Kafka on the Shore

by

Haruki Murakami

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Kafka on the Shore: Chapter 21 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Oshima gives Kafka a newspaper article titled, “SCULPTOR KOICHI TAMURA STABBED TO DEATH.” The article reports that Koichi, a famous sculptor known for his work “Labyrinth” was found naked in a pool of blood in his home. Police are treating the case as a vendetta killing, and are on the search for Koichi’s fifteen-year-old son, who has been missing for some days. Sickened, Kafka stops reading about his father. Kafka says he didn’t commit the murder, and Oshima believes him, because Kafka was in the library the day of the crime and wouldn’t have had time to make the journey to Tokyo and back. Privately, Kafka realizes that the murder happened on the same night he woke up covered in blood, and begins to worry he may somehow be responsible.
Even though all evidence points to the contrary, Kafka worries that he is in some way responsible for his father’s death, because he believes that his desires—even if they are subconscious, and even if he does not act on them—have real-world consequences. That both Johnnie Walker and Kafka’s father were stabbed to death at about the same time suggests that their deaths may somehow be related, and that Kafka’s blackout may have something to do with either—or both.
Themes
The Mind vs. The Body Theme Icon
Kafka says he doesn’t want to go to the police, because he doesn’t want to be forced to return to Tokyo and school. Oshima is supportive but points out that Kafka will have to be on the run from now on. Kafka says that he feels as if he is following a predetermined path decided by someone else, and losing his own identity in the process, which is terrifying. Oshima responds that Kafka is living the motif of many Greek tragedies, in which the protagonist is drawn into a horrible fate despite their most valiant efforts. He gives the example of Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex, in which Oedipus inadvertently fulfills the prophecy of murdering his father and marrying his mother. But, says Oshima, this kind of story is a metaphor meant to teach us about irony and hope, rather than serving as a literal warning about murder and incest.
Despite the concerns expressed by his new friend, Kafka says that he is ready to face a lonely life on the run, fending for himself and simply trying to survive. He is resigned to this fate in part because of his strong belief in fate and predetermination. Kafka’s belief in fate causes him to behave as if his path has already been decided. Oshima’s story points to the fact that attempts to avoid fate often seem to backfire, pushing people in the very directions they hoped to avoid. However, he also suggests that Kafka shouldn’t take such warnings too literally.
Themes
Fate and Prophecy Theme Icon
The Virtues of Self-Sufficiency Theme Icon
Kafka and Oshima decide Kafka will lay low in the library for a few days. Then, Kafka reveals something he’s never told anyone before. He says that a few years ago, his father delivered a kind of prophecy or curse about Kafka, and then repeated it over and over. The prophecy was that Kafka would murder his father and sleep with his mother—the same prophecy made about Oedipus, Oshima points out. Kafka’s father also added that Kafka would sleep with his older sister as well as his mother. To Kafka, the prophecy feels like “a timing device buried inside my genes,” that can never be changed. It is inescapable. Kafka isn’t sure if his father behaved in this way to get revenge on the woman who left him, or because his artistic work left emotional scars, or because he was simply cruel, but Kafka knew he had to escape.
Many of Kafka’s preoccupations become clearer in this scene. Kafka is obsessed with the idea of fate because his father made him the subject of a literal prophecy, one that derives its form from a famous Greek myth. This explains why he is worried that no matter what decisions he makes, things will end up the same, and also why he is constantly worried that he is related to the women he meets in the world. He feels trapped in his body because he sees his very genes as part of the omen, carrying the evil he inherited from his father and the promise of future incest with his mother and sister. Kafka is unable to let go of the idea of the prophecy, to the point that it dictates how he sees himself and the world.
Themes
The Mind vs. The Body Theme Icon
Fate and Prophecy Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Oshima points out that the prophecy can’t be true, because someone else killed Koichi. But Kafka is hesitant. He theorizes to Oshima that he may have killed his father in a dream and is therefore responsible. Oshima agrees, but comforts Kafka by pointing out that this isn’t likely to hold up in court. Even though Kafka feels like his curse is inescapable, he should be safe in Takamatsu. But that night, Kafka sees a ghost for the first time.
Kafka gives voice to his belief that he has the power to enact real violence in his dreams, and reiterates his conviction that he is responsible for what he imagines. Oshima points out that these concerns are not grounded in reality, and that it is not actually possible for Kafka’s ideas to act independently of his body.
Themes
The Mind vs. The Body Theme Icon
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