Haruki Murakami, a Japanese writer of short story, The Year of Spaghetti. The depiction of Murakami’s stories with point-of-view narratives provides certain distinctiveness to the characters, depending on how the dialogue is conveyed. The abstract things the narrator says and does provide the idea of human isolation with little feelings of fear. Although the story has no definitive plot, it grabs hold of conflicting emotions between fear and loneliness. The unnamed protagonist in The Year of Spaghetti, illustrates the meaning of loneliness through naturalization and privatization. According to the Article, Murakami Haruki and the Naturalization of Modernity, “Privatization is the process that makes naturalization possible.” (Cassegard 87) The first paragraph of Haruki’s story, The Year of Spaghetti, already shows how alone and private his life it. He says, “I cooked spaghetti to live, and lived to cook spaghetti.” (pg. 178)
It already seems as if his mind is made up for the rest of his life. That he has found his life’s calling to cook spaghetti every day and every night. That is what is natural to him. Naturalization means, “that one has grown used to an environment that was once shocking.” (Cassegard 83) Nothing really phases him, however, he could not have reached naturalization without having privatization occur first. Privatization is: The process whereby individuals “become used” to solitude, or—to be more precise—their instinctual needs and fundamental impulses become channeled in such a way that their gratification is made less dependent on relations to other people. The term does not imply that human interaction decreases, but stands for the subjective process whereby such interactions become less important as sources of gratification for individuals. (Cassegard 87)
This explains how the protagonist in this story can be conveyed as someone who is lonely, hurt, and avoiding the rest of the world, but could actually just be content with life. Privatization explains that the interactions with other people are not necessarily something he is bad at or is avoiding, but just has less interest in it.
The story then goes on to how the protagonist’s phone rang and how he could barely even recognize the fact that someone was calling him. This was due to the fact that he does not call nor get calls regularly. This is a shock to the protagonist because he was not expecting anyone to call or talk to him. As he answered the phone it was his friend’s ex girlfriend and by the sound of her voice he already knew she needed some kind of help. He then says to himself, “whatever trouble was brewing I knew I didn’t want to get involved.” (Murakami 180) Before even knowing what the girl’s problem was he already knew he did not want any part of it. This is part of his privatized life.
According to Cassegard, “Their peace of mind is paid for by loneliness.” (pg. 87) Cassegard is trying to say that Murakami’s protagonist likes being alone and therefore, knows, getting involved in any type of way with this girl or anyone else for that matter will interfere with him being alone. He is so use to his everyday life of buying different types of spaghetti every week, cooking it in his, “huge aluminum cooking pot, big enough to bathe a German shepard in.” (Murakami 178), then eating it all by himself. Perhaps the German shepard is also a symbol of loneliness because this is all he did in 1971. He did it everyday and that is what he sees as normal. He kept his life privatized like this and that is why nothing is a shock to him, because it is natural to him.
The protagonist’s tone in the story sounds content with subtle undertones of fear. It is like the spaghetti has some type of deeper meaning in accordance to his loneliness. When explaining how spaghetti is cooked a specific type of way he also mentions more than once how he must eat it alone. He even says he expects to be alone, and him subconsciously thinking people are at his door proves how lonely he really is. The protagonist says: Every time I sat down to a plate of spaghetti- especially on a rainy afternoon- I had the distinct feeling that somebody was about to knock on my door. The person who I imagined was about to visit me was different each time. Sometimes it was a stranger, sometimes someone I knew. Once, it was a girl with slim legs whom I’d dated in high school, and once it was myself, from a few years back, come to pay a visit. Another time, it was none other than William Holden, with Jennifer Jones on his arm. (Murakami 179)
Although he may be content and satisfied with being alone, you can still tell how lonely he really is by his actions. Whenever, he eats spaghetti alone he imagines people coming to visit. He especially imagines people up when it is a rainy day. The rain symbolizes the mood of sadness and loneliness, therefore, especially on rainy days he would doze off. The protagonist in the story shows his loneliness because he has to daydream of random people that are visiting him but do not actually come inside.
According to Cassegard, “Few things are as striking in the protagonists of Murakami as their loneliness, even when they are with other people.” (p. 83) Cassegard is saying that Murakami’s protagonists are always perceived to be lonely even when interacting with others. For example, when the protagonist in The Year of Spaghetti is talking to the girl on the phone, he makes up a lie so that he can hang up with her because he does not want to speak or help her with her problem of needing to contact her ex boyfriend, the protagonist’s friend because he owes her a sum of money. He is not happy to have a phone call because he likes to be alone, so therefore, he lies about cooking spaghetti just to cut the conversation off. After he lies he thinks to himself, “ I lied. I had no idea why I said that.
But that lie was already a part of me- so much so that, at that moment at least, it didn’t feel like a lie at all. (Murakami 181) That line can make us idealize the fact that he has been cooking spaghetti for the purpose of a lie that has turned true. Him cooking spaghetti symbolizes his way of privatization. Eating spaghetti provides allusion to the idea of a tangled relationship that he is avoiding with anyone, especially the girl he was speaking on the phone to. His constant rejection to the world has lead him imagining a pot with water, on his stove, and an imaginary match. (Murakami) This collectively provides the constant isolated relationship between him and his world.
Murakami is a different kind of Japanese writer. He adapted his writing style from the Western side. DiConsiglo says, “Growing up, he dreamed of America. He read American detective novels, and listened to American music on the radio. Even the defining moment in his life was distinctly American. At age 29, while watching a baseball game, he suddenly realized he wanted to be a writer.” (pg. 1) Murakami then says, “Writing in Japan for Japanese people is in a particular style, very stiff. If you are a Japanese novelist you have to write that way,” Murakami has said. “But I am different in my style. I guess I’m seeking a new style for Japanese readership, and I think I have gained ground. Things are changing now.” (DiConsiglio) Murakami was always teased for the way he writes.
He was a disgrace to the older Japanese people because of the way he wrote. Japanese people would tease Americans and call them names like batakusai, which literally means, “stinking of butter.” (DiConsiglio 1) Murakami has been different from everyone else as he group up because of his interests and that is possibly why his characters in the stories he writes are so lonely, privatized, but also natural. His characters in the stories never seem to be shocked by anything because they accept everything as they are. They do not have any desire to figure out or question why certain things are the way they are. The characters just exist neither happy nor sad. And that is how the protagonist in Murakami’s story The Year of Spaghetti is like. His character shows not much emotion to anything else except his love for spaghetti and his few day dreams of random imaginary people. That is really lonely but does not seem to shock the protagonist nor phase him, because as said, that is what is natural to him. (DiConsiglio)
In conclusion, the point of view narration has emphasized the point that gives his stories uniqueness and relatable aesthetic. It’s tone helps a reader to understand the author and protagonist’s ideas of privatization from the world that became natural to him. It is only then the symbolism of spaghetti provides a greater and deeper meaning to why the protagonist acts in the certain way that he does- a privatized and natural life.
Cassegard, Carl. “Murakami Haruki And The Naturalization Of Modernity.” International Journal Of Japanese Sociology 10.1 (2001): 80-92. Academic Search Premier. Web. 25 Sept. 2014. DiConsiglio, John. “Haruki Murakami Stinks.” Literary Cavalcade 51.4 (1999): 15. Academic Search Premier. Web. 25 Sept. 2014. Murakami,
Haruki. “The Year of Spaghetti.” (2005): 178-83. Web.