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The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is a Japanese surrealist novel by Haruki Murakami. It was first published in Japan as three separate volumes (1994-1995) and it was translated into English in 1997. The Alfred Knopf copy I read for this analysis lacks roughly 60 pages of content, which were removed in an effort to reduce its length for the American market.


Toru loves his wife, Kumiko, and trusts that she would never do anything to harm him or their relationship. Currently unemployed, Toru spends a lot of time at the house, where he receives phone calls from a mysterious woman who wants them to get to know each other, as well as a call from a woman named Malta Kano, who Kumiko has hired to help find their missing cat. When Toru himself goes looking for their cat, he meets a teenage girl named May at an abandoned house, and the cat is nowhere to be found.

Toru meets with Malta Kano, a clairvoyant who gives him cryptic advice on how to find their cat, which will certainly not be returning to the house anytime soon. Later, her sister Creta joins the investigation. Both of them tell Toru their life stories: Malta spent her life performing austerities in the search for mystical water, while Creta has been dealing with immense pain and numbness. During Creta’s story, she confesses that Kumiko’s brother, Noboru, defiled her mind and body by raping her.

One day, Toru is visited by Lieutenant Mamiya, who informs him that their family friend, Mr. Honda, has died and left a gift for him. The gift is an empty box. Mamiya tells Toru a long story about his time in Manchukuo, where he was left to die in a well, but was saved by Mr. Honda.

Kumiko does not return home that night. Toru finds a new bottle of perfume in the bathroom and worries she ran off with another man. He meets with Malta and Noboru, who tell him that Kumiko indeed has left with another man, and the best thing Toru can do is immediately agree to file for divorce. Upset and confused, Toru requests to speak with Kumiko directly. In the meantime, he tries to deal with this stress by sitting at the bottom of a dry well at the abandoned house. There, he is trapped by May, forcing him to spend multiple days in the well, where he passes in and out of consciousness and moves into a new plane of reality. In his mind, he enters a dark hotel room with the mysterious woman from the phone.

Creta Kano helps him escape from the well. At home, Toru notices he has a blue mark on his face, and he receives a letter from Kumiko that confirms she is with another man. Creta appears in Toru’s bed and they have sex—Toru mentions that she looks identical to Kumiko, except for her face. Creta says this intimacy will help to free her from Noboru’s defilement.

While waiting for a chance to speak to Kumiko directly, Toru goes people-watching in the city and is approached by a rich woman named Nutmeg. Now for sale, the abandoned house has been flattened and the well filled in, and Toru needs money to buy it so he can continue going into the well. Nutmeg, seeing Toru’s mark, agrees to go into business with him and buys the land. Suddenly, the cat returns to Toru’s house.

Noboru sets up a meeting between Toru and Kumiko via computer chat, where Kumiko continues to assert that she is with someone else now and Toru should agree to divorce. Kumiko’s reasoning is that she has ‘gone bad’. Toru, still not believing this, goes into the well and passes back into the hotel room ‘reality’ in his mind. There, he realizes that the mysterious woman is Kumiko, and he gets into a deadly fight with an unknown man.

When Toru wakes up, the well is filling with water and he is unable to move due to his injuries. Nutmeg’s son Cinnamon rescues him, and later Toru is informed that Noboru is in a coma. Kumiko sends Toru a message telling him that Noboru had sexually abused her and caused her to develop a sex addiction. She says she is going to end Noboru’s life support without permission and will go to jail willingly, which she does. Toru’s blue mark is gone.

The book ends with Toru visiting May at her new factory job. He and Kumiko plan to get back together when she is released from jail.


The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is a complicated story with many characters and plot threads, most of which do not progress in a linear manner. In an attempt to organize my thoughts, I have divided the analysis into multiple parts: characters, themes, symbols, execution, and style.


toru okada

Toru is a faceless man. He is a blank slate that takes what the world gives him, shrugs, and presses on with life. He is generally quiet and dislikes confrontation, to the point where he tramples his emotions into submission until he can’t hold them back anymore. I found his lack of communication about his emotions to be annoying and toxic, but masculinity is known to cause people to act in such a way.

