Issues to Consider for Murakami's Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World [1991]

Murakami's novel ostensibly presents us with two separate plots: one set in an unnamed protagonist's "real" world experiences [perhaps the "wonderland" of the title] and a second plot with another unnamed protagonist set in a place called the Town [perhaps the title's "end of the world"]. While these two plots seem to be separate and unrelated at first, as we continue to read, elements from one plot/location seem to cross over into its companion plot, suggesting that the two plots will at some point come together by the novel's end. Murakami--through these parallel characters, props, and plot events--challenges us to fill in the gaps and create a single, coherent narrative. Here are a few issues to consider as you move through the novel chapter by chapter.

    1. What similar characters and props [objects] appear in both narratives? Are these comparable elements simply mattters of coincidence, or do they suggest to us meaningful connections betwen the settings and plots?
    2. Who are the calcutecs associated with the System and the semiotecs associated with the Factory? What is the specific relationship between these two groups?
    3. What is the job of the protagonist in the odd numbered chapters and how does the explanation of "laundering" and"shuffling" suggest how the two plots in the novel might be related. See the explanations of laundering and shuffling on 32-33.
    4. Why is there so much emphasis on paperclips?
    5. How would you characterize the professor? His granddaughter? Do these characters have parallel characters in the even numbered chapters set in the Town?
    6. How do skulls function in the novel?
    7. Murakami's odd-numbered wonderland chapters contain multiple references to American and European culture: John Wayne, Shakespeare, Lauren Bacall, The Outer Limits, etc. I counted over 100 of such references. Why? Do these references somehow contribute to development of thematic concerns or conflicts, or are they simply there to establish a sense of the narrator and his interests?
    8. By the end of the novel, what have you come to understand to be the relationship between the plots of the odd and even numbered chapters? Are you satisfied with the way that Murakami ends his novel and reveals--at least to some extent--the relationship between the two plots?