Literature in Translation Essay: The Windup Bird Chronicle

Haruki Murakami, Japanese author of The Wind Up Bird Chronicles, has many characters who all have influential aspects on the protagonist Toru Okada. But one particular character, May Kasahara, is one minor character who has a critical effect on the unfolding of the protagonist throughout his journey. This enigmatic character is unknown and although she takes part in helping Toru find himself, a part of May being the one to aid him, is because she needed to find herself as well. Although May Kasahara has major influence on Toru’s life, Toru indirectly has more of a major influence in May’s life.

Toru and May Kasahara’s first encounter with each other was very strange. As Toru was searching for his cat, she arrives and begins asking question after question. During their first encounter, they did not catch each other’s names, yet they sat down together and waited for Noboru Wataya, the cat, talking as if they have already known each other before. Murakami makes that connection between the two character’s and right from the start he creates a close bond with the characters within this scene. As they sit, May begins wandering off, rambling about the most strangest things; however, the reader may notice that this is a genuine part of her personality as one continues reading the novel, she genuinely talks about a lot of off topic things at once. Surprisingly, the passive character Toru is, he was not at all bothered by her rambling and yet sat there and listened to this stranger ask him about whether he would marry a woman with 6 fingers or 4 breast. From the start, readers are introduced to this enigmatic, weird, and strange character who Toru immediately is connected to. Murakami does this to foreshadow their relationship through the rest of the novel.

Their first encounter was also a very strange encounter. As they sit down together, she convinces him to close his eyes as she talks about countless things. However, it was very strange because she felt comfortable around this stranger to talk about death, touch him, and even whisper in his ear. Why was she whispering in his ear? May had began to talk about the feeling of dying and as she is doing this, she is holding Toru’s wrist and whispering to him. It seems as if she was doing hypnosis on him. She puts her finger on his wrist and draws symbols. May Kasahara may have been the start of Toru having the tendency to go into deep thinking about situations. When they were sitting together, she told him to keep his eyes shut and listen to her talk. As she talks, she says she thinks very deeply about things. “When you don’t have anything to, your thoughts get really far out- so far out you can’t follow them all the way to the end” (21)What does this mean? This statement is very significant because as Toru goes through his journey, Toru’s thoughts become deeper and deeper to the point where he is in a world of magical realism; he has never experienced any of this before until after he meets May Kasahara.

May Kasahara is significant because she immediately question Toru’s passive nature and immediately has him taking a turn on his passive nature, immediately starting his journey to find himself. She asks Toru on whether he has “guts.” Before, Toru was a guy who “goes with the flow” he could not recall anytime where he had “guts”. One may notice that after that talk about “guts and curiosity”, Toru begins to, slowly but surely, gain guts through his curiosity. “Where there’s guts there’s curiosity, and where there’s curiosity, there guts” (65) “Curiosity can bring guts out of hiding….” (65) Toru says he was “never the one for guts” (65) but as his journey progresses, he gains it from his curiosity; curiosity of why Kumiko left him; curiosity of who is the real Noboru Wataya; and he gains “guts” by going down into an empty well and being trapped and when he stands up to Noboru Wataya during his meeting, where he tells the story of the “Shitty Island.” One may see that May Kasahara may have indirectly influenced Toru’s Journey in some ways, as such.

Murakami also foreshadows Toru’s events through May Kasahara. One very significant matter is that Toru was introduced to the “Well” by May Kasahara. “Tell me Mr. Windup Bird, would you like to see the Well?” (65) As Toru recalls the words Mr. Honda said to him “When you’re suppose to go down, find the deepest well and go down to the bottom” (66) He now had a well if necessary, and May Kasahara was the one to provide him with it.

Although May Kasahara has a significant influence on Toru’s life, Toru was oblivious that he had a significant influence on May Kasahara’s life. Although May Kasahara is a minor character, throughout the novel, she experiences her own journey. Through May Kasahara’s letters, the reader is able to see why she did certain things when she was with Toru, and what actually goes on inside of her mind.

In her letters she explains that she felt like she was trapped in the world of “Mr. Windup Bird” and needed to break free. This is why she leaves her home and goes to a place far away. When she was home, readers can see that May Kasahara in some ways depended on “Mr. Windup Bird” such as when he went into the well and left a note on his kitchen table saying he will be back but he never returned. She felt very upset about that and when she found him in the well she sought a sense of revenge on him, because she was looking forward to seeing him. Another encounter is when Toru was hugging Kumiko in his house and May Kasahara saw through the window. When she confronted Toru, she seemed as if she was jealous or envied Kumiko; as if “Mr. Windup Bird” was hers and she did not want to share him with another woman.

May further explains within her letters that she would have delusions of Toru raping her when they were alone at his house and she confesses that that is the reason she trapped him in the well. When reading the novel, it seemed as if they completely ignored the age difference between them two, but May Kasahara did not ignore it and she had already knew what she was getting into, but she never shared it with him until the letters. Murakami may have done this to create a separate climax within the world of May Kasahara. May Kasahara was going through her own plots and journey and the readers were not aware of this until later on within the Novel; another technique and stylistic concept Murakami used in order to show the life and chronicles of May Kasahara.

May Kasahara was a very daring girl who was bold and risky in the beginning having this bad girl image, riding on back of motorcycles, not following up with school, abandoning Toru for hours in the Well, but within her letters, it would seem as if it was all an act from who she really is and what she really feels like, she actually is sentimental and she cares, she is attracted to Toru and wants him in her life. Toru and May share this strong bond. They really depend on each other. They guide each other the way suits them best. There has been moments where May needed Toru to talk to and that is why she wrote the letters to him; and there has been times when Toru needed May, just a sense to step away from the rough life he was dealing with, chasing Kumiko. Toru imagined May Kasahara telling him right from wrong, and they both missed that from each other. They both depended on each other, from the minute they met, one can see that they both became a piece of each other’s life that they would need to complete themselves, regardless of the side circumstances they had been through. May had said within one of her letters that sometimes she felt like she was Kumiko, that she was Mrs. Okada, and as a reader, one could see where she is coming from,thinking back to all of the times they would sit on the chairs and just talk for hours letting each other in.

It can be depicted that Murakami was actually opening the reader’s eyes to who truly should be in Toru’s life, and who Toru was chasing after, during his journey to find himself, was right not who he should have been chasing after because the one who would fit best in his life was there beside him all along. May Kasahara may have seen that she was the perfect one for Toru, but Toru could not see it. The readers were able to see it, because she was the one beside him, the one he went to for help, the one he could tell anything to, and they had a certain bond, that helped them both to learn and grow from each other, as if they really needed each other.