Compared to the large cast of unique characters, Toru is undoubtedly the most boring. I believe that he is written this way to easily deliver the surreal world to the reader without judgment or question, though it is his lack of skepticism that had me scratching my head throughout the book. He demands answers at times, proving that he is capable of rational thought, but he also descends to the bottom of a well for several days, which no average human would do. He does not have enough answers to justify the strange things he goes along with, but neither does the reader, so we shrug and press on together.

His relationship with May is both entertaining and uncomfortable. There is an air of sexual tension between them, and Toru comments on her appearance multiple times, even spraying her down with water and telling us how attractive she is. As the story goes on, the tension becomes more obvious and frequent, with May comparing herself to Kumiko and wanting to be with Toru. I was quite unnerved by how Toru did not establish any boundaries with her, and as I read, I became increasingly worried that he was supposed to parallel Noboru by abusing May. There is not enough information in the story about the two of them for me to make a definite conclusion about what Toru did to her, if anything, but the scenes are ambiguous enough that I can’t rule out the possibility that something sinister was going on.

kumiko okada

Kumiko is one of the few underdeveloped characters in the book. She disappears early in the narrative and only returns in the form of written communication, leaving the reader without much input from her despite the entire story revolving around her sexual abuse. She was abused by her brother in her childhood and apparently developed a sex addiction due to this trauma.

Even though she has suffered sexual abuse, Murakami brushes off many of the symptoms that usually come with such trauma. When Kumiko has sex with Toru for the first time, he mentions that he thinks she must have been a virgin, because she seemed like she was in pain. There is no further mention of any fear, discomfort, anxiety, dissociation, panic, or any other trauma symptom while they have sex later on in their relationship. I find it unbelievable that she would be able to bottle up this trauma so easily and appear perfectly normal. Did she go to therapy? If sex is her way to feel in control, why does she have a reaction the first time with Toru? I figure this is to foreshadow the reveal of her abuse, but all it does is raise questions for me.

While I read, I was under the impression that Noboru never stopped abusing Kumiko, or at the very least abused her on and off throughout the years (I believe he got her pregnant). The idea that Toru never noticed her being with other men and/or Noboru during their marriage is ridiculous to me. Perhaps if we were given more information about how she was able to keep this a secret for so long, it wouldn’t seem so strange, but as it stands, it feels like lazy writing.

noboru wataya

Noboru is characterized as evil from Toru’s perspective from the first mention of him. He is two-faced: one side of him is calm, intelligent, and alluring, and the other is awkward, cold, and brutal. Both sides are manipulative. It’s easy to slot him into the role of a villain when Creta’s rape is revealed, and later Kumiko’s abuse. He is a politician and a celebrity, and he demonstrates how power can make an abusive person untouchable.

Though the book didn’t mention it explicitly, Noboru comes off to me as someone with mental illness. He is obsessive about his pursuits of knowledge, he struggles with his relationships, and he doesn’t emotionally connect with people well—and then there’s the abuse, of course.

may kasahara

May is a teenage girl whose family is either busy or has abandoned her, letting her do whatever she wants. She is obviously mentally ill, speaking often about how she would love to cut people open and look at their squishy parts, and she later admits to killing her boyfriend by putting her hands over his eyes while they were on a motorcycle together. She is unwell, and Toru finds her behavior strange and interesting, but not nearly as concerning as I’d expect.

As the story progresses, she gets close to Toru and becomes infatuated with him, going so far as to lick his mark (which Nutmeg also does). In her letters to Toru, which are never delivered, she talks about how she feels about him. She says she thinks about how he could suddenly rape her, how she feels like she is very similar to Kumiko, and that she got naked and thought about him.

