Kafka on the Shore

by

Haruki Murakami

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Kafka on the Shore: Chapter 17 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
By his third night in the cabin, Kafka feels a sense of peace and awe at nature. In the absence of his Walkman, he has learned to truly hear the beautiful sounds of the forest. As long as he is careful not to venture too far into the silence and darkness of the labyrinth-like woods, he is perfectly at peace. On the fourth day, Oshima returns while Kafka is napping, naked, on the porch of the cabin. Kafka tells Oshima he had a wonderful time, omitting his feelings of helplessness and wandering in the woods.
Kafka’s time in the cabin has forced him to confront solitude, and now, after several days, he feels at peace with the isolation of the forest (especially if he keeps himself from venturing into the dense, terrifying woods). However, when Oshima returns, Kafka realizes that there are some parts of his experience which are impossible to share even with Oshima.
Themes
The Virtues of Self-Sufficiency Theme Icon
On the drive back to the city, Oshima observes that Kafka seems to be both seeking something and running away for all he’s worth, although Oshima doesn’t know from what. He predicts that whatever Kafka seeks will not come in the form he expects. When Kafka responds that that sounds like an ominous prophecy, Oshima tells him the story of Cassandra, an oracle in Greek tragedy who was gifted with foresight but cursed to never be believed. Oshima believes that reality is “the accumulation of ominous prophecies come to life.” Then, he tells Kafka that he and Miss Saeki have agreed that he can stay at the library.
In one of the most important conversations in the book, Oshima connects Kafka’s experiences to the ancient Greek myth of Oedipus and his self-fulfilling prophecy. Oshima reveals that, like Kafka, he believes in the power of prophecy and omen to shape day-to-day life, even though these concepts are grounded in mythology.
Themes
Fate and Prophecy Theme Icon
For the rest of the drive, Oshima tells Kafka the story of Miss Saeki’s troubled past. As a child, she fell in love with the oldest son of the Komura family. They were inseparable, “like one body and spirit,” or like two halves of one whole in the ancient myth Oshima told Kafka earlier. When the young man went to university in distant Tokyo, it felt as if they had been split apart with a knife. They wrote each other every day and stayed faithful to each other.
Miss Saeki and her boyfriend embody the very antithesis of self-sufficiency. They feel as if they are incomplete without each other and are fated to be together—both of which make it extremely difficult for them to be apart.
Themes
Fate and Prophecy Theme Icon
The Virtues of Self-Sufficiency Theme Icon
While her boyfriend was at university, Miss Saeki wrote a hauntingly beautiful song about her love for him. She was invited to Tokyo to record the song, which soon became a hit. The strange thing, says Oshima, is that the song is called “Kafka on the Shore.” Just as the song was becoming popular, Miss Saeki’s boyfriend was killed accidentally during a student protest. Miss Saeki never sang again and soon disappeared.
As a teenager, Miss Saeki was able to put her turbulent emotions into an extremely powerful song for her boyfriend, demonstrating the ability of music to capture and convey intense feeling. That song became even more meaningful after her boyfriend tragically died. The fact that the song and Kafka share the same unusual name heightens his sense of connection with Miss Saeki, as well as the strange feeling that they are being brought together by a mysterious force like fate or destiny.
Themes
Fate and Prophecy Theme Icon
Music and Introspection Theme Icon
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Twenty years later, Miss Saeki returned to Takamatsu and took over the Komura Memorial Library, where her boyfriend had lived when they were both teenagers. She keeps others at a distance, speaking only to Oshima with any regularity. She seems to be frozen in time, unable to move past her grief. Now, says Oshima, Kafka will take over the room where Miss Saeki’s boyfriend used to live.
Because of their close connection, when Miss Saeki’s boyfriend passed away, she was left feeling adrift and helpless. She feels as if she is incomplete without him. It seems like an eerie coincidence—or perhaps something more—that Kafka, who is the same age Miss Saeki’s boyfriend was when they met, will now move in to the room where he once lived.
Themes
Fate and Prophecy Theme Icon
The Virtues of Self-Sufficiency Theme Icon
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