Haruki Murakami’s “Birthday Girl” is a piece that can take the reader into the past and help us analyze if any of our wishes ever came true. Hopefully we all reach those birthday milestones and we get whatever it is we wished for. The main character in this story has reached an important milestone birthday in Japan. At 20 you are a full fledged adult, a member of Japanese society so this birthday is special. The main character however has had a horrible day. Most would think that this is a cut and dry story however it is not. Although short the complexity of the story brings you to a climax and then leaves you more confused even after you do a literary analysis of it. This story appeals to the masses because it simply asks you to ask yourself if you could be granted one wish what would that wish be? Repression functions as a wiping out of the consciousness of specific, unhappy, psychological events. Everyone has had horrible breakdowns and bad birthdays in our life. Thinking of it in a deeper way though, from kids we are taught that our birthday is special. When your mom wakes you up with your birthday breakfast, lunch and dinner that day is made special. As a kid you count down the hours, minutes, and seconds to that day.
Psychologically as a kid you don’t know as you get older they will become less and less significant. My Birthday is July 25 and my mother God rests her soul always made sure I had what I wanted and needed for my special day this is what made “Birthday Girl” relatable. The main character whose birthday is forgotten by everyone and no one remembers to tell her Happy Birthday except an old man. Defenses and defense mechanisms work to try to keep those traumatic experiences we’ve repressed locked deep in our unconscious. They are “the processes by which we keep the repressed, repressed in order to avoid knowing what we feel we can’t handle knowing” (Tyson 18). This is relevant because she works through her birthday not caring if anybody said “Happy Birthday”. If this were a real person and not a book it would tend to make you believe that this person has repressed feelings from childhood birthdays that went south unfortunately. Maybe she had never had a good birthday and therefore was not expecting anything.
Another analytical term is selective perception it operates when we allow ourselves to see, feel, and hear only what we want to based on what our mind will let us handle. Although the main character who is retelling her story to a friend remembers everything down to the type of furniture she second guesses herself. “Sometimes I get the feeling that everything that happened to me on my twentieth birthday was some kind of illusion.” (Murakami 2004) It’s as if she needed to feel that it didn’t happen even though she knows it did. She was in the room for a few minutes and doesn’t even remember what the owner looks like. “I dunno, I didn’t get a very good look at him.” (Murakami 2004) It’s almost as if she wanted to fully repress him so she couldn’t remember him then he wouldn’t be real. Selective perception can even be used to see if the main character got her wish granted. This is definitely left up to the reader’s perception as well as the character. We don’t know what the wish is so therefore we can’t truly know if it happened.
We know that it wasn’t the typical wish that every “normal” girl would wish for. “A bit unusual for a girl your age. I was expecting something different.”(Murakami 2004) Even the main character doesn’t know if the wish has or even will come true. When asked she simply states “I haven’t seen how things are going to work out in the end.”(Murakami 2004) The theme in any story is the subject or topic that the entire story revolves around. Most people would think that the theme was birthdays and the difference between how we celebrate them. The theme that comes closest is coming of age mentally. Just because you turn an age and are considered “grown” does not mean that you are mentally. If you were Jewish the age you become a man is 13 in the United States that age can be 18 or some say 21. Age is definitely only a number and you may always function with the childish ideals of your youth. This girl who had to work at her job and had even fought with her boyfriend now had to even take over extra responsibilities because the manager left. Everyone wants the candle on the cake, social media sites filled, and everyone you come into contact with to just say Happy Birthday. She didn’t get that until she met the owner when she bought his dinner.
“Today is my birthday sir” (Murakami 2004). Through critical analysis we the reader should be able to know what exactly this young woman asked for on her birthday. Maybe it was the swift return of the manager or to just get out of the room faster instead of sitting with the owner. What if it could have been something deeper and something that would travel with her into the future? Wisdom is one wish that we could see her asking for. Love for someone to remember her birthday from now on. It could have also been for her to have her birthday end better than it started. ”No matter what they wish, no matter how far they go, people can never be anything but themselves” (Murakami 2004). When we blow out our candles what do any of us wish for? A new car, love, happiness, respect, riches and the choices are endless. I believe we were supposed to put our own wish in the story and make it come true. Or maybe just maybe every wish that we will have ever made or will make has already been put out into the universe and we are just waiting to see them all come to fruition. “That’s because you’ve already made your wish.” (Murakami 2004)