Although she claims several times to be a virgin, her obsession with Toru makes me wonder otherwise—maybe she was also sexually abused, and her strange behavior is a product of her trying to deal with the trauma. She is quite alone in the world, and she feels detached from other people. When Toru visits her at the end of the book, she mentions how if they hold hands, people might think they’re together. If anything, Toru’s lack of reaction to her inappropriate behavior says more about him than her, and I wish we were given more concrete evidence about her, because she is an extremely interesting and entertaining, yet depressing character.

lieutenant mamiya

Mamiya’s stories are the most brutal and dark sections of the book. In fact, I had to skip the page regarding the skinning in Manchukuo, as it is one of my literal nightmares. Having come face-to-face with death countless times, his stories are tense and nail-biting even though we know that he will not die in any of them—according to Honda, it is impossible for him to die anywhere outside of Japan, after all.

The stories were so attention-grabbing that I spent the entire rest of the book absolutely certain that the buried document in Manchukuo would become relevant again. Like many things in the book, this lost plot point is meaningless unless you give it meaning yourself. Perhaps the document is a symbol for buried memories, like the ones Kumiko keeps from Toru, or perhaps the document was simply given too much importance and there was no room in the rest of the book to revisit it. Regardless, I find it misleading that the blurb on the back of my copy mentioned the ‘excavation of the buried secrets of World War II’, which only solidified my certainty that the document was part of the plot.

The final piece of information we learn about Mamiya is the curse that Boris bestows upon him, which states that he will ‘love no one and be loved by no one’. This is another meaningless bit of Murakami’s lovely prose. It sounds good when you read it, but when you sit back and think about it, nothing adds up. According to this, Mamiya is an unlovable man, yet Honda seemed to cherish him a great deal, and how exactly does a curse prevent someone from feeling love themselves? If you actively prevent yourself from leading a happy life, that’s called self-sabotage.

malta kano

Malta is a mysterious seer whose primary goal is to free ‘her sister Creta’ from Noboru’s defilement. She gives Toru several clues about Kumiko through her references to water and their missing cat. In the first third of the book, she and Noboru meet with Toru to talk about divorcing Kumiko.

Although Kumiko claims to have contacted Malta only about the whereabouts of the lost cat, it is later revealed that Noboru recommended Malta to Kumiko. Considering my assumption of Noboru’s continued abuse toward Kumiko, I believe that Noboru planned Kumiko’s disappearance all along and used Malta as a way to gain contact with Toru. Regardless, Malta used this connection to introduce Creta to Toru.

creta kano

Creta’s entire existence is a parallel to Kumiko's, and it is possible she does not exist at all, only engaging with reality as an alternate form of Kumiko. She is described as looking exactly like Kumiko from the neck down, although she always wears 60s style clothes—this is because Kumiko’s abuse started during her childhood in the 60s. Creta is supposed to represent Kumiko’s trauma, and she teaches the reader about Kumiko while Kumiko herself is away with Noboru.

Creta tells Toru her life story, which is in three parts: her childhood and adolescence, where she was in constant physical pain; her young adulthood after her suicide attempt, where she was entirely numb and made money through sex work; and her current self, which gained normal bodily feeling after being defiled by Noboru. The first part of her story directly correlates to Kumiko, who was likely in severe mental anguish from her trauma, though it is unknown whether she ever tried to commit suicide. The second part is less clear, but may be a symbol for Kumiko’s sex addiction.

The third part of her story, in which she describes her rape in detail, is somehow the most confusing. Creta claims to be a sex worker, and she lies down for Noboru, letting him touch her all over. Then, because he hasn’t had penetrative sex with her yet, she decides he must have erectile dysfunction. She says he “put something inside her from behind”, but to this day she has no idea what it was. He begins to have sex with her like that, causing her terrible pain, but she doesn’t attempt to make him stop. Perhaps I’m taking things too literally, but unless they are being threatened, I would expect a sex worker to be able to at least verbalize their boundaries, if not simply move their body away from whatever it is that is hurting them. From how it is described, Creta lies facedown and lets him do it. During this, she orgasms, and she claims Noboru causes her to ‘split in two’ on a metaphysical level, after which she is an entirely different person.

Brushing past the nonsense, perhaps this is meant as the split between Creta and Kumiko. The problem I take with it is how it occurred. Creta’s explanation is full of strange wording that makes it difficult to understand exactly what went on, but my interpretation is that Noboru’s rape gave her a new sense of self—one that experienced an ‘impossibly intense sexual pleasure’ and no longer felt pain or numbness, essentially curing her of her ailments, despite leaving her with something ‘filthy’ inside of her (what she calls her ‘defilement’). In plain English, this boils down to ‘sexual assault rebirthed her'.

