One of the inherent advantages of first-person narration is that it allows the reader to identify much more closely with the narrator. Stories told in the third-person certainly have the advantage of introducing the reader to a broader scope of characters and situations, but there’s a noticeable lack of intimacy. Even in situations where a third-person omniscient narrator weasels its way into a characters consciousness, there’s always a narrative barrier which separates the reader from the character.
After digesting Dance, Dance, Dance for a day or so, I realize how important a role this plays in Murakami’s writing. While not all of his writing is done in this form (half of Kafka on the Shore for instance, and some short stories), Murakami’s most compelling story-telling is done through the eyes of his very human, very sympathetic narrators.
Some have called Dance, Dance, Dance a harsh critique on the capitalist system; the absurdity of ‘advanced capitalist society’ (a recurring phrase throughout the book) is certainly an important component of the story.
We live in an advanced capitalist society, after all. Waste is the name of the game, its greatest virtue. Politicians call it ‘refinements in domestic consumption. I call it meaningless waste.
These are pretty harsh words. But the Murakami, through his narrator, doesn’t give the reader a chance to get riled up or angry. The narrator quickly continues:
A difference of opinion. Which doesn’t change the way we live. If I don’t like it, I can move to Bangladesh or Sudan.
The narrator, by and large reacts to what happens around him, the mundane and absurd alike, with a sense of bemused resignation. Similarly, he explains what led to a divorce with his ex-wife.
…if you love someone, the love is always shifting or wavering. It’s always questioning or inflating or disappearing or denying or hurting. And the thing is, you can’t do anything about it, you can’t control it…Maybe she had a different perspective on the matter. So in the end she split.
While sad (and this is a truly sad book in many ways, even if it has an uplifting ending), the narrator is not angry, not bitter. He accepts the reality of the situation and moves on.
In the end, it’s this attitude that keeps Dance, Dance, Dance afloat. In life, absurdities abound. Friendships are made and destroyed. Hearts are broken. People die. It’s not a question of right or wrong, fair or unfair. They’re simply facts of human existence. If a reader can learn to accept these realities, through the narrator, within the microcosm of the novel, they may also be able to gain some lasting perspective into their own lives.