Kafka on the Shore


Haruki Murakami

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Kafka on the Shore: Chapter 16 Summary & Analysis

In Johnnie Walker’s house, the big dog leads Nakata to a clean, cold kitchen. Nakata opens a large fridge to find that it’s full of frozen, severed cat’s heads staring forward expressionlessly. Luckily, Goma is not among them. Back in the study, Johnnie Walker reveals that he kills cats in order to collect their souls, which he is using to make a special flute. That flute will allow him to collect even larger souls, which will allow him to build a larger flute, and so on. Nakata is confused.
This surreal scene emphasizes the absurdity of violence. It also helps the reader to understand Nakata’s unique perspective. Nakata is often dismissed as a crazy old man because his ways of speaking and perceiving the world are unusual. The strangeness of the situation demonstrates how difficult it can be for Nakata to navigate a world he himself does not fully understand.
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Johnnie Walker reveals that Goma is among the next batch of cats he has captured and plans to kill. He will return her to Nakata if he performs a task in exchange: Nakata must kill Johnnie Walker. Johnnie Walker is tired of living, and taking his own life “isn’t an option.” Nakata protests that he could never do such a thing. Whistling cheerfully, Johnnie Walker pulls a live but paralyzed gray cat out of a bag and cuts it open with a scalpel. He removes the cat’s still-beating heart and pops it in his mouth, then uses a saw to cut off the cat’s head. Nakata is frozen, but feels as if something is stirring in his mind.
Johnnie Walker’s desire to control his own death is part of a broader trend of characters who believe they can do so. These characters do not fear death because they believe they can choose the moment of their own death, thereby robbing death of some of its power. They believe they can control fate. Like Kafka, Nakata begins to experience his own impulse towards violence and anger as something foreign to himself—suggesting his mind and actions are not entirely within his control.
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Johnnie Walker dispatches a second cat in the same manner, still whistling cheerfully. Nakata feels a horrible confusion rising up within him, transforming his being and blurring his vision. Johnnie Walker pulls a third cat from the bag—Kawamura. Before Nakata can act, Johnnie Walker cuts the cat open. Nakata begs Johnnie Walker to stop, but he continues, pulling Mimi out of the bag.
Nakata’s sensation of his own anger as a foreign influence intensifies, highlighting the duality of mind and body that runs as a theme throughout the novel.
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Nakata warns Johnnie Walker to stop, saying he no longer feels like himself. Feeling as if he has lost control of his body, Nakata picks up a steak knife from the desk in the study and plunges it into Johnnie Walker’s stomach, and then his chest. Johnnie laughs and coughs up blood before collapsing on the floor, dead. Nakata scoops up Mimi and Goma, who was in the bag, and tries to leave but can’t stand up. He collapses on the sofa and loses consciousness.
Finally, in a climactic moment, Nakata is overwhelmed by desires and impulses which feel external to him. He feels as if forces outside of his control have driven him to violence. Desires he did not know he possessed have broken to the surface and caused him to physically commit violence, calling attention to the ways in which people are often unknown to themselves.
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