Lederhosen by Haruki Murakami
In Lederhosen by Haruki Murakami we have the theme of uncertainty, infidelity, loss, separation, freedom and acceptance. Taken from his The Elephant Vanishes collection the story is partially narrated in the first person by an unnamed man and after reading the story the reader realizes that Murakami may be exploring the theme of uncertainty. Despite her mother and father divorcing the daughter is never really sure as to why the marriage broke down. She knows her father had been a ‘skirt chaser’ but that was behind him now. If anything the daughter is lost as to why her parents at their stage in life should divorce. However the reader has a clearer insight and can see that the daughter’s mother was freeing herself from a soulless marriage. She has been unhappy for a long time possibility due to her husband’s infidelities and no longer feels as though she has any option but to divorce her husband.
It is not so much that the lederhosen are important but rather the fact that the mother can see herself living a life without her husband. She looks at the man wearing the lederhosen and sees how ridiculous he looks. This is the trigger or moment of realization for the mother. She knows she has lied to herself for too long and cannot remain married to her husband. However it is interesting that she isolates the daughter as well. It is as though the mother is reminded or her husband’s infidelities through her daughter. She does not appear to have any happy memories from the marriage. Which may be the point that Murakami is attempting to make. He may be suggesting that with infidelity comes a loss of confidence or an inability to action a move outside of a marriage. In reality an inability to leave a person because one has been once so connected to them. This might explain why the mother takes a complete break and stays with her sister.
There may be some symbolism in the story which might be important. The lederhosen can be seen to represent a sudden breakdown in the marriage for the mother. It is only when she sees how ridiculous they look that she might have felt that she too was being absurd to stay in her marriage. If anything the lederhosen symbolize freedom to the mother. The fact that the daughter recounts her mother’s story to the narrator suggests that she is really still at a loss as to what has happened. She still blames the lederhosen rather than her father. The lederhosen is a merely a trigger for the mother. It is the father’s actions and lack of love for his wife that is the real cause of the divorce. The fact that the daughter remains unmarried may be important as it is possible that she looks at marriage as being a failure. After all her own parents’ marriage collapsed. The daughter may simply not wish to commit to a marriage that she feels will inevitably fail.
The end of the story is interesting as the narrator accepts the daughter’s explanation of why her parents divorced. He doesn’t look at things as closely as the reader does. It is as though he places too much importance on the lederhosen rather than on the actual state of the parents’ marriage. Infidelity can break up a marriage either very quickly or slowly. The result will be the same with a dissolution of the relationship. As is the case with the daughter’s mother. A woman who has freed herself from a loveless marriage and nobody really knows why except for the mother and the reader.