The Complexities of Human Nature in Murakami’s ‘After Dark’

Today marks Haruki Murakami’s birthday! Lets honor him by taking a deep dive into how his story “After Dark” explores human nature.

Book Culture Classics On This Day Recommendations Thriller & Mystery
after dark

After Dark is a novel by Japanese author Haruki Murakami that takes place throughout one night in real-time. Murakami is an experimental author who tends to use unorthodox ways of writing. The all-knowing voice that conducts this novel constantly reminds the reader that they are only mere observers of what bizarre events happen from 11:56 pm until 6:52 am.

Murakami was born on January 12, 1949. He was a highly-skilled Japanese writer born during the post-World War II baby boom. He was an only child. His father was the son of a Buddhist priest, and his mother was a daughter of an Osaka merchant. Both of his parents taught Japanese literature.

Murakami after dark
Image Via Goodreads

Most of his works use first-person narrative in the tradition of the Japanese I Novel. He states that because family plays a significant role in traditional Japanese literature, any main character who is independent becomes a man who values freedom and solitude over intimacy.

Murakami’s After Dark

Within the first few lines of After Dark, Murakami depicts the city of Tokyo as “a single gigantic creature—or more like a single collective entity created by many intertwining organisms.” The author personifies Tokyo as a working body, and these intertwining organisms are us, humans. The author invites us as readers to contemplate how complex human nature truly is.

One of the first characters introduced is a timid nineteen-year-old girl named Mari Asai. She can be seen as the main character in this novel due to her overarching conflict that appears significantly throughout the story: she and her sister are estranged.

There are stark differences between the two sisters; where Mari lacks confidence and suffers from modesty, her sister Eri has always been beautiful and popular. The strangest aspect of all is that through the entirety of After Dark Eri has been asleep for two whole months.

At first glance, these two sisters could not be any more different. Where Mari is very bookish, Eri is both popular and gorgeous. So essentially Mari has always been living in the shadow of her older sister.

Throughout After Dark, the audience comes to realize how these two sisters are not so different as they seem. For example, Eri Asai is not as perfect as the front she puts off. It is seeming that Eri has been going off the deep end. Mari starts to realize in the novel that her sister even wishes that they had been closer. Similar to Mari, Eri has become increasingly unreachable. They both share the qualities of being distant characters that wish they had a stronger relationship with one another.

Between the break of midnight and dawn, the audience encounters many individuals who gravely impact one another whether directly or indirectly. Upon witnessing the relationship between the two sisters the audience can grasp the connections between human nature and personality. We as readers can pick up the pieces and put them back together to reveal how what we know about human nature barely scratches the surface; it is far more complex. and there are many intertwining aspects.

Murakami is a highly intelligent author who dives into these aspects of life and shows his readers how intricate human nature truly is. Lonely souls can reconcile their feelings amongst the conformity society demands. It is a city that comes alive and functions solely off of those inhabiting it. Murakami deserves to be celebrated for his genius works.

Be sure to check out how Murakami discusses parallel realities in his Killing Commendatore!