was extremely difficult for women of color to take a stand due to the harsh discrimination and racism that was so prominent in the United States at the time. However, several individuals, including Mary Church Terrell, Sojourner Truth, and Ida B. Wells, took on leadership roles and resisted society by showing their strength as women of color. In this way, African American women were collectively able to create an identity for themselves. They found comfort and strength with one another, knowing that they were unified in their dedication to a common cause.
Major Works Consulted:
Bracey, John H. African American Women and the Vote: 1837-1965. Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts, 1997.
Photo Credit: “Haruki Murakami.” Famous Authors. Accessed 1 March 2017. http://www.famousauthors.org/ haruki-murakami.
Hinman, Bonnie. Eternal Vigilance: The Story of Ida B. Wells-Barnett. Greensboro, NC: Morgan Reynolds, 2011.
Murakami, Haruki. Sputnik Sweetheart. New York: Vintage, 2001.
---. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. New York: Vintage, 1997.