Kafka on the Shore

by

Haruki Murakami

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on Kafka on the Shore can help.

Kafka on the Shore: Chapter 12 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
In a letter dated October 19, 1972, Setsuko Okamochi makes a confession to a psychology professor who participated in the military investigation into the Rice Bowl Hill Incident. Setsuko reveals that she kept certain things hidden during the investigation but now, many years later, they weigh heavily on her mind. Setsuko writes that the night before the incident, she had an incredibly vivid dream about having sex with her husband, who was away at war at the time. Even after waking and heading out on the field trip, Setsuko felt as if she were “still in the middle of that realistic, erotic dream.”
Setsuko’s letter reveals yet another perspective on the Rice Bowl Hill incident. This letter to a psychologist reveals that, like Kafka, Setsuko believes that her dreams can have an impact on those around her.
Themes
The Mind vs. The Body Theme Icon
Just as Setsuko reached the top of the hill with the children, she realized that her period had started—perhaps, Setsuko writes, because the dream had physically stirred something in her body. Setsuko cleaned herself up in the woods with some towels and returned to supervise the children, feeling guilty for allowing her mind to linger on the erotic dream in front of her students.
In a further demonstration of the power Setsuko believes her dream had, she writes that she believes it altered her physically body, causing her period to start. Setsuko seems to worry that even her most private thoughts can somehow be intuited by others, which is perhaps why she feels guilty for continuing to think about the dream in front of her students.
Themes
The Mind vs. The Body Theme Icon
One of the children, Nakata, approached Setsuko with something in his hands: one of the bloody towels Setsuko had used to clean herself up. Horrified, Setsuko began to slap and yell at Nakata while the other children watched as if frozen in place. When she realized what she was doing, Setsuko began to weep and apologize. But then, the children collapsed. Later, none of them seemed to remember anything about the incident.
The fact that Nakata managed to find one of the bloody towels seems to confirm Setsuko’s fear that the thoughts she is trying to keep secret from the children are somehow being detected by them. Both the strange comas and the children’s inability to remember the incident later suggest—to Setsuko, at least—that Setsuko’s thoughts and actions have had a profound psychological impact on the children. This thought wracks her with guilt.
Themes
The Mind vs. The Body Theme Icon
Setsuko writes that she never found out what happened to Nakata after the incident. Previously, Nakata had been a bright, if quiet, child. Setsuko had hoped to draw him out of his shell. But after the incident, Nakata was hospitalized and that was no longer possible. Setsuko feels to blame. She closes her letter with a note that when her husband died shortly afterwards, she felt no shock at all. Ever since that day in the woods, it felt to Setsuko as if her husband’s death was fated to be.
The guilt that continues to haunt Setsuko suggests that she, like Kafka, feels that her thoughts have real consequences. Meanwhile, Setsuko’s sense of fate and destiny softens the blow of death, as it does for many other characters in the novel. Setsuko sees her husband’s death as an inevitability brought about by her own dangerous thoughts.
Themes
The Mind vs. The Body Theme Icon
Fate and Prophecy Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Get the entire Kafka on the Shore LitChart as a printable PDF.
Kafka on the Shore PDF