Family Affair by Haruki Murakami
In Family Affair by Haruki Murakami we have the theme of uncertainty, narrow-mindedness, honesty, selfishness, responsibilities, tradition and family. Taken from his The Elephant Vanishes collection the story is narrated in the first person by a twenty-seven year old man and from the beginning of the story the reader realizes that Murakami may be exploring the theme of uncertainty. The narrator is unsure about Noboru’s relationship with his younger sister. If anything the narrator dislikes Noboru but he also admits to being narrow-minded when it comes to other people. This may be significant as people, particular women, serve a purpose for the narrator. He enjoys their company as long as he can go to a hotel after the evening’s events. Though he has a girlfriend the narrator cheats on her without consideration for how she might feel. Something that the narrator’s sister is fully aware of when she and the narrator have an argument in the restaurant.
The theme of honesty is evident in the story. If anything the narrator and his sister are completely honest with one another with the sister taking on a more serious role than the narrator. She dislikes how he always has a girl in the wings and that he is selfish when it comes to others. The narrator has no responsibilities, an easy going job and again a girl within arm’s length all the time. The fact that the narrator and his sister can talk openly about masturbation and periods further suggests a degree of honesty in their relationship. Having lived together, under their parent’s instruction, for five years there is nothing that they don’t talk about.
There may be some symbolism in the story which might be important. The soldering iron can be seen to represent phallic symbolism and how Noboru is able to use one while ironically the narrator isn’t. It is possible and despite the narrator having had twenty-six lovers (those he can remember), it is Noboru who is the far better man than the narrator. He is not narrow-minded and does not really drink, though he is practicing. Alcohol plays a significant role in the story and can be seen to represent manhood and the narrator’s definition of manhood. The two most important things in the narrator’s life are women and alcohol. Both serve a need for the narrator. The narrator’s mother and Noboru’s father play an important part in the story. Both represent authority and it is not surprising that the narrator is of little help to his mother. She knows that her daughter is serious about Noboru and she wants to know more about him. Which suggests a traditional role being played by the mother and Noboru’s father.
The end of the story is interesting as Murakami further explores the theme of uncertainty. This time through the narrator’s sister’s eyes. She tells the narrator that she is in doubt as to whether to marry Noboru. However after some advice from the narrator, the first decent thing he does in the story, she no longer remains as confused. Though the narrator has not changed his ways he has acted selflessly and in his sister’s interest. The fact that the narrator gets sick from drinking too much alcohol is a further example or proof that he will not change anytime soon. When he arrives home after sleeping with yet another girl, he continues to drink beer.