Ogawa's Dormitory

One of three novellas released in 1990 in Japan under the title Diving Pool by Yoko Ogawa is titled Dormitory. (McHugh 2). The tale makes use of a number of literary devices, including imagery and magic realism. A literary technique known as magic realism entails incorporating fantastic or mythical elements into a realistic work of fiction. When magical aspects are combined with realistic elements, magical realism is created. When isolated and lonely times bring both sadness and pleasure, this is what is known as magical realism, which is a combination of realistic and magical events. Thus, the story blends the real and magical events very well that the reader is eager to keep reading.

In Ogawa's Dormitory, a woman doing patchwork in Tokyo is the narrator of the story. She is waiting for her husband staying in Sweden to settle so that she can join him so that they can live together. It is quite strange that she is lonely and has no rush to go to Sweden as she considers it an exotic and far place. Meanwhile, a young cousin of hers who is joining a university in Tokyo phones her requesting her for assistance get accommodation (McHugh). The narrator requests the manager to accommodate her cousin in the dormitory she once lived as a student. She becomes obsessed with an old college dormitory she lived during her school days and despite its dilapidated state and abandonment, she still loves it. This is quite strange and appears unreal but the narrator still recommends it to her cousin. The dormitory is now nearly abandoned, as the students residing in it are fewer compared to the past years "it was, in short, the mere shell of a building" (Ogawa 110). The cousin then moves in allowing the woman to renew her friendship with the dormitory manager where a strange relationship between them develops. The dormitory manager does not have one leg and both arms, but he is still able to do is chores perfectly. The remaining one leg has no bruise or single cut. Magical realism is seen in the way the manager carries out his normal activities without assistance from anybody yet lacking some of his body parts. At another instance, the manager is dying on the bed with the strange visitor in the darkened room as he takes the last piece of cake (Briscoe). The narrator then notices the bees swarming around a spot on the ceiling of the room, which is also very strange. She later discovers a huge beehive on top of the ceiling full of honeycombs. All these events happening to the characters and the story makes it to be a magical realism since no one can explain why and how they happen.

Ogawa seems to have a taste for surreal considering the events that take place in the novel. For instance, the narrator of the story is unnamed and quits her job so that she can join her husband in Sweden. Another mysterious event experienced in the dormitory is the disappearance of a student, which is also quite not understandable "The next day I went to the library to learn more about the boy's disappearance" (Ogawa 146). The boy was also very strange especially the speed at which he did mathematics calculations. This reveals that there was something mysterious happening in the dormitory and its occupants. The fact that she prefers to stay with the old man instead of joining her husband reveals some kind of magical happenings. One wonders whether the old man has used charms to attract the young woman to be with him. Ogawa presents the events in a strange way as her narrator recounts the story with great calmness despite being disturbed and bearing many challenges in life. The contrast that is brought out in the story reveals disarrangements in the real world bringing out the magical realism. The characters' outward normality is contrasted with their way of thinking and acting confirming existence of magical realism.

Ogawa tries to display the most mundane and reprehensible parts of human behavior which makes the story devastating to read. Although the narrator of the Dormitory does not use monsters, the story is stuffed with some kind of horror feelings as the characters have mysterious acts. The protagonist reveals her sense of isolation towards misplaced kindness instead of cruelty since she does patchwork while waiting for her husband's summon to join him in Sweden (Eighteen Hits-Ralph). Other activity she undertakes is watching television since she cannot focus on anything of substance. This contradicts the normal character of a human being in reality and the situation can be described as magical. She cannot understand her behavior and the force that drives her o act the way she does. Her husband sends her invitation letters as he wants her to join him yet she remains with the manager (McHugh). The story seems to have a beautiful unease, which haunts the reader long enough after reading the text. The story is filled with dark twists and turns, which leaves the reader with many questions such as why a young woman is wasting her time with the owner of the dormitory instead of doing meaningful work. She claims, "I went to take care of him, but there wasn't much I could do" (Ogawa156). The narrator suspects that the superintendent amputee has been murdering his students thus the unexplained disappearance. However, the way the does it is mysterious and one can only suspect some magical play.

The characters in the story are normal people in familiar environment but their behavior is quite strange. The story is mysterious, the reader has difficulties in identifying the line between reality, and imagination since Ogawa is not offering a clear explanations. For instance, the tulips growing outside the widow have colors that change every day yet no one explains the reason they do so. The narrator asks, "Why were the tulips such strange color"? (161). The tulips are ordinary crops but the issue of changing colors makes them magical. The story seems to mix science and solemn naturalistic details such as the rain outside, the room's layout, and the smell of the gymnasium. In the end, the dying manager lies in bed with a strange visitor in the dark room. This is also strange and scaring since the identity of the visitor is not clear, and one would wonder whether it is a supernatural being. It raises questions about the manager and his strange life. Is he a normal human being or a ghost? Does he have any close relatives? Why are they not on his bedside at his weakest moment? Is the strange visitor a ghost or the devil? These and many other questions linger in the mind of a reader yet there is no clear answer, which the narration offers. The characters seem to do things yet they cannot understand what they are doing and the reason they are doing them. Other strange and unexplained happenings in the story include the pattern of the fingerprints of the boy that disappeared and the pain that the manager felt whenever he tried to have his chin close to the boy (Qureshi). Throughout the story, the happenings appear quite strange making it difficult to understand the characters as to whether they are real humans.

In conclusion, Yogo Ogawa manipulates the readers' senses as he creates tension throughout the narration. For instance, the deformities the manager suffers do not deter him from performing his daily cores. One would expect him to seek help from others but he does everything by himself. The story uses simple imagery and a straightforward narration although the happenings seem quite scary. Despite the story being based on reality, it can be said to be a ghost story due to the small cruelties the characters are inflicting on each other. The story has a bizarre ending in which the manager lies in his deathbed with a strange dark figure. One wonders whether he was a real man or a spirit since throughout the story his character is weird.

Work Cited

Briscoe, Joanna. Review: The Diving Pool by Yoko Ogawa Books. The Guardian. 2008. https://www.theguardian.com/books/2008/aug/02/fiction5.

Eighteen Hits- Ralph. The Best Books from the First Half of 2008. http://www.ralphmag.org/FE/18-hits.html.

McHugh Kathy. "The Diving Pool: Three Novellas by Ogawa Yoko". North Shore Country Day School Winnetka, Illinois. http://www.iub.edu/~easc/outreach/educators/literature/workshops/documents/KMcHugh_DivingPool.pdf

Ogawa, Yoko. Dormitory. In The Diving Pool. Vintage, 2009.

Qureshi, A. "Amber Qureshi Discusses Yoko Ogawa's "Dormitory. http://www.wordswithoutborders.org/dispatches/article/amber-qureshi-discusses-yoko-ogawas-dormitory

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