Themes of loneliness in After Dark
One of the central themes in the book After Dark by her Haruki Murakami involves the isolation and loneliness of the characters. After Dark takes place in Tokyo, Japan in the middle of the night. The book goes back and forth through reality and a dreamlike state. Two sisters live in each of these realities. Mari and Eri Asai both feel completely alone in the world. Mari isolates herself from people and causes her own loneliness by pushing people away and Eri has fallen asleep alone and is in danger of never waking up again.
Mari has an interesting quote in the beginning of the book where she compares Denny's chicken salad to the isolation and loneliness felt in Tokyo. She says “they're full of weird drugs. Growth hormones and stuff. The chickens are locked in these dark, narrow cages, and given all of these shots, and their feed is full of chemicals, and they're put on conveyor belts, and machines cut their heads off and pluck them...” The reader will find later in the book that this is how she views her life. She feels helpless and alone in Japan where her choices are few as an intelligent woman. She doesn't want to work for a large company that will control her every move for years to come. She feels like everybody is on the same track and she doesn't want to be part of that.
Eri is Mari's sister and she is in great danger. A force is watching her while she sleeps. She has been asleep for months. Murakami describes her living conditions, “the room has the chilling air of a place that has long been abandoned.” It sounds in this section as if he is talking about her life. She has chosen to become a prostitute. You get glimpses into their early lives and see that all she cares about is how she looks and how other people perceive her. She lives to look at herself in the mirror. She is a model since middle school.
Mari meets a woman who runs a love hotel that tells her a frightening story about a prostitute getting beaten up. You can't help but wonder if it's perhaps Mari sister. Kaoru speaks matter-of-factly about the horrible beating the prostitute had taken. She wraps her cuts with alcohol and cotton swabs and put Band-Aids on the cuts. She does the job so quickly you can't help but think that she does this all time. Eventually she asked Mari if her parents are going to worry that she was out all night. Kaoru askes probing questions to her about how maybe she doesn't have her life as together as she thinks she does. Kaoru is also very lonely. She gave all the money she made wrestling to her family. She said the money was “used up by relatives I hardly knew”. You can tell she has a lot of resentment and anger towards her family. Her family seems to only care about the money and didn't really care about her so once the money was gone she was left alone. Mari asks her what she's going to do for the rest of the night, maybe go home? Kaoru answers that “there is nothing for me to do there, nobody waiting for me”. Her loneliness is made clear by this statement.
Mari is the most isolated and alone in the book so far. Kaoru asked her what she will do with the rest of the night and Mari answers she will just “kill time reading a book somewhere”. Mari has nothing to do and nowhere to go. Even with her sisters deep sleep somehow she seems less lonely than poor Mari sitting alone reading in a café with total strangers.