The Search of Self Through Individuation in Murakami’s Norwegian Wood and Sputnik Sweetheart

November 8, 2021 by Essay Writer

French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan has been known worldwide as the man who has introduced the concept, “The Mirror Stage”. Another one of his most leading works is of course the concept of “Other”. In an article entitled “Being the Other Woman: Watanabe’s Unrequited Love for Naoko in Norwegian Wood”, Giselle Carter (2017) has applied Lacan’s concept of “Other” to study the novel’s main character, Toru Watanabe’s projection of “Other” to another main character, Naoko. Based on her journal, Lacan defines desire as “longing for self-completion” and an important component on attaining the “Other”. However, this “Other” is not accessible to the Self so one must project these attributes to other living things, such as a person. In this case, Watanabe relies on Naoko to find his “Other” subconsciously. Even though Watanabe’s love is one-sided, he continues to seek comfort from Naoko who clearly still hangs on the death of her boyfriend years ago. Carter also has discussed in her article that Watanabe’s infatuation with Naoko has “distorted his sense of self” (8) as he realizes that he spends most of his time thinking about her. Lastly, she also emphasizes on Watanabe’s projection of “Other” by stating that all this while, he has been picturing his life with the presence of Naoko even though it’s one sided. Even after she dies, Carter explained that he still thinks of Naoko in the same way as he retells their story. Although she has argued some examples from the novel, there are some indications shown that these characters and events are best to be explained from a different perspective, for example, Carl Jung’s theory of Individuation.

While Carter has made her arguments from the lens of a Lacanian, J.P Dil also has reviewed Murakami Haruki works by applying Carl Jung’s psychoanalysis theory of Individuation by doing a thorough analysis on its Archetypes. According to his thesis entitled “Murakami Haruki and The Search for Self-Theraphy” in 2007, he talks about loss, mourning and melancholia in its Chapter 1: The Search for Self-Theraphy. According to him, Jung has described that individuation carries the definition of becoming an “in-dividual,” as individuality celebrates our innermost uniqueness which implies that we become one’s own Self. (50) He then elaborates Jung’s explanations like many psychoanalysts have agreed that the best way to interpret unconscious material is through dreams. However, Jung believes that we can also extract this analysis from observing one’s self active imagination. Based on Dil’s thesis, Murakami advocates a certain style of writing where his characters mostly are written to explore the world freely. Hence, this allows his works to be best interpreted in Jung’s archetypes as this explores more towards what Jung has defined the collective unconscious. Dil further explains, as one pursues his quest on finding his Self in particular individuals, unintentionally, we are influenced by our surroundings of place and time which later will contribute to who we are as an identity. He then concluded that, the easiest way to understand these complexes (archetypes) work is to deliberate them as part of our sub-conscious minds. According to him, these complexes are more like our secondary personalities who possess life on their own.

To conclude, in order for one to achieve individuation, one must integrate with his archetypes to attain Individuation. Interestingly, Dil also points out that by identifying too close with the archetypes might make someone to lose their significant attributes, hence, to lose themselves. (63) Therefore, he suggests that one should utilise their positive archetypes in an ample amount to prevent the loss of one’s identity. Taking Jung’s theory as close reference, he concurs that there are three important archetypes that needs to be analysed in the process of achieving Individuation; Shadow, Anima/Animus/ and Self. Other than Psychoanalysis studies, Norwegian Wood also has been analysed from a French existentialism perspective. Based on James et al (2011), in their article of “Tales from the Hard Side”: A French Existentialist perspective on Haruki Murakami’s Norwegian Wood”, which they have applied Jean-Paul Sartre’s existentialism theory into exploring the struggles of the main characters after all of them experience significant losses for example, Naoko who suffers depression because of her boyfriend’s suicide after high school. Based on the theory, they conclude that Watanabe, Keiko and Midori have successfully rebuilt their lives according to existentialist principles whilst Naoko never recover both mentally and emotionally from the suicide death of her boyfriend, Kizuki which leads to her suicide later at the end of the novel. Interestingly, aside from merely explaining the inside struggles of the main characters, James et al also takes Western rock music such as the influence of The Beatles, as a liberating outside factor that inspire the characters Watanabe and Midori, who both have strayed away from Japanese culture and tradition to break free from their depression and life challenges whereas Naoko who is a more of a conservative, continues to long after Kizuki’s death.Based on the three articles explained above, there are clearly opposing views to best analysed Murakami’s works.

In the first article “Being the Other Woman: Watanabe’s Unrequited Love for Naoko in Norwegian Wood”, Carter explains that Watanabe seeks out sexual intercourses with strangers in his attempt to seek connection with other people since the suicide death of his best friend, Kizuki years ago while also experiences unrequited love from Naoko. While I agree that this is Watanabe’s attempt of trying to reach out, Carter merely only just analysing the main character on the surface by describing his projection of “Other” towards Naoko. However, if we take a look from the point of view of Jung’s Individuation as explained by Dil in “Murakami Haruki and The Search for Self-Theraphy” (2011), this will allow us to discover Watanabe’s unconscious side even better by disintegrating his Archetypes. For example, although he has many intercourses with other woman, his heart still remains true to Naoko. This is shown clearly when he drops everything just to see Naoko when she invites him to the sanotarium. This incident represents Watanabe’s deepest dark desire, which can be identified as the Shadow. Secondly, Carter also has discussed in her article that Watanabe’s infatuation with Naoko has “distorted his sense of self.” (8) While maybe from the eyes of a Lacanian, this could be a possibility. However, as what Dil has stated (2007) from the lens of a Jungian, one must be intact with his or her archetypes to reach the stage of Individuation. If Watanabe had not learnt what he had known now, he would not be able to realize this on his own. In other words, his experiences of moving on from his loss are one of the tools that help him to be intact with his archetypes.

Despite that, Carter (2017) has indeed put on a good argument to explain the main character’s behaviour and his projection to Naoko. By putting Naoko as his “Other” as what she has explained in her article, Watanabe is able to respond well to his Anima archetype, the unconscious feminine side of a man by opening up about his feelings. Even though Carter has some pretty strong arguments on Naoko being the “Other” for Watanabe, this does not correctly depicts what the main character is going through after suffering loss of his best friend and unrequited love altogether. Carter only focuses on the concept of “Other” but fails to capture the notion that it brings to the main character as it does not highlight the transformation of Watanabe as an individuated person. Lastly, according to Dil (2007) he also has said that we are influenced with the things around us. Unintentionally, we may pick up some of the attributes around us which brings me to concur with critics James et al in their article, “Tales from the Hard Side”: A French Existentialist perspective on Haruki Murakami’s Norwegian Wood”.

Analysing from an existentialist view, they also conclude that environment and surroundings play significant roles to overcome from the internal struggles of the main characters. As example, both Watanabe and Naoko have moved away from Tokyo after Kizuki’s death, to move on and rebuild their lives. Watanabe also is influenced by Western songs, The Beatles. This actually slowly is affecting him to let go bits by bits of his Japanese roots resulting his success of breaking free from his internal struggle, whereas Naoko fails to recover from the loss and commits suicide. Therefore, although Carter (2017) has put on some strong arguments on the concepts of “Other” to analyse the main character of Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami, this still leaves an ambiguity space where it does not fully explain the transformation of Watanabe as an Individuated person as what Dil (2007) has argued where he focuses more on Watanabe’s Shadow and Anima as Carter is just merely explaining it from the surface. In addition, James et al (2011), existentialist critics all agree that environment also plays prominent role in discovering who you are as a person; which Dil (2007)also has stated in his thesis, which have affected both Watanabe and Naoko’s process of attaining Individuation.

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