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After Dark Themes

Just as it is hard to decide who the protagonist is (or if there is any protagonist at all) of After Dark, it is also difficult to find a major theme. There is the darkness of night and its companion of fear that, on one hand, seem to dominate the setting. But fear in this story is fleeting. The Chinese prostitute is obviously scared out of her mind. She has been beaten, she is in the Japan illegally, and she appears to be trapped in the underground of gangsters. She is bleeding from wounds inflicted by one of her customers, but she gains no sympathy from the man who controls her actions, on whom she depends. If she is not beaten by the customer, she stands an equal chance of being slapped around by this mobster. But she is a minor character in this story, a link provided to close the circle of characters. No one else, though they might have good reason, seems to be afraid.

Darkness, however, also represents the subconscious. The subconscious is the realm of dreams, which usually occur at night in the darkness. The model of dreams is found in the character of Eri, who sleeps her life away. In her sleep, she moves from the real to the unreal as her body passes from her bedroom through the walls of her television into a different realm. She wakes up on the other side, unaware of where she is. All she knows is that she is not where she should be. She is not where she was when she fell asleep. None of the windows or doors will open. So she goes back to sleep, hoping that all her problems will be solved the next time she wakes up. Eri wakes in her dreams and sleeps in her wake-reality, a mix-up for which no one can find a solution.

This passing between dream and reality is played out in another way when Takahashi, who has taken an interest in becoming a lawyer, spends time watching trials of serious crimes. Although Takahashi’s father has spent time in prison, Takahashi is determined to stay on the other side of the law. And yet, when he becomes involved in the stories of the criminals whose trials he observes, he realizes how easily he could be just like them. The criminal element lives in everyone, Takahashi says. Only a thin line separates the good from the bad (the light from the darkness). And here is that theme again, the one of passing from one kind of reality to another, of realizing that the wall that separates one from the other can be maneuvered, just as Eri has discovered that the wall between the conscious and the subconscious is easy to pass through (as long as she keeps on sleeping).

Although the author does not make it an obvious point, there is also a theme of interconnectedness among the characters. Takahashi and Mari, for instance, have met before. Takahashi knows Mari’s sister, Eri. Takahashi also knows the manager of the love hotel, Kaoru, whom he happens to visit after having just found out that Mari speaks Chinese and moments after Kaoru discovers a Chinese woman (who speaks no Japanese) bleeding in...

(The entire section is 816 words.)