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English 5 N1C

2/5/13
The Elephant Vanishes: Role of Women

In this collection of short stories produced by Haruki Murakami, The Elephant Vanishes, he
employs enigmacity in his unfulfilled stories to get his way through the readers, embedding a
subliminal message behind his work. Characterizing this author, this novel can be closely
related to his patriotism, which can be seen through the metaphors and motifs he constantly
uses. He manages to impersonate each different character and simultaneously show different
points of view yet all of them share some essential similar qualities that link most of the main
characters with one another. If he impersonates the main character, mostly male characters,
what contrast do the women represent? Why are they there and in what way can they
symbolize something else?
The Elephant Vanishes contains thoughts in between the lines, with the constant monologues
that the protagonists have they seem mostly puzzled and confused. With reason, because most
of them seem to face a turning point in their lives and start to be analytical with what is
happening in their surroundings. Then, along with the protagonist, secondary characters are
also introduced and we are to judge how important their appearance is, in correlation with the
main character.
Murakami doesnt seem to follow the stereotypes being put on gender roles. In his first short
story, The wind-up bird and Tuesdays women, it seems to be that the typical gender roles have
been inversed and the main character seems dissatisfied with his monotonous life. The only
secondary characters shown seem to hassle him including his wife and the fact of them being
female also seems to make them potentially more annoying. The protagonist wonders Is
every woman in the world out to shake me up? (p. 9)
The fact of the woman producing the income in the house makes her the one with power and
bosses him around. The man in the story is meant to be seen as dependent and the reason he
doesnt feel at ease with his situation is because he isnt used to the way of how things work
now. The main character is very passive while the women are dominant and he
subconsciously submits to the numerous requests of these while still not grasping the
situation. (p. 23)
The role of women being dominant in a traditional culture such as Japan is to accept the new
customs from the westernization and that the stereotypical gender roles should be broken and
not be seen as immorally incorrect.
So is seen in The Second Bakery Attack, the male protagonist is passive and doesnt stand up
for his ideas or what is morally correct. The wife manages to convince him into raiding a
McDonalds even though he wasnt really up for it and always indecisive wondering if do we
really have to do this? (p. 45). The wife manages to control him by taking advantage of his
story and starts to manipulate him and implanting the idea of what he really wants when it
was actually what she really wanted.

The women, or feminine side, are often seen as weak. This is not the case in Murakamis
novel because through the unusual series of events that he puts the main characters in, the
woman that have an important role in the story take charge of the situation or act like they
have everything under control unlike the man that usually seem to dwell and over think what
they are going through.
Through Murakamis work we can see that the role of the woman should be none other than
potentially any job a man can excel. Women show as much potential dominant power as man
and are capable to withstand the responsibilities but society is blinded by stereotypes.
In the story Sleep, different from the majority of the stories, Murakami impersonates a woman
who doesnt live up to her expectations. Although, her renouncement to sleep caught up to her
by eventually thinking she is superior to everyone else almost like an evolutionary leap. (p.
107). We presence the transition she goes through, how her mentality changes to finally
opposing her monotonous life knowing she is meant for much more than just a housewife.
She is seeking to emancipate from her imposed lifestyle and rebels against her husband in the
small details (such as eating chocolate).
Murakami shows throughout narrations of unusual series of events that distort our characters
normal daily basis, that either youre a man or woman, the way in which you confront these
anomalies in life is how you turn out to be in the future. Such as, the way in which Murakami
might express his sorrow for the lost of his culture, just by having extremist people like the
woman in Sleep, people might react radically against or for westernization. So the major point
I perceive is to find a balance also regarding the balance between men and women.
This balance is less perceived in some of his stories, such as The Last Lawn of the Afternoon.
Male protagonist who meets a lonely old woman who actually follows the stereotype of a
woman which is to be caring and warm-hearted even though she seemed tough on the outside
at first. The role of this old woman might have been to represent the people of Japan and how
they unwelcome the new ways of the westernization but later on how they warm up to it. The
main character represents the westernization that comes to mold or shape their culture, in this
case the grass, which ends very well according to the old woman, the Japanese people, and
admitting thats the way lawns ought to be mowed. (p. 282) Meaning that that is how a
culture should be shaped.
Murakami tries to express how Japanese society is being affected by westernization. He
shows how the environment in normal households is being disrupted by the empowerment of
women. Murakami seems to support this cause by breaking the stereotype of gender roles and
showing the capability of women to affront different situations while the guys just dwell on it.
Most of our male characters show a passive personality or they simply are ignorant enough to
not grasp the situation completely. The role of women in Murakamis novel shows the
progress in Japanese society. He changes the concept of a stereotypical woman by making
them more analytical, logical and neutral and less sensitive. The emancipation of women from
the social codes is strictly related to the progress in Japanese culture and society.

Sources:

Murakami, Haruki, Birnbaum, Alfred & Rubin, Jay (1993). The elephant vanishes:
stories : by Haruki Murakami. New York: Knopf