Love in 1Q84

An analysis of the 2011 novel “1Q84” by Japanese writer Haruki Murakami. Contains spoilers.

1Q84 is a 2011 novel written by Japanese writer Haruki Murakami. It is a dystopian alternate history, and the title, ”1Q84”, is a reference to George Orwell’s classic, ”Nineteen Eighty-Four”.


1Q84 takes place in 1984 in Tokyo, from the perspectives of two main characters: Tengo, an aspiring writer and math teacher; and Aomame, a personal trainer and assassin. Unknowingly, they both enter a distorted version of reality, called 1Q84, where they are entangled in a mystery concerning a cult and something called the ”Little People”. Things become more and more confusing—a second moon appears in the sky, and things they knew as true aren’t true anymore—and soon their lives are at stake. Throughout all this, they start to get drawn towards each other by powers they cannot understand or control.

1Q84 explores many themes, such as religion, time, and destiny. Another central theme is love, which Murakami examines from different angles.

The novel’s most evident depiction of love is in the relationship between Tengo and Aomame. It is first introduced when we learn that they met as children, and shared a single moment of deep connection that took root in their hearts. Even though they haven’t seen each other for twenty years, they still remember and long for each other. And neither of them has ever felt the same love as they felt for each other.

The way Murakami portrays love in 1Q84 is reminiscent to the way love was viewed in ancient Greek; as a broad concept in need of several words to be fully understood. Ancient Greek philosophy has three main terms for love: philia, eros, and agape. These three expressions of love are all present in the novel.

Philia is a dispassionate love, often found among friends, family, and communities. Philia means getting on well with someone, and wanting what is best for that person. In the novel, philia is the friendly love that develops between Aomame and Ayumi, Aomame and the Dowager, and Tengo and Fuka-Eri.

Eros is the term for sexual and sensual desire. Both Tengo and Aomame are involved with sexual relationships—Tengo with a ten years older married woman, and Aomame with various men. These interactions are purely to let off steam and satisfy their need for intimacy, without involving strong emotions of human connection.
Both Tengo and Aomame have distinct sexual preferences, such as Aomame’s obsession to a certain head-shape, and Tengo’s attraction to older women.
Tengo’s arousal at the memory of his mother is based on a psychological concept called “the Oedipus complex”, which is the desire to have sexual relations with ones parent of the opposite sex. Details like these are often neglected in fiction, and they are evidence of Murakami’s deep insight into the human psyche.

The Greek term agape stands for an ideal type of love, unselfish and complete, different from the the physical attraction suggested by eros and the friendly fondness of philia. Agape can also be translated as “love of the soul.” This love is the love between Tengo and Aomame, a love that is inexplicable yet unyielding, so powerful that simply one moment was enough to affect them both forever.

There is an evident allusion to the idea of soulmates in 1Q84. Soulmates is the belief that there is one person with which ones soul is meant to unite, at which one would feel complete. Being soulmates would be the strongest bond one can have to another person.

In 1Q84, it is implied that Tengo and Aomame are soulmates. Tengo has a clear and detailed memory of his and Aomame’s first and only interaction, as if it has been imprinted in his soul.

”She had gripped his left hand with considerable strength, and a vivid sense of her touch remained in that hand forseveral days. Even after more time went by and the direct sensation began to fade, his heart retained the deep impression she had made there … It seemed to Tengo as if, by squeezing his hand, the girl had drawn something out of him.”

Likewise, Aomame has strong feelings for Tengo, even though she hasn’t met him for twenty years and they never had a proper relationship. She repeatedly claims she has always loved Tengo, and that love is the most important thing for her.
She once says to Ayumi: ”If you can love someone with your whole heart, even one person, then there’s salvation in life. Even if you can’t get together with that person.”
That comment conveys how important love is to Aomame, specifically her love to Tengo.

“One word frees us
Of all the weight and pain in life,
That word is Love.” – Socrates

The conceptsof maza and dohta that appear in the novel are also connected to the idea of soulmates. In 1Q84, a person’s soul can be split in two parts, occupying two bodies, becoming maza and dohta. The dohta is the shadow of the heart and mind of the maza. Fuka-Eri uses a dohta to escape Sakigake, cloning her own body through an air chrysalis. Consequently, she loses a part of herself, a part of her soul, thus it renders her incomplete.

The Little People explain the maza and dohta in this way: ”Without the maza’s care, the dohta cannot be complete. She cannot live long without it … If she loses her dohta, the maza will lose the shadow of her heart and mind.”
The maza and the dohta need each other, like two soulmates need each other. For alone they are shadows, but with each other they are complete.

Tengo’s dohta is Aomame, as he remembers her from when she was ten years old—because that was the moment they fell in love. As Tengo speaks Aomame’s name to the dohta, the real Aomame hears him, as if their connection transcends time and space. Tengo and Aomame are maza and dohta. They are soulmates.

“Love is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies.” – Aristotle

The portration of love in 1Q84 is inspired by the ideas of ancient Greek philosophy, but Murakami adds a postmodern angle to it. Another major theme in the novel is reality, specifically reality vs fiction and the questioning of truth—which is a common subject in postmodernism. After all, 1Q84 is ”a world that bears a question”.
Murakami asserts truth as relative, as expressed by Aomame: ”No matter which world we are talking about, no matter what kind of world we are talking about, the line separating fact from hypothesis is practically invisible to the eye.”
However, in 1Q84, love is portrayed as a universal truth, giving substance to reality and meaning to existence. Love is a constant among countless variables.

”If you don’t believe in the world, and if there is no love in it, then everything is phony.”

Even though truth and reality might be impossible to understand, we can still understand love, and that is all that matters. As Aomame puts it:

”At my core, there is love.”
”Do you think that love is all a person needs?” he asked.
“I do.”

In 1Q84, Murakami has crafted a masterpiece of imagination and beauty, with deep philosophical and psychological insights. Love is only one of the many subjects portrayed in an interesting and thought-provoking way. Be sure not to miss out on this fine novel by one of the foremost contemporary storytellers.