swimming with the jellyfish
10/02/2010 § 2 Comments
It wasn´t that long ago that I finished The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles and was captivated, warped into, enveloped, sucked through the deep intricacies of Murakami´s well of thoughts.
The main themes that the protaognist, Toru, explores are ones that most people fear: the water and the dark, although I´m sure height can be worked into either phobia.
The symbolism for water is pervasive throughout the story, swelling into a scene as naturally as the tide, tickling your heels before you even realize it, just when you refocused your attention on the sunset, it gently reminds you of its presence, and most importantly, of its power. The creeping prowess of this metaphorical element is especially prominent when the protagonist remembers events and moments with his wife, and love, Kumiko.
For example, the elderly man that the young couple used to visit, Mr. Honda, warned Toru to be aware of the water in his life on one of those visits as a couple, perhaps a foreshadow of the changes to come, like the tide: The ebb and flow.
One particular instance of Toru´s memory was the first date he had with his soon-to-be wife. What other place than the aquarium at the zoo would Murakami send his sympathetic couple to?
In this aquarium, Kumiko became entranced with the jellyfish. Perhaps because of the way they swim or their transparent vulnerability which, as we learn, is reflective of her own. Toru is revolted by the jellyfish, he can´t even stand to look at them (perhaps because of the way they swim or their transparent vulnerability). Such is the criticism of, not only Japanese male culture, but of human nature in general.
Toru asks, praytell, ¨Why do you like the jellyfish so much?¨
¨I don´t know. I guess I think they´re cute,¨ responds Kumiko. But, one thing occurred to her when she was really focused on them:
¨What we see before us is just the one tiny part of the world. We get in the habit of thinking, This is the world, but that´s not true at all. The real world is in a much darker and deeper place than this, and most of it is occupied by jellyfish and things¨ (p225).
These things may be the very vivid realizations that Toru had whilst sitting at the bottom of a deep, dark well, which occurs later in the story.
It is within these darkest depths that we find the most disturbing beings, only because, if I may make this inference, the monsters there are the same monsters within that swim and occassionally rise to reveal their vulnerability.
On the third day at Punta del Este, the morning after a torrential downpour and just before another afternoon-downpour, I dove into the Atlantic Ocean at La Brava Beach, washing the sand from my feet just to get sand in my hair. A big wave knocked against me, I held onto my bearings and fought its force. When the water rushed away, I looked down and amidst the sand and seadweed were jellyfish. I could tell, by the way they floated, that they were dead.