The notion that humans are social animals originated from Aristotle. He believed that it is natural for people to live with others to form relationships. In this regard, not much has changed since his time to now. Relationships are especially crucial for college students, typically in their twenties, because they start new relationships that are completely different from what they had before. Successful relationships can lead to various rewarding benefits, while failed ones, especially those that involve close friends, can have devastating effects. This latter aspect is something that Tsukuru knows all too well. He is the main character of the book, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Year of Pilgrimage. In the story, Tsukuru has relationship problems. In fact, a failed relationship devastates him to the extent that it affects what seems like a good part of his life. This novel describes how dangerous failed relationships can be, and depicts Tsukuru’s struggle to recover from the wounds he received from the past relationship.
Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki
Healthy relationships are likely to be formed through interactions with different kinds of people, with whom strengths and weaknesses can be shared. These relationships make people feel their sense of self-worth and thus they help build confidence. The trouble that Tsukuru experienced was that he felt he was colorless, that he lacked individuality. These thoughts were derived from an absence of individuality which in turn led to feelings of lacking a sense of belonging and confidence. In the end, these thoughts and feelings made him mistakenly conclude that he had been abandoned by his friends, which caused him to think only about death for five months.
This situation is actually common for college students. Kim Han-byul, a Sophomore, majoring in Mathematics at Hanyang University said, “My freshman year was when I first met my friends who were studying the same major as me. I was in a group of four friends, like Tsukuru. Each of us had our own distinctive personality, with one in our group being a little enigmatic, so to speak. But the fact was, he did not really fit in with the rest of us and it was pretty obvious. So he started to get left out and he was soon complete excluded, as if he had never been part of the group to begin with. When I read the novel about Tsukuru, I was reminded of that person. I felt guilty reading about Tsukuru’s feelings because it made me realize that the old friend I mentioned probably felt the same way.”
Facing a Hurtful Past
Some say that waiting for time to pass is the best way to overcome heartache, citing the expression “Time heals all wounds” especially when it comes to being hurt by relationships. These wounds affect who people are or become, even though the scars may seem to heal. This is the case with Tsukuru
After being abandoned by his friends, as time went by, the thought of being colorless filled his mind. Eventually it took away the courage to be in a relationship with others, and he refused to open his heart to anyone. All he could do was to just wait and let time pass., which did not solve anything for him. This is a mistake that many hut people make. Lee Jun-kee, a Sophomore in the Department of English Language and Literature at Hanyang University, said, “I can sympathize with him because I had a similar kind of experience: A friend of mine who I thought was my best friend just shut me out of his life one day. This painful memory still makes me hesitate to open up to others. I thought the wound would fade away but I still feel it affecting me.”
Haruki, the author of this book, suggests another way to recover from heartbreaking memories in the form of a “Pilgrimage.” Tsukuru’s journey towards recovery involves meeting his old friends. He then comes to realize that it was the hurt he felt in the past that prevented him from interacting with others. Hwang Yu-jin, a Junior in the Department of History Education at Hongik University said, “I admire Tsukuru’s courage to meet his friends, when those people were the ones who caused his troubles. Not many people would have the courage to willingly face a hurtful past. I think most people like me would instead avoid such situations, and opt to just wait for time to pass along. But Tsukuru chose the difficult path and was rewarded by being able to recover as a result.”
Sara, a New Possibility for a Relationship
It was Sara, Tsukuru’s girlfriend, who suddenly appeared in his life and turned out to be the game changer for him. She is the one who suggests that he meet with his old friends to resolve the problems he had with them. She says he should do this before starting a serious relationship with her. Before Tsukuru met Sara, he thought it would be better to leave his past behind rather than dwell upon it, but he ultimately takes Sara’s suggestion. Kim Ye-ji, a Junior, in the Division of Economics at Hanyang University, said, “People seem to meet someone who can favorably change their life. Sarah was one such person for Tsukuru. By meeting her, he was able to get on the right path after being lost. I strayed from the path once when I was in high school, but fortunately I had a friend who helped straighten me out. Sarah reminds me of that friend.”
In the end, Tsukuru is able to escape from his personal and emotional prison after meeting with his former friends. He recognizes the value he had in the previous relationship, and that gives him the courage to begin a relationship with Sarah:
The Solution Is Relationships
A person can be inflicted with countless wounds in relationships as a result of misunderstandings, hurtful words, and/or problems with themselves. These turn into scars that make people afraid of establishing genuine connections with others, and thus they intentionally seek out superficial relationships to avoid future pain. However, Haruki shows us that what these types of people need most are meaningful human relationships. By having relationships with others, people learn about their values, which can be a life-changing event. Robert Brault, an American operatic tenor once said, “When something is missing in your life, it usually turns out to be someone.” In other words, relationships can fill the void that a person fills in life. For those who may be hesitating to develop worthwhile relationships with others, Haruki’s novel may be helpful in providing the motivation to take the first step on the path to healing.