To make matters worse, Creta seeks out Toru and begs him to have sex with her for payment. She has already been using her abilities as a “prostitute of the mind” to enter Toru’s dreams and have sex with him (resulting in real-life pleasure for Toru), and now she wants him to “liberate her from the defilement Noboru left inside her”. They indeed have sex, which changes the previous message into ‘sexual assault rebirthed her, and having sex with another man freed her from her trauma’.

I’m sure there are a thousand different ways to interpret Creta Kano, but I came away from her story feeling like her struggle with sexual assault was not about her, but about the men that did it to her and subsequently freed her from it. If having sex is supposed to be a metaphor for going to therapy, it is lost on me. Nothing about Creta’s story is a good or even vaguely realistic representation of the trauma of sexual assault.

nutmeg akasaka

Nutmeg appears in the last section of the book, as Toru’s patron and employer, who buys the abandoned house so he can continue using the well. Her first encounter with Toru is extremely strange, and I still don’t know what to make of it. He is blindfolded and she touches him on his mark—she touches him for a long time, and he eventually orgasms in his pants. She and her son, Cinnamon, were ready for this, as they had extra clothes for him and a shower he could use afterwards, despite being in an office building. I can’t imagine what Nutmeg does there on the regular, if she is often cleaning up people’s semen.

The work she does is never fully described. She says she attempts to lift something out of the psyche of women who are suffering in one way or another, but she is only able to ‘fix’ them for a few days at a time, and they have to return. Is this some form of therapy? Do these women also suffer from sexual trauma? I couldn’t come to any conclusions.

Her childhood stories about the war influenced Cinnamon, who writes about them in his book.

cinnamon akasaka

Cinnamon has the closest connection to Toru out of any of the characters due to his chapters about the wind-up bird. He hears the bird while watching two men, one of which looks a bit like his father, and afterwards, he goes mute. Due to the surrealism and the brevity of these sections, I can only assume that Cinnamon himself suffered some sort of trauma, considering the fact that people can go mute as a trauma response. However, there is little information to support or deny this, and much of Cinnamon is still a mystery to me.


sexual trauma

The book’s biggest letdown to me was how it handled the theme of sexual trauma. There was little plain English talk about the abuse and how it affected her, due to the surrealist nature of the book and how long it took to reveal the issue. By the time we learned about it, the book was over.

The reader must look back on everything that came before the reveal and question how it could be connected. In doing so, I still felt unclear on Kumiko’s true feelings about the abuse. Considering the fact that she never spoke to Toru about it, I assumed she must have been ashamed of it, especially in regard her struggle with sex addiction, and I also knew that she hated Noboru for abusing her. However, I did not get a chance to really connect with her trauma at any point because I was trapped in Toru's point of view, and Kumiko was locked away for most of the book. It is a book about someone dealing with someone else’s trauma, rather than a book about trauma itself.

Unsurprisingly, this story only seems to touch on women and sexual trauma, with no mention of any male characters who have suffered the same trauma. I think that was a missed opportunity. In trying to be mysterious and make the Creta/Kumiko parallel, the focus was on women and not sexual trauma as a whole. Why Creta? Why not put sexual trauma in Toru’s history? Why not parallel Toru dealing with his own trauma while figuring out what happened to his wife?

There are so many ways this theme could have been improved, and I believe this subject matter deserves to be taken more seriously, rather than shrouded in a cloud of dreams and metaphor.


