BookTalkII — Part 12 — Midnight in the Garden

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Warning:  BookTalkII assumes an audience that has already read George Orwell’s 1984, and attempts to compare the classic dystopian nightmare against both the novel 1Q84, written by Haruki Murakami, and V for Vendetta, a graphic novel by Alan Moore.  Broken into twelve parts, BookTalkII will focus on a chronologically new section of 1Q84 and V for Vendetta while considering the entire narrative of 1984.  See the BookTalkII main page for more details and links to all twelve parts.

Spoiler Alert:  This part covers the end of Book 3 of 1Q84, chapters 25-31.

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In John Berendt’s Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil the action that serves as a catalyst in the book is the killing of a male prostitute by a respected antiques dealer. In Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84 the final chapters of Ushikawa’s story invert this conceit in a surreal twist. Tamaru plays the part of a loyal hitman/bodyguard that could easily be paid for his services, while Ushikawa deals in information rescued through research and investigation. In the world of 1Q84, Tamaru strangles Ushikawa to death and the conclusion presses upon the reader the more it is applied to the world of 1984.

For all accounts, Ushikawa is presented as the O’Brien character of 1Q84, a boss with enough lethal potential to threaten the male and female protagonists. He gets his own chapter headings and point-of-view for a third of the story similar to O’Brien in 1984 dominating Book 3. Consequently, the reader is subjected to the demise of O’Brien, which is unthinkable in the original world of 1984. How would a character like O’Brien be undone or vaporized? Only a colder killer, an even meaner boss in the Inner Party, someone like Mr. Charrington, could be evil enough to eliminate O’Brien.

His last visions are of a house and his dead body is fatally housed by this vision. Mummified, wrapped in a cocoon of invisible thread, Ushikawa is erased by none other than the Little People through a transformation known as Air Chrysalis. Cultural references to Carl Jung underline the importance of sowing your own seeds, or building your house and dwelling in it. He got what he deserved. Jung extracts the good from such self-determination; he sees living in the present as the ultimate act of building a life, so building by hand a tower of stone achieves an eternal presences in Ozymandian fashion. Making Thoreau’s Walden shack look amateurish in comparison, Jung’s Bolligen tower looks like a mini-castle complete with elaborate inscriptions and artwork.

Counter to the grim ending of 1984, 1Q84 ends with the union of Aomame and Tengo. Orwell had Julia and Winston sell each other out, showing the power of pain and the corporal weakness to forfeit a belief in something. Instead, Aomame and Tengo use the power of belief to believe in each other. A happy ending and true romance await readers that finish the 1Q84 journey. Murakami will not disappoint an audience, and he is keen to still caution us about the obvious ills that linger in the real world. The happy couple celebrates victory on the shoulder of an expressway full of standstill traffic; their first breaths of air are filled with car exhaust; and an obnoxious, overbearing billboard presses them to consume more gasoline. The present, or the budding futures, are a far cry from the refreshing air of the forest.

Nature seems to be preserved in fantasy rather than in reality. Furthermore, the most important goal for the surviving lovebirds is to view the moon at night. Understandably, the moon continues a central motif throughout the novel, but one has to question the value in seeing the moon environmentally. In any given Tokyo sky the moon competes with the city lights. Light pollution may overshadow the moon in reality; at any rate, it takes little viewing space to catch a glimpse of the moon at night. As if the crowding effects of trees in a forest are equivalent to the skyscrapers in Tokyo, a person has to look up to see the sky. Midnight in Tokyo may be the closest to a quiet, darkness but that’s not saying much. Midnight in the forest may be even quieter and darker, but it’s still far from silent.

The speech is considered one of Shakespeare’s greatest and most heroic speeches, the St. Crispin’s Day speech from Henry V. In Act IV, Scene iii King Henry V, fittingly the V of Kings, urges the audience to seize the day and honor thy masters. From Wagner to Haruki Murakami, critics and all, we must occasionally stop and recognize the good that each of us offer. By the end of chapter 25, Murakami paraphrases this sentiment of gratitude.

“Shakespeare said it best…something along these lines: if we die today, we do not have to die tomorrow, so let us look to the best in each other.”

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