The Second Bakery Attack by Haruki Murakami
In The Second Bakery Attack by Haruki Murakami we have the theme of time, responsibility, control, gender roles (reversed), liberation, freedom and conflict. Taken from his The Elephant Vanishes and Other Stories collection the story is narrated in the first person by an unnamed man and after reading the story the reader realises that Murakami may be exploring the theme of time. The narrator recalls to his wife the first time he robbed a bakery. Though not strictly a robbery the image of the night the robbery occurred has remained with the narrator. It is his wife who tells him that a curse has been put on him by the baker and that they have to rob a second bakery for the curse to be lifted. The hunger that the narrator and his wife feel cannot be satisfied until they rob a second bakery. Which ends up with the couple robbing a McDonald’s restaurant. The bread of the Big Mac buns being symbolic of the bread that the narrator and his friend stole in the bakery.
In many ways the bread represents a communion of sorts and a cleansing of the body. When the couple eat some of the Big Mac’s their appetite is satisfied and they no longer remain hungry. This may be significant as it suggests that through the wife’s advice (a female voice) the narrator has extinguished the curse that had befallen him. The fact that it is the wife who is the mastermind of the attack on McDonald’s is important as Murakami may be reversing gender roles. Where once it would be expected for the male to take the lead. This is not the case in the story. It is the wife who finds a resolution to the conflict that occurs. She knows what has to be done and acts accordingly. What is also interesting about the story is the paralysis or lack of action from the sleeping couple in the McDonald’s. They do not wake which is contrary or the opposite of what happens in the story with the narrator and his wife having their own awakening after robbing the McDonald’s.
There may be other symbolism in the story which might be important. Murakami uses dark humour to get his point across. What is happening is serious. However Murakami adds the ridiculous into the story. One example of the ridiculous is the narrator’s wife paying for the two Cokes. She is after all robbing the McDonald’s yet she purchases two Cokes. The volcano can be seen to represent time, past versus present. The narrator at first feels uneasy about looking at the volcano, mirroring how he might feel about his past relationship with the baker. Yet by story’s end the narrator no longer sees the volcano but clear water. The curse has been lifted. Things are calmer for the narrator. The description of the shot gun being dark is also important as it symbolically suggests something dark is going to happen. The robbery of the McDonald’s being the leading example of this. In many ways the gun acts as foreshadowing as too does the black tape used to cover the car registration of the narrator’s car.
The end of the story is interesting as Murakami appears to be exploring the theme of liberation and freedom. Rather than being caught for the robbery the narrator and his wife satisfy their hunger by eating some of the Big Mac’s. They have been liberated or freed from the curse thanks to the narrator’s wife’s awareness and confidence. If it was not for her the couple would still be hungry and sitting in their apartment. Throughout the story the roles of male and female have been reversed. Whereas the narrator may be uncertain of things this is not the case for his wife. She has remained confident and all-knowing. Roles that are not usually ascribed to a female in life or in fiction. If anything the narrator’s wife has allowed for the narrator to rectify the mistakes of the past. She has taken control and responsibility for the narrator’s actions. Something that the narrator may not have been able to do.