Mourning

In “mourning [it was] found that the inhibition and loss of interest are fully accounted for by the work of mourning in which the ego is absorbed. In melancholia, the unknown loss will result in a similar internal work and will therefore be responsible for the melancholic inhibition” (Freud 245).

Both mourning and melancholia deal with the loss of an object but in mourning, an object is exterminated from existence. Freud believes that mourning is a natural sadness as a reaction to the loss of a loved object. This loss can be identified, as the object is (typically) physically gone.

In Norwegian Wood, mourning is showcased primarily through Midori. When having dinner with Toru, she reveals that her mother has passed away from cancer. This is Toru’s first inkling of the fact that Midori has also lost someone, not necessarily to suicide but to death regardless. She talks about it frankly, telling him that

“it was terrible. She suffered from beginning to end. Finally lost her mind, had to be doped up all the time, and she still couldn’t die, though when she did it was practically a mercy killing”– Midori (Murakami 69).

Midori later reveals that her father is sick and on the verge of death in a hospital. Up until this moment in the text, no one has ever talked about their struggles with death so openly with Toru. He is used to hiding these thoughts and dealing with grief in private. He has never heard or given thought to the idea that there is mercy in death.

Yet, Midori candidly airs her sorrow like she is leaving laundry out to dry. The hurt and pain that come with the loss of a loved one are not a detriment to her in the way that Kizuki’s suicide is to Naoko and Toru. Rather, these struggles are a part of her and she knows it. She is fully aware of how intrinsically grief is woven into her identity, and Toru catches his first glimpse of it in her kitchen.

Midori and Toru go up to her roof to smoke, as Toru tries to understand her more fully. He tries to see how it is that she has seemingly gotten over such major losses in her life as if to look for his own answers to moving on from Kizuki’s death. Midori starts to talk about death and says

“the shadow of death slowly, slowly, eats away at the region of life, and before you know it everything’s dark and you can’t see, and the people around you think of you as more dead than alive” (Murakami 77).

Midori does not like that people see her as more dead than alive, making it a point to consistently come across as energetic so that people will not see her as someone defined by the deaths she has experienced. Later on in the book, Midori’s father passes away too. She loves him deeply, as she misses classes consistently to visit him and attempts to nurse him back to health.

However, when he dies, she calls Toru and tells him not to come to the funeral. She tells him that she will call him again later and travels with her boyfriend for a while. Still, she returns to Tokyo and is as vibrant as ever when she meets Toru again. They go out for the night, and she drags him to the disco. Toru notices that “her energy started coming back little by little as [they] danced” (Murakami 227). Midori says her “spirit is liberated” (Murakami 227) by dancing wildly and Toru has no choice but to agree.

This is his first time seeing Midori soon after she has experienced death and he is surprised by how quickly she rebounds into life. She does not run away from it or refuse to acknowledge it. She accepts it and still tries to find joy in everything that she did before her father died. Midori knows that death changes people; she just chooses not to let it consume her and become the defining part of her identity.

It is clear that Midori goes through a process of mourning while Toru and Naoko suffer through melancholia. In “Mourning and Melancholia”, Freud states that mourning has many of the same traits as melancholia, with the absence of self-regard.

Furthermore,

“when the work of mourning is completed the ego becomes free and uninhabited again” (Freud 245).

The work of mourning resulting in a stabilized ego is predominant in Midori, as seen through the language used to describe her when Toru sees her again. She is “liberated” and “energetic.” The loss of a loved one does not inhibit her because she is not melancholic.

She has physically lost her father, she has maintained her self-regard and she has made a conscious process of mourning. Through planning and attending her father’s funeral to taking a long trip to compose herself, Midori is able to come to terms with her sadness.

She does not lose her identity when either of her parents die and is able to sustain her vibrant personality because she goes through a healthy mourning process. She serves as one of the few examples for Toru (as well as for the reader) to show how to healthily cope with the loss of a loved one.

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