They are too young to truly understand the ramifications of their actions. However, they are not too young to realize that they want to find a means of escape from the unhappiness in their home. Perhaps they saw ending their lives as a better option than trying to make it on their own in the outside world -- especially since they had been secluded for most of their lives. The question: Could someone in the right position help them and change their ultimate decision?
Virgin Suicides also deals with searching for a time that perhaps was brighter, simpler, less stressful. People living in the 21st century see the 1950s as an easier time. Those living in the 1950s, along with the Cold War and the threat of nuclear war, most likely looked back to earlier decades when living on a farm or without so much technology may have been better. The "Grass is Always Greener" is not always about individuals living at the same time period. This syndrome is common. People are more concerned with the lives of those who have died (Marilyn Monroe, Elvis) than those who are living. How many books, TV shows and movies are devoted to the biography of someone who lived in the past? It is as if the viewers are trying desperately to learn something from these individuals, either to make their own lives better or to prove there is something more to life than what they have already found. Perhaps it is important to look at why people find more interest in the past than in their current lives. There may be a way to help them appreciate their present lives more than dwelling on some time they believe was better, but actually was not.
Similarly, as noted by Trip, obsession is another theme that runs through Virgin Suicides. The boys -- now men -- remain plagued over something that happened many years earlier. "Many of us continued to have dreams in which the Lisbon girls appeared to us more real than what they had been in real life" (238). What does this say about their characters? Their present-day lives? They find something that occurred so long ago more important than what is happening in their lives today. Virgin Suicides is saying that it is important for anyone who is involved with a suicide to do whatever possible to help that person; however, if all fails, then to make the best of one's own life.
Norwegian Wood by Murakami is also a flashback. The novel begins with the introductory chapter in which the 37-year-old narrator, Toru Watanabe, hears the sweet orchestral cover version of the Beatles' song "Norwegian Wood" and is reminded of his life almost 20 years earlier. The rest of the book retells the events of those times.
In high school, Naoko and Toru's are close friends. The two have great difficulty accepting the suicide of their 17-year-old best friend, Kizuki. In fact, they do not see each another for nearly a year after the funeral. They meet by chance in Tokyo, while going to college, see each other once and a while, and make love one time. After Watanabe sleeps with Naoko, he says that "her cry was the saddest sound of orgasm I had ever heard" (40). Naoko, who is emotionally unstable because of the earlier suicide, leaves Tokyo and returns to her family and then goes to live in an institution.
After Naoko leaves, Toru meets Midori, a vibrant and emotional woman who confuses him about his loyalty to Naoko and offers him a love, that he says, "stands and walks on its own, living and breathing and throbbing and shaking me to the roots of my being" (268). Toru becomes torn between his promise to help Naoko recover and his desire to begin a more fruitful relationship with Midori. He visits Naoko in the asylum and also deepens his involvement with Midori, who demands a commitment from him: "You were so nice to me when I was having my problems, but now that you're having yours, it seems there's not a thing I can do for you. You're all locked up in that little world of yours, and when I try knocking on the door, you just sort of look up for a second and go right back inside."
Naoko commits suicide, which pushes Toru into a period of searching and finally a deeper self-understanding. Toru writes: "I had learned one thing from Kizuki's death, and I believed that I had made it part of myself in the form of a philosophy: 'Death is not the opposite of life but an innate part of life'" (273).
Like Virgin Suicides, this book is about young people searching for answers. Some, like Naoko, find them in not going forward. Others, like Toru, put aside the hardships and move on. Unlike Naoko, he can be older than 20. He does not have to waiver from 18 to 19 and back to 18 again. He does choose to live, when so many others around him are choosing to die.
Similar to Virgin Suicides, Norwegian Wood relates the story of how individuals react to suicide. In the former, the boys, then men, are obsessed. They continue to look for answers to why the girls made their decisions and are almost lost in that time period. They cannot actually get on with their lives for living so much in the past. Toru, however, is able to move on. As he says to Reiko: "We were alive, she and I. And all we had to think about was continuing to be happy." The readers are not exactly sure if the two end up together for good, but for now this is what he wants, for although he says, "All I want in the world is you. I want to see you and talk. I want to begin everything from the beginning," he still admits to being dead center of this place that was no place."
Both of the books contain the mysteries inherent in life. In Virgin Suicides, the characters do not seem to gain from their search. In Norwegian Wood, Murakami makes the reader realize again and again that no one may truly understand the reasons behind events, especially not the behavior and decisions of others. However, this is all right as long as people learn more about themselves through the search that will make them happy. Murakami does not solve the mystery of loss, or life, he is just forcing the readers to recognize that these things exist.
This is a difficult lesson one learns when growing up: the knowledge that it is impossible to control everything in life, although it is so useful in an increasingly stressful and complicated world. Murakami does not provide any answers, or cliched explanations. He only demonstrates the facts and the characters' ways for coping with them. Readers must feel good not with what eventually happens between Toru and Midori, but with the fact that Toru has moved beyond the insecurities of young adulthood and can now face the greater challenges that will come in the future.
In Japan, Suicide is even more of a problem with youth than it is in the United States, because great pressure is put on students to perform in school. Even when they are in pre-school, they must be at a certain level in order to know that they will progress as they get older and have a good job. Competition is brutal.
The latest National Police Agency data confirms that youth suicide is emerging as a serious social problem in Japan. The number of elementary and middle school pupils killing themselves is especially of concern. The suicide rate for this group rose by a substantial 57.6%, representing a total of 93 innocent lives lost, 34 more than in 2002. Among high school students, there was also a sharp rise of 29.3%. In total 225 young lives were lost in this age category. There was also an increase in the number of college students killing themselves. The overall suicide rate among people aged 19 or younger rose by 22%. Suicide is the most common cause of death among Japanese in their 20s and 30s. The World Health Organization puts the country's suicide rate per capita at more than twice that of the United States, and higher than any other economically advanced nation. Youth suicide in Japan has become such a common phenomenon that it no longer grabs press attention and reports are usually consigned to the back-pages of newspapers (Curtin).
Worse, suicide websites, with black backgrounds and frightful imagery, offer detailed instructions on ways to take one's own life. The sites display postings such as "looking for a friend to kill myself with," as well as calls for mass suicides on specific dates in designated areas. In just the first three months of 2005, there have been…