1Q84’s Tremendous Tale of Distorted Reality and Darkness

This parallel-world novel has ensnared millions through the use of powerful themes. Read on to learn more.

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'1Q84' book cover with a butterfly inside a moon with an image of a busy Tokyo neighborhood as the background

Haruki Murakami often explores dark themes and magical realism in his books, and 1Q84 is no exception. The novel is full of darkness, both within and outside of the characters, and the parallel, distorted realities shown in the story are strongly influenced by the darkness. Read on to learn more.

Summary

'1Q84' by Haruki Murakami book cover showing a woman's face behind the title.
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In 1984 Tokyo, a young woman named Aomame follows a taxi driver’s strange directions and enters a parallel universe that she calls 1Q84, “Q” for question mark. At the same time, writer Tengo takes on a strange ghostwriting project, and his life starts to unravel. Their stories slowly converge, with several tangled connections that keep them together.

Distorted Reality

The most obvious example of distorted reality in 1Q84 is, well, the existence of the alternate reality 1Q84. It’s almost exactly like the reality the rest of us know, but there are small changes, such as Earth having two moons. To Aomame and readers, the reality she came from is the real reality, and 1Q84 is just a variation of it. But what about the people who have always lived inside of 1Q84? To them, the world Aomame came from would be a distorted reality. And who’s to say that 1Q84 is a less believable or realistic reality?

Image of Haruki Murakami staring at camera with his hand on his chin.
IMAGE VIA PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE

In a 2010 article, Murakami explained this as Reality A and Reality B, using 9/11 as an example. In Reality B, 9/11 never happened, and even though we live in Reality A, Reality B still somehow seems more realistic and believable. After all, it was such an unprecedented, unimaginable event that even today, it’s sometimes hard to believe. That’s all 1Q84 is — a reality in which something happened that didn’t happen in the real world, or vice versa. Even just the presence of two moons versus one could change so much.

Darkness

Most of Murakami’s works explore darkness, and 1Q84 is no exception. Abuse is prevalent, particularly with Aomame being an assassin who kills abusive men and intense, dangerous religious cults, not to mention the dark paths the two main characters walk as they try to navigate through their respective realities. These are only a few examples of the dark, twisted reality that both the “real world” and 1Q84 embody. But the real darkness of the story lies in the Little People.

'1Q84' by Haruki Murakami book cover showing a moon with a butterfly inside.
IMAGE VIA AMAZON

The Little People come from darkness, first seen after crawling out of a dead goat’s mouth and weaving a sort of “air chrysalis.” These mysterious creatures are small humanoids who can only materialize in reality by coming out of another creature. They majorly influence the lives of the characters and the story and embody negative emotions such as fear and hate. Emotions always influence stories, but the Little People take it to another level by actually being in charge of people’s fates and with their physical forms.

As typical of Murakami’s writing style, the Little People aren’t explained in detail but are, in part, left up to readers’ imaginations. Each reader may have different interpretations, but one thing seems clear: they serve as a warning and a reminder. Emotions don’t take physical manifestation in our reality, but their impact and influence are just as strong as in the alternate reality of 1Q84.

It may not be Murakami’s most critically acclaimed work, but it’s packed with Murakami-isms and powerful themes that still inspire.


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