During my latest visit to The Last Bookstore, I decided to buy The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami. Someone had suggested it and, after browsing the first few pages, I figured it was a worthwhile enough book to check out. I finished reading the whole thing late last night, right before going to sleep. So many things were going through my mind afterwards. Even on the drive to work today, I thought a lot about the book and what I gathered from it. The more I thought about it, the more things came together, but I still can’t fully say whether I hated the book, whether I thought it was just so-so, or whether I thought it was actually pretty brilliant. For some reason, it feels like I have all those feelings running through me at the same time.
Now would be a good time to mention that there are spoilers ahead. Bear in mind, this is my own speculation on things.
I’m not really a spontaneous guy. I like having order and I guess that’s what had bothered me at first with this book. There isn’t really a clear-cut conclusion that wraps up everything that happened. I had so many questions that were left unanswered. That’s why I couldn’t stop thinking. I guess that has left me to this point, where I am now turning to my WordPress to help me sort out these thoughts into words and try to make sense of something that might not even have a clear sense of itself.
There are two main worlds in the story: the physical real world and the spiritual and mental “dream world”. Several characters have the unique ability to transcend both worlds, but it is really Cinnamon who seems to have a grasp of understanding them both. Actually, to me, Cinnamon is the most important character in the novel. Yes, the novel is told in the point of view of Toru Okada, but I feel like he is just another story in Cinnamon’s world.
I agree with those who believe that Cinnamon was the little boy who watched the two men by the tree. When he returned to his bed, he noticed another boy who looked exactly like him was already sleeping there. Cinnamon just pushed the boy aside and slept next to him, eventually waking up alone and feeling like the room was not his own. I think this is where real Cinnamon and dream Cinnamon actually switched places and entered the each others world. Dream Cinnamon grew up in the real world, not speaking to anyone but having the ability to convey exactly what he needed to with small gestures, probably because the dream world existed in the mind. Real Cinnamon grew up in the dream world, and I believe that he eventually grew up to be the hollow man in the hotel — the man who claimed that he was Toru’s only ally in that world. He had a voice, but because his dream self was in another world, he was only a shell without the actual spirit (hence, he was hollow).
Something similar probably happened to Toru’s cat. Mackarel, having a slightly different tail, is not the same cat that Toru and Kumiko both lived with. Maybe this new cat had crossed from the dream world into the real world, taking the place of its counterpart.
Both Real Cinnamon and Dream Cinnamon were connected through this idea of the labyrinth. Dream Cinnamon used the computer to navigate the labyrinth and nobody else could be able to figure out the information that was hidden there. Real Cinnamon was in the actual labyrinth of the dream world — the hotel where there were twists and turns and Toru would get lost trying to find his way to the lobby or Room 208. Coincidentally, the book I read before The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle was John Green’s Looking for Alaska which had the characters reflecting on Simon Bolivar’s supposed (but probably not) last words, “How will I ever get out of this labyrinth!”
The reason I think Toru is only one small part of Cinnamon’s world is that I believe that the hotel is full of many more rooms, with room 208 only being one of them. Each room holds a different person’s main desire and, throughout their lives, people have to navigate the twisted halls to find what they are really searching for in life in their own specific room. Toru was able to find his way to the room and defeat the demons that had held him back from reaching his goal. I honestly wouldn’t have been surprised to see that if Toru had actually shined the light on the man he beat with the bat in Room 208, it would have turned out to be a man who looked like Toru himself. This man was the Dream Toru who had been preventing Real Toru from fully realizing something for some reason that I still haven’t fully formulated. Maybe Dream Toru really was a demon who actually did commit the murder of Noboru Wataya and wanted to be the only form of Toru to exist in either world. I don’t know, but in any case, the Real Toru actually succeeded. He had to go down to the lowest of lows and defeat himself in the process to succeed. The bad energy that had accumulated over the years on the property where the well stood was released and the well began to gain water once again.
This is all I have come up with so far, but it has given me a lot more peace of mind than I had before. I’m curious to hear thoughts from other people who have read this book though. It may be that this book was left open-ended so that we can create our own realities. There are still a ton of things that I don’t understand, but I think this is a good start. I’ll probably have to reread this book sometime, but I don’t think it will happen any time soon.
As a side note, Sir Sly’s song “Gold” always makes me think of this book. I feel like the lyrics are perfect and I can imagine a whole anime music video detailing parts of Wind-Up Bird in my head. Check out the actual music video below: