The Elephant Vanishes #3
In the collection of short stories, The Elephant Vanishes, Murakami distorts reality and plays around with the different interpretations readers can take from the same story. He is challenging the reader and keeping the reader on their toes. But, at the same time, Murakami is a master of repetition. The proof is in the collection of short stories that make up The Elephant Vanishes. He is describing a life in each and every one of the short stories. The narrators in each story are in their late 20’s to early 30’s and are going through a troubled time, such as boredom or loneliness. Each story may take of in a different direction and, like I just said, keep the reader on their toes but the stories all have the same basic theme incorporated.
The short story Sleep is a perfect example of this repetition. She is a typical housewife, around the age of 30. She begins her story with informing the reader that this is her 17th day without sleep. She then tells us about her life and describes it as full of routines. She would make breakfast for her husband and her son, and when her husband would leave to drop their son off on his way to work, they had a routine. “’Be careful,’ I say. ‘Don’t worry.’ He answers. Always the same little dialogue” (78). She would then clean, go to the gym and swim a few laps, be home to make her husband lunch at home, then get groceries and make dinner. One night, she has a horrible and strange nightmare. I man was standing at the foot of her bed and she tried to scream and move but she couldn’t. She is unable to go back to sleep so she comes out to the kitchen, pours a glass of brandy, which she rarely had, and picked out her favorite book from when she was in college. She read novels, drank brandy, and ate some chocolate all while her family was asleep; this became her new routine. She is doing things that she hasn’t done since she got married, such as drinking brandy frequently and having chocolate. “After ten minutes of lying near him, I would get out of bed. I would go to the living room, turn on the floor lamp, and pour myself a glass of brandy. Then I would sit on the sofa and read my book, taking tiny sips of brandy and letting the smooth liquid glide over my tongue. Whenever I felt like it, I would eat a cookie or a piece of chocolate that I had hidden in the sideboard.” She goes on to say, “My days became just as regulated” (95). She begins to go on drives in the middle of the night. She would lie awake until her husband fell asleep and she would sneak out of the house. When she was in her parked car in a deserted parking lot, men, that resembled shadows, approached her car. As they began to rock her car back and forth, she was in tears. The story ends with the narrator saying, “I’m crying. All I can do is cry. The tears keep pouring out. Locked inside this little box, I can’t go anywhere. It’s the middle of the night. The men keep rocking the car back and forth. They’re going to turn it over” (109). Murakami chooses to leave each story open for the interpretation of the reader.
As I read this short story for the second time, I interpreted the story completely differently than I had the first time I read it. The narrator explains to the reader that her husband and son, and anyone else for that matter, didn’t noticed that she hadn’t been sleeping for almost a month. This makes me believe that she is actually the one not awake and that she is the one asleep and dreaming up this new ‘reality’ full of new routines. And when the shadowed men began to rock her car back and forth, I think this was her awakening from her dream. Murakami is playing around with the ideas of wakefulness and sleeplessness.
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