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A Research Paper on Hard-Boiled Wonderland and The End of the World by Haruki Murakami

Rhylee Suyom has hopped in three different worlds: the academe, the corporate, and the media. He enjoys being with nature and his family.

Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World

A Research Paper on Hard-Boiled Wonderland and The End of the World by Haruki Murakami

Haruki Murakami was a Japanese writer born in Kyoto. At university, he met his wife, Yoko, and they operated a jazz club in Tokyo called Peter Cat. After he realized that he could write novels, and his first one, Norwegian Wood (1987), made him a national celebrity, he continued his writing career.

The Novel and Its Intricacies

A novel by Japanese writer Haruki Murakami was initially written in Japanese – Sekai no owari to hado-boirudo wandarando and was translated into English by Alfred Birnbaum. It was a story that presented two different worlds, The Hard-boiled Wonderland – or the cyber-punk, Science fiction part and The End of the World, which is the virtual fantasy-like surreal part (Murakami, 1985). The story is an exciting narrative of two parallel worlds, where the character narrating in the world of science fiction is a robot named Calcutec. Calcutec is a human data processor and encryption system trained to process encryption keys using the subconscious level of the mind. In the story, the calcutecs are made to work for the government to fight against the semiotecs or the criminals who work for the Factory. The System works to protect the data which the semiotecs want to steal. With the limited time Calcutec has worked for a scientist, he had to accomplish his tasks before he got absorbed into the world of the subconscious.

The other story shows a different world in an isolated town protected by a perfect and impenetrable wall. This time the narrator is working on his acceptance into the town and is cut off from his shadow, which was sent to the Shadow Grounds to die through the winter. It is a requirement for the town members not to have their shadows, and it follows that they are not supposed to have minds. The work of the narrator in the story is a Dream reader. But it is the opposite, he is expected to remove traces of mind from the town, and his daily routine includes going to the library and learning to read dreams from skulls.

What connects the two stories is the narrator himself. At the End of the World, he was the person existing within the subconscious world of Calcutec. Together the two stories explore the worlds of consciousness, the subconscious and unconscious, and self-identity.

Thesis Statement

The conscious stream of mind does not just shape a person's identity or his ability to think; the subconscious also gives life to what the mind cannot express within the streamlining of consciousness.

Story Analysis

The plot of the stories was narrated from two different perspectives; the first narrator in “Hard-Boiled Wonderland” was delivered by an android which is an alcoholic and has anti-social behavior. Being infallible in their works, the calcutecs worked for the System in encrypting data. Still, there was also the disgraced faction of the calcutecs who chose to work for the wrong side and were regarded as criminals – the semiotecs. The two are interrelated, made from the same material, and for the same purpose, just like the two faces of a quarter, where each side is manipulated for specific purposes. While calcutecs are designed to protect the semiotecs meant to steal.

The plot thickened when Calcutec received an assignment from a scientist exploring the theory of sound removal. Hiding in a sewer underground of Tokyo Tower, the sewer presents a doomsday concept of Tokyo. While on his task for the scientist, Calcutec realizes that he only has a limited time, a day and a half, until his consciousness disappears. It will happen instantly, according to the scientist but having acknowledged that this day is bound to happen soon, Calcutec feels like it will be like an eternity.

On the other side of the world, the narrator just came into Town, which they call the End of the World. Described as an eerie town surrounded by thick walls and nothing passing through them, it was more likely that there was no way to escape it when someone entered. The narrator is courageous, strong, and adventurous compared to the character of Calcutec. All town residents are not allowed to keep their shadows; all shadows are cast into the Shadow grounds according to the town's rules. A town member who has just disengaged from his shadows will be given a new job, and the narrator got the job as a Dream reader. As a Dream reader, he is tasked to take away the consciousness among people. As the two stories progress, readers will soon realize that the world represented by the town in the second story is the world pictured within the subconscious of Calcutec (Mallari, 2018).

The characters in the stories were not given specific names but were instead identified based on their jobs. The world at the End of the World has some similarities to the Utopian/dystopian concept of a city that was also presented in other literary works like Lowry’s “The Giver.” The End of the World is the world that has been translated into a bigger, more realistic version that came from the subconscious of Calcutec.

The two stories may confuse the reader at the beginning because the first story unfolds in odd-numbered chapters while the second on even-numbered ones. This division in the book represents how the thoughts had been switching over from the past, as the narrator recalls what happened to him and the present in the second story, which shows how he is living in the present.

