Kafka on the Shore


Haruki Murakami

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Kafka on the Shore: Chapter 19 Summary & Analysis

Oshima helps Kafka settle into his spartan but comfortable room at the library, and shows him the basic tasks he will be expected to perform around the library. In his room, Kafka notices a small painting of a boy sitting by the beach. He feels drawn to it, and wonders if it depicts Miss Saeki’s childhood sweetheart.
Because he places so much significance on chance encounters and has already begun to relate to Miss Saeki, it seems as if Kafka is looking for ways to connect more deeply to her story. He relates to the picture of the boy in the painting because it confirms his hope that there is some special connection between himself and Miss Saeki, drawing them together.
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At around 11:30 AM, two serious-looking women enter the library and begin to wander around, taking notes. They tell Oshima that they are representatives from a women’s organization, touring public places and cultural sites to assess them for ease of use and fairness of access from a woman’s perspective. They take issue with several elements of the library, including the fact that there are shared gender restrooms, and that male authors are arranged before female authors on the bookshelves. Skeptical, Oshima tells them their time could be better used on more pressing issues. One of the women responds that Oshima is a “sexist, patriarchal male.” Oshima announces they are wrong, because he is “not a male.” Oshima explains that his “body is physically female, but my mind’s completely male.” He identifies as a gay transgender man. Stunned, the women leave.
Oshima uses this opportunity to reveal an important facet of his identity to Kafka. Oshima explains that his gender identity does not match the gender that he was assigned at birth. For Oshima, this means he feels that there is a disconnect between some aspects of his identity and the body with which he was born. It is frustrating to him when others oversimplify gender issues or fail to take his identity into account.
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Kafka, too, is surprised. Oshima explains that he may be a little different, but he’s still a regular person. That difference, though can sometimes feel like an abyss—especially when he is faced with discrimination, or the kind of small-mindedness he says the two women displayed. Kafka tells Oshima that he likes him regardless, and Oshima is glad.
Oshima further explains that he sees his body as an imperfect container for his identity or self—but he has nonetheless made peace with the disconnect he feels. Through this personal conversation, Kafka and Oshima become closer.
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