Melancholia

“The distinguishing mental features of melancholia are a profoundly painful dejection, cessation of interest in the outside world, loss of the capacity to love, inhibition of all activity, and a lowering of the self-regarding feelings to a degree that finds utterance in self-reproaches and self-revilings, and culminates in a delusional expectation of punishment” (Freud 244).

Both mourning and melancholia deal with the loss of an object but in melancholia, an object is generally more ideologically lost.

Melancholia arises when the sadness is suppressed and the person identifies the loss with himself or herself. In melancholia, it is no longer the loss of a physical object but rather the loss of an ideal that changes the ego (self).

In examining this loss of an ideal, Freud points specifically to the loss of an object of love—which in this case, is Naoko. There is the first instance in which she physically removes herself from Toru’s life. She has leaves the city for a sanatorium outside of Kyoto,

“to rest [her] nerves in a quiet place cut off from the world” (Murakami 44).

Her decision devastates Toru. He concludes that when he lost Kizuki, he lost the only person he could ever talk to honestly and that it must have been the same for Naoko which is why they needed each other so much.

However, Naoko comes to the understanding that she is only holding onto Kizuki’s death by spending time with Toru. In order to determine who she is outside of the experience of death, she needs to be in a place far from all who remind her of it.

For Toru, her departure means that he is alone again with nothing to keep him rooted in his old identity. He feels empty and isolated, going to classes and following a daily routine much as he did in the early days after Kizuki’s death. He starts to avoid answering roll call in his classes and admits that he

“knew it was a pointless gesture, but [he] felt so bad that [he] had no choice” (Murakami 48).

This “pointless gesture” serves to be emblematic of his lack of identity again, especially now that he feels he has lost both Kizuki and Naoko. Toru realizes that all he has managed to do with not answering roll call is to further isolate himself from his classmates and make them uncomfortable in his presence, but at this point he has stopped caring entirely.

Toru is struck by melancholia and exhibits all the symptoms listed in the quote at the top of the page. When Naoko finally commits suicide, he loses all semblance of sense and spirals into melancholia.

“He knows whom he has lost but not what he has lost in him” (Freud 245)

Toru is unable to come to terms with who he is without Naoko to ground him in the world. The small detail of Toru denying roll call further characterizes Toru’s sense of identity, or rather, his refusal of one. His rejection of identity is directly linked to his spiraling melancholia as someone suffering from melancholia

“represents his ego… as worthless… he reproaches himself, vilifies himself and expects to be cast out” (Freud 246)

Toru is content to be alone in his melancholia and maintains his repetitive, pointless living until he meets Midori. However, his time with Naoko is important if only because it is foreshadowing of what he might become if he cannot shake his melancholia. It becomes clear through Naoko and Toru that melancholia is, as Freud says, a pathological depression.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email