The anti-social behavior of Calcutec, his damaged and roguish character, depicts the characteristics of Murakami himself. It was like putting himself also in the character of the android. The Dream reader in the other story is more like a hero who is naive, adventurous, and generous. He was stuck in a place where he was also moving towards losing his mind. This proves that even if Calcutec acts like a typical robot, a part of him could be taken as a hero. In contrast, the Dream reader, no matter how positive he had been acting in End of the World he, was product of an uninspiring character. And like most of his stories, Murakami left the questions unresolved. The reader is left wondering after reading his book (Holub-Moorman, 2012).

This story is about the thoughts and feelings of the human mind. It shows that there are kept in the subconscious, which is sometimes translated into an imaginary world. As Calcutec realized that he was about to lose consciousness in a few more hours, he had already imagined what would happen to him after he lost consciousness. That was how Dream reader came to life in the other world. But the connection between them remains; as the Dream reader goes to do his tasks of taking the consciousness of the people in town, he is also working on the way to get back his shadows and escape the town. While he was working on reading dreams using unicorn skulls, he was also finding a way out.

The connection between the two narrators is also shown in how what they are supposed to do for their jobs. Calcutec read encrypted data, while Dream readers read through dreams using skulls. Both are confronting the challenge of keeping their consciousness, Calcutec, for the remaining day and a half, and for Dream reader in retrieving back his shadows. The thick wall surrounding the town may be compared to the walls that separate the conscious from the subconscious level of the mind. Everything kept in the subconscious is always difficult to express and is often revealed through imagery or imagination. Because of this struggle, Calcutec had conceptualized the End of the World town in his mind.

The name itself implies the end of life for Calcutec; when he loses consciousness, he will be trapped for eternity in a place like a town. The shadow which will be cast on the Shadow Grounds and remove the consciousness from the person is the same apprehension Calcutec feels as the day dooms on him that he will be losing his consciousness.

The setting of Hard-Boiled Wonderland, a futuristic perspective of Tokyo, shows the vision of a future designed by technology where androids are employed for the government's tasks, even to the extent of fighting criminals. Being mechanical and infallible in their work on encrypting data, it was still shown that androids or robots are unsafe and may still be corrupted to do evil things. The work of Calcutec in the past also transcended his assigned job in the future, working for the town to read people's dreams.

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Reading dreams is the same as decoding encrypted data; both are complex tasks that require expertise and precision. One cannot just interpret dreams nor produce results from data out of assumptions. Calcutec even explained his tasks using his brain's left and right sides. In performing his job, he is utilizing the maximum power of his brain; it was the same for the Dream reader; he also needs consciousness to get his job done.

Is Death the Same as Losing One's Consciousness?

“Open your eyes train your ears, use your head. If a mind you have, then use it while you can.” This shows how Calcutec would like to remember himself and how he could use his mind while still conscious. However, he did not realize this until he was told how long he had left before he lost it. He had never put any thought into losing his consciousness as he went about his work of encrypting data and protecting the system. It was only when he came to work for the scientist that he came to this truth. The sewer where the scientist works is like the premonition to what his world would be when he loses consciousness.

“You got to know your limits. Once is enough, but you got to learn. A little caution never hurts anyone. A good woodsman has only one scar on him. No more, no less.” When he discovered that he was about to lose consciousness and was told that it would not come gradually, Calcutec learned that he was not indispensable. Yes, the character of this android in the story may not be precisely human, but Murakami endowed him with human characteristics, with limitations. Regardless of how useful he had been in doing his work for the System and for the government, there will still come a time when he must retire and stop working.

“Genius or fool, you don't live in the world alone. You can hide underground or build a wall around yourself, but somebody will come along and screw up the works.” The System created the Calcutecs to encrypt data and protect the System. But though they were created for the same purpose, there were still among them who turned away and chose to work for the criminal, stealing the data. It reflects the nature of man, who God created to be naturally good, but as he makes his own choices and takes his path in the world, he goes astray and does some evil.

“Everything, everything seemed once-upon-a-time.” The story of the Hard-Boiled Wonderland is a recollection of the past from the perspective of Calcutec. He had been reminiscing how he had been functioning in society and did well on his job. He may exhibit anti-social behavior as he refuses to conform to society’s demands, but he acknowledges that he has to exist with other androids. The story is told like Calcutec is reminiscing his past life; he had seen things his life than from his memory. It was what was left of him to do while helping the scientist and waiting for the day that he would lose consciousness.

“I wasn't terrified of death itself. As Shakespeare said, die this year, and you don't have to die the next.” Losing consciousness, separation from one’s shadow, and the shadows being condemned to vanish in the Shadow Grounds all are depictions of death in the two stories. Losing someone’s consciousness is not just about forgetting; it is not just about fainting and coming back again. As the scientist has put it in perspective for Calcutec, it will come in an instant, and Calcutec also thought of it as an eternity. When people die, there is no point in returning to life. Dying was presented at The End of the World as the separation of the body from the spirit, where the person's physical form is left to vanish, buried under the ground. In contrast, the spirit wanders in the community with other spirits.