I started reading this book because I was told it was about divorce. After reading it, I completely disagree. Technically, yes, the characters spend a lot of time in the limbo of almost-divorce due to Noboru’s conversations with Toru, but at no point do Toru or Kumiko seem to truly want to divorce. If anything, they are desperate to be together, but I was under the impression that Kumiko was not allowed to say so because of Noboru’s control. Considering that Toru says he will be getting back together with Kumiko (after she gets out of jail, no less), I can’t find any legitimacy to this topic as a theme, unless the entire book is supposed to be a metaphor about a couple who finds reasons to stay together instead of divorce.

emotional intimacy

Throughout the story, Murakami asks its characters and readers “Can you ever truly know someone?”, and although the question comes up multiple times in the story, I don’t believe it is handled well. The bulk of the book is spent following Toru as he tries to learn about his wife’s trauma, of which she has never told him. Toru himself is an honest man, even coming clean about ‘almost’ having sex with another woman earlier in their marriage. This says to me that Toru feels comfortable telling his wife anything, but his wife doesn’t feel the same.

The question that I’m left with is: Why doesn’t Kumiko feel safe around Toru? Is this really a question of emotional intimacy, or is it one of security? Sexual trauma is not something that’s easy to talk about with a therapist, let alone a partner, but to have a healthy sexual relationship, it needs to be discussed. Did Noboru manipulate Kumiko into not saying anything? Was Kumiko so ashamed of her trauma that she couldn’t possibly tell Toru? Was she unwilling to get therapy? Or did Toru fail to create an environment where she felt she could tell him anything?

Even in marriage, trust and honesty go hand in hand, and this theme just makes me question even more why Toru and Kumiko planned to get back together at the end of the book.


the wind-up bird

As mentioned in the book, the call of the wind-up bird leads people toward “inescapable ruin”. Toru, Cinnamon, and a man in Cinnamon’s story all hear the bird, and Nutmeg mentions the bird by name. The bird appears in several turning points throughout the story, steering Toru’s fate in one direction or another, or signaling a change in his fate. After Cinnamon hears the bird, he never speaks again, and this change in his life affects him so deeply that he writes the bird into his stories, naming the collection The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (the book’s namesake). Some people believe the bird is meant to be a magpie, connecting it to The Thieving Magpie, an Italian opera.

blue mark

The blue mark appears on Toru’s cheek after his first time in the well, when he moves from one reality to another. This signifies that he is fully immersed in the mission of finding out what happened to his wife, and that he will be unable to go back to his true reality until he does. Cinnamon writes of Nutmeg’s father in his stories, who also has a blue mark, but its meaning is vague and mostly serves as a reason for Nutmeg to seek Toru out. When Toru returns to the well and fights his demons, he is released back into his own reality, and the mark disappears.

Studies on Magpies show that the birds cannot recognize themselves unless their face is marked. The blue mark is a way for Toru to understand that what’s happening to him is real (though I find that debatable). This calls back to the wind-up bird itself.


The cat (Noboru Wataya/Mackerel) is a symbol for Toru’s marriage. At the beginning of the story, the cat disappears, and Kumiko leaves soon after. Toru searches and searches for the cat, until it appears on his porch one day, disheveled but happy to see him. The cat signals that Toru is doing something right—that barriers between him and his wife are coming down (again, debatable) and things will soon return to normal.


Many people in the book have been influenced by the well, but the most obvious parallel is that of Mamiya and Toru. After hearing Mamiya’s story, Toru enters the dry well on the abandoned property (The Hanging House) and drifts into an almost meditative state of unreality. He goes into the well as one person and comes out as another, and he has a mark to prove it (or disprove it, if you believe the mark actually means he is in reality and not the opposite). To me, the well is a symbol for the mind. Toru goes literally into the well to think, but in doing so, he enters his mind, where he can organize his thoughts and talk to people he knows, who simply aren’t giving him the information he needs. He puts the information together with the help of the focused mindstate of the well.

At the end of the story, Toru is injured in the well, further cementing the parallel to Mamiya. In the alternate reality, he attacks someone in the hotel room, and when he leaves, his injuries are similar to that which he delivered. The well, like the mind, is not a safe place, and according to the quote about hatred on page 312, “When you cut the other person, you cut yourself”; thus, I believe Toru’s hatred for Noboru resulted in his injuries and near death. What meaning this has is unknown—I think Murakami simply wanted to make a parallel and didn’t think about how it might be interpreted, especially in the sense of releasing yourself from the hold of an abuser. Cutting ties with someone who hurts you should be healing, not harming, and because this is Toru rather than Kumiko, the meaning makes even less sense.


