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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

Haruki Murakami's 1Q84 is a dystopian science fiction novel. Bearing a title reminiscent of George Orwell's 1984, Murakami's novel leads readers into a version of reality in which time and space have splintered.

Cruelty and Abuse

A recurring theme in 1Q84 is that of cruelty, particularly in the form of abuse. One of the central characters, Aomame, is occasionally employed as a contract killer who tracks down cruelly abusive men; both she and her employer, the Dowager, are motivated by past experiences of domestic abuse. When the Dowager uncovers evidence that young girls raised in the mysterious Sakigake religious cult have been sexually abused by the cult's leader, Fukada, investigating Sakigake and bringing down its leader becomes a prominent thread in the novel's plot.

The Fragmentation of Reality

The idea of splintering or divergence recurs throughout 1Q84. At the beginning of the novel, the universe itself splits apart, creating two different realities with subtle differences. Caught up in this splintering of reality are former childhood sweethearts Aomame and Tengo, whose lives and worlds diverged when the two were young; at the end of the novel, the pair are reunited and escape together to what may or may not be their original reality. A schism also occurs within the Sakigake cult, leading to the formation of an extremist splinter group called Akebono.

Memory and Connection

Throughout the novel, Murakami considers the idea of memory—both its importance and its unreliability. Aomame is the only one who remembers her original world after the universe splinters and creates separate realities, leaving her confused and shocked by the differences between worlds. The personal histories of many of the characters—including the young Tsubasa, Fuka-Eri, and others—requires probing those characters' memories, as well as finding out details of their lives from others' recollections, which can be faulty or biased. Meanwhile, the only tangible connection Tengo and Aomame initially share is their memory from twenty years prior of holding hands. Their worlds remain separate for most of the novel, and even as children, they were anything but close. But their shared memory of that single moment of connection, and the love they have felt for each other ever since, brings them together at the novel's close.

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Chapter Summaries