“Huge organizations and I don't get along. They're too inflexible, waste too much time, and have too many stupid people.” This is an understatement for the demonstration of the anti-social behavior of Calcutec. He had not been fond of getting socially along with others, which is why he could not foster a good relationship with the scientist's daughter in Hard-Boiled Wonderland. Unlike at the End of the World, as the Dream reader goes about reading skulls and people’s dreams, he is not afraid to show fondness for the librarian, and he shows it by going to the library every day.

The sewer where the scientist work is the same place depicted as the library in the other story. Calcutec had to go every day to the sewer to help the scientist, the same way he goes every day to the library while doing his dream reading job.

“Once again, life had a lesson to teach me: It takes years to build up, and it takes moments to destroy.” People take time to collect memories, to remember the things they do. It takes both sides of the brain to function to process things and comprehend ideas, but as scientists say, losing consciousness comes instantly, and nothing is left when it leaves the mind. Nothing will be remembered, everything will be forgotten, and this thought has triggered the subconscious of Calcutec to project a world where he will exist again after he loses consciousness.

“What was lost was lost. There was no retrieving it. However, you schemed, no returning to how things were, no going back.” This is depicted at the End of the World when shadows are cast to the Shadows Ground and are left to vanish in the winter. Winter is a symbol of death in the story, and the vanishing of the shadows means there is no way of getting back the person's consciousness. Dream reader initially planned to escape the town with his shadow while he was not yet trapped in the town for long, but in the end, he decided to stay and let his shadow alone escape. What leaves as a question to the reader then after is what happens to the shadow of the Dream reader if he stays in the town? Was it a sign that when the shadow escaped from the Shadow Ground, Calcutec returned to the reality of the society he had just been recalling before as part of his memory?

“The best musicians transpose consciousness into sound; painters do the same for color and shape.” So, it was for androids like Calcutec to build up his memory from the data encryption he had been interpreting. The last memory he has in mind is the theory of removing sound, which he was doing for the scientist. The theory of removing sound is also symbolic in the first story. Removing sounds is comparable to removing the essence of something; what is music if there is no sound? What is a man without his consciousness?

“How can the mind be so imperfect?" she says with a smile. A truth in showing the limitations of the mind. In the present scenario, the mind can explain and comprehend many things. It can store memories as much as it can hold. It helps in communication between people. But it also has its limitations, there will come the point that ends everything, and the mind has to rest, which means total rest, without having to work again.

I look at my hands. Bathed in the moonlight, they seem like statues, proportioned to no purpose. The moonlight is a sign or a representation of what Calcutec will look like in the other world. As it was said at the End of the World, the shadow is separated from the Dream reader; the things he saw, which seemed like without any form, are himself being separated from his physical body. Existing now as a spirit, he does not need his hands to do his job, and it is only his mind that he needs to read people’s dreams and facilitate the separation of consciousness from other people’s minds.

"It may be imperfect," I say, "but it leaves traces. And we can follow those traces like footsteps in the snow." "To oneself," I answer. "That's where the mind is. Without the mind, nothing leads anywhere." Calcutec/Dream reader affirms that the body is nothing without the spirit. Consciousness is what provides meaning and purpose for the body. The memories kept in mind, either from its consciousness or subconscious level, also define the work of the mind, and these are the imprints that will give a person the idea of how he had lived his life before.

Conclusion
Hard-boiled, wonderland, and end of the world are all depictions of Murakami’s versions of the world Alice saw in the story Alice in Wonderland. The large number of eggs found by Alice, maybe a large number of memories kept in the conscious level of the mind, and what the person fears or imagines to have and be are kept in the subconscious level and, at times, are projected into something that may seem very realistic.

There are no rabbit holes to fall to Calcutec, but he has the town at the End of the World, which trapped him. Surrounded by the thick walls, which are impenetrable, there seems to be no way for him to go and no other choice but to stay and accept the job he was given – that of being a dream reader. Indeed, he will find that he is yearning for things he could not achieve while in the Hard-boiled Wonderland, but he could do them all at the End of the World.

The novel is a creative way of showing life and life after death. It was about all the fears one may have when faced with the limited time of existence.

References

Holub-Moorman, Will. (2012). "Reading Redux: Scrambling to Know a Hard-Boiled End." The Crimson. https://www.thecrimson.com/article/2012/11/6/hard-boiled-end/

Mallari, Kelly. (2018). "Study.com." n.d. Study.com. <https://www.study.com/hard-boiled-wonderland-and-the-end-of-the-world-summary-&-analysis>.

Murakami, Haruki. (1985). Hard-Boiled Wonderland and The End of the World. Japan: Kodansha Shinchosha, Print.


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Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World

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