Toru sees the magician while he is sulking after his wife’s abortion. The magician holds a flame to his hand without pain, and later, Toru beats him and takes his baseball bat. At first, I thought this man must have been killed, but upon reflection, it is obvious that the man cannot be physically hurt, and probably doesn’t exist at all. In my research, I found other readers describing him as a symbol for suffering and hatred, which I agree with.

The magician laughs while Toru beats him, signifying that you cannot beat suffering into submission. He is not hurt, he does not die, and he continues to exist as long as Toru is suffering.


When I started this book, I was immediately drawn in by the absurdity of its surrealism and Murakami’s unique characters. The stakes were low in the beginning (find the cat), and I enjoyed the long, interesting tangents as I tried to piece things together about Toru’s marriage. I was bracing myself for a story about divorce, under the assumption that Toru was unwilling to express his emotional dissatisfaction in the relationship, and I happily turned page after page.

At no point in the book did the story fail to draw me in. There are so many plot threads, so many unanswered questions, that I found it impossible to stop reading. I was desperate to know why all of these strange things were happening to Toru and what the side characters’ stories had to do with Toru’s journey. Unfortunately, the questions continued to pile up. Plot threads I was certain would be revisited were left hanging. By the time I got to the last page, I felt cheated out of a larger story, and I wondered what the point of the book’s length was when all it did was frustrate me.

I believe that the second half of the book, between when Toru gets his mark and it disappears, is supposed to be a surreal/dream sequence. In that sense, I think none of it ‘really’ happened in reference to the reality that we are introduced to at the beginning of the book. During this section, Toru puts together the pieces of his and Kumiko’s lives to discover what is going on with her, and when he figures it out, everything goes back to ‘normal’ (despite the fact that many things have changed). The stories he hears along the way serve as over-described instructions that lead him to where he needs to go.

Early on, when Kumiko mentions that Noboru used to sniff their sister’s panties, I predicted that Kumiko had been sexually abused by Noboru. Because I still had hundreds of pages left in the novel, I assumed that this would be explored in detail, whether through Kumiko returning to talk to Toru, or Noboru admitting what he’d done. I was extremely disappointed when I came to the end of the book and found that the plot thread I’d been following this whole time was exactly what I had predicted. There was no twist, reveal, or further information that could contextualize what ended up being a simple plot.

I couldn’t fathom why Murakami would string me along for 600 pages just to tell me something I already knew. The foreshadowing is there, the tension is there—yet I went on to read about a buried document in Manchukuo, the slaughter of an entire zoo, and the life of a morbid sixteen-year-old girl, none of which were more than long metaphors, and all of which were more interesting than Toru’s story.

When I closed the book, I was left feeling like the author wanted me to think that people who are sexually abused are broken inside and only the touch of a man can cleanse them. This can’t be right, but it’s the impression that it gave me, and the message that the reader comes away with on the last page of the book is of utmost importance. Both Kumiko and Creta are ‘defiled’ by Noboru and have their sexual baggage freed from them by Toru. There is no discussion of any personal growth they had to do to confront their trauma. They have sex with Toru, and they are free. Of course, Kumiko is not completely free from Noboru, but it is never mentioned again that she is uncomfortable being sexual with Toru.

In reality, trauma is a lifelong struggle for many, and although some survivors of sexual abuse do seek out sexual experiences as a way to cope with their trauma, I find it unbelievable that Kumiko did not experience any panic or dissociation during sex with Toru, nor was there any mention of unusual behavior afterwards. Perhaps Toru is the least observant man in the world, or perhaps Murakami did not know enough about trauma to write this book in a way that would do the subject justice.

My biggest gripe about the narrative as a whole is that we follow Toru on his journey through someone else’s trauma. Many people’s trauma, in fact—Kumiko, Creta (an extension of Kumiko), Mamiya, and Nutmeg all share their trauma with Toru, who seems to have little trauma himself. We do not see Kumiko’s point of view in the story at all, and instead are forced to learn about her through her messages and Toru’s memories, which separate us from her trauma. As a reader, I do not care about Toru’s journey through Kumiko’s trauma. The person that matters in Kumiko’s trauma is Kumiko.

I believe that there are very few reasons nowadays (I realize this book is decades old) to write a story about trauma without allowing the reader to see the traumatized character’s point of view. A modern-day sensitivity reader would have been able to point this out and direct the POV to the correct lens, in order to create a more nuanced and meaningful story. However, instructing Murakami to write a nuanced woman’s perspective about sexual abuse is likely a fool’s errand.


Murakami’s detached, matter-of-fact, humorous writing style is the highlight of this book. He makes every line enjoyable to read, and the humor compliments the dark subject matter. I found myself laughing during the first few pages, and though I never cried, I read Mamiya’s story in wide-eyed horror, never expecting the book to become so intense. This dichotomy is most obvious in May, whose conversations with Toru are some of the most entertaining parts of the book.

Though I was frustrated that many plot threads in the side characters’ stories went unresolved, I liked the inclusion of their stories in general, despite their length. Murakami allows us to step into their stories like flashbacks, showing instead of telling (for the most part). The depth and imagery of these stories are part of why I felt they must have been more important than they ended up being, but they still improve the experience of the book as a whole.

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is masterful in its use of symbolism. There are so many symbols, I couldn't possibly fit all of them in this analysis, and if you flip the book to any page, you are almost guaranteed to find an object or person you can project meaning onto. Whether or not that improves the overall narrative is dubious, but the complexity of the world and how it intertwines with itself are things to be admired and studied.


Despite the length of this essay, I believe this book, like many of Haruki Murakami's, is not meant to be overanalyzed, and does not intend to serve as a realistic portrayal of any kind of abuse. Surreal and twisted, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is a book you should read for the mere experience of it, rather than its message.

Style: 4/5

Plot: 2/5

Characters: 4.5/5

Execution: 2/5

Overall: 3/5


What were we supposed to understand about each other in ten minutes? What can two people understand about each other in ten minutes? — pg. 6
Kumiko and I would visit their home and have dinner with them twice a month with mechanical regularity. This was a truly loathsome experience, situated at the precise midpoint between a meaningless mortification of the flesh and brutal torture. — pg. 50
Living like an empty shell is not really living, no matter how many years it may go on. The heart and flesh of an empty shell give birth to nothing more than the life of an empty shell. — pg. 171
“Forget everything. You’re asleep. You’re dreaming. You’re lying in nice, warm mud. We all come out of the warm mud, and we all go back to it.” — pg. 192
“There’s a kind of gap between what I think is real and what’s really real. I get this feeling like some kind of little something-or-other is there, somewhere inside me… like a burglar is in the house, hiding in the closet… and it comes out every once in a while and messes up whatever order or logic I’ve established for myself. The way a magnet can make a machine go crazy.” — pg. 23
“Hatred is like a long, dark shadow. Not even the person it falls upon knows where it comes from, in most cases. It is like a two-edged sword. When you cut the other person, you cut yourself. The more violently you hack at the other person, the more violently you hack at yourself. It can often be fatal. But it is not easy to dispose of. Please be careful, Mr. Okada. It is very dangerous. Once it has taken root in your heart, hatred is the most difficult thing in the world to shake off.” — pg. 312
“Reality is kind of made up of these different layers. So maybe in that reality you were serious about trying to kill me, but in this reality you weren’t. It depends on which reality you take and which reality I take.” — pg. 318
She stared at my mark for a long time, then at my eyes, my nose, my mouth, and then my mark again.I had the feeling that what she really wanted to do was inspect me like a dog at a show: pry my lips open to check my teeth, looking into my ears, and whatever else they do. — pg. 355
Separating from the flesh is not so difficult. It can put me far more at ease, allow me to cast off the discomfort I feel. I am a weed-choked garden, a flightless stone bird, a dry well. I know that a woman is inside this vacant house that is myself. I cannot see her, but it doesn’t bother me anymore. If she is looking for something inside here, I might as well give it to her. — pg. 368
Reality spilled out into the alley like water from an overfilled bowl—as sound, as smell, as image, as plea, as response. — pg. 425