Kafka on the Shore


Haruki Murakami

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Kafka on the Shore: Chapter 23 Summary & Analysis

In the middle of the night, Kafka awakes suddenly in his room in the library to see a young girl of about fifteen sitting at the desk. She seems too perfect to be real, and in fact, when she turns towards Kafka she seems to gaze right past him, as if she is in another world. Soundlessly, the girl exits through the door. For the rest of the night, Kafka remains motionless in bed, wishing she would return.
The presence of the ghost is another surreal element which emphasizes Murakami’s focus on the split between the mind and the body. The ghost embodies the idea of disconnect between the mind and body: a disembodied spirit or self wandering around without physical form.
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The next day, Kafka asks Oshima if he can help him find an original record of “Kafka on the Shore.” Oshima agrees to help, but warns Kafka never to play the song where Miss Saeki might hear. In the storeroom of the library, they find a working record player, but finding an original record might be trickier. Kafka mentions the girl he saw the night before and Oshima jokes that it was probably a sexual fantasy, making Kafka blush.
The song from Miss Saeki’s past is wrapped up in so many powerful emotions that Oshima worries it could be harmful for Miss Saeki if she were to hear it. Music has the power to bring back painful memories from the past, and, for Kafka, to help him understand his connection to this mysterious woman.
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Luckily, Oshima finds a copy of the record later that day. The picture on the cover of the album confirms what Kafka already suspected—the girl who visited his room was a young Miss Saeki. Kafka is filled with questions. How can Miss Saeki have a ghost while she is still alive? What does it mean that he is intensely attracted to the younger version of her? Kafka asks Oshima whether he believes ghosts of the living can exist, and Oshima tells him about some examples of that phenomenon from Japanese literature. Those stories, he believes, demonstrate a split between the body and some unknowable inner darkness lodged in the subconscious. And, Oshima believes, such living spirits can only arise out of negative emotions or even evil.
In this exchange, Murakami reveals a connection between his own musings on the nature of the soul/body split and wider Japanese culture. By explaining this connection, Murakami grounds one of the novel’s main themes in a broader literary context.
The Mind vs. The Body Theme Icon
Back in his room, Kafka listens to the record several times. Though the lyrics are somewhat surreal, they begin to feel deeply familiar. Listening to it again and again, Kafka becomes convinced that the boy in the painting in his room is the subject of “Kafka on the Shore” and that the desk where he sits is the exact spot where Miss Saeki wrote the song. Though the lyrics are abstract and nonsensical, Kafka becomes convinced that each line speaks directly to him and his own experiences.
Although Kafka and Miss Saeki’s ex-boyfriend have little in common, the emotions conveyed by the song foster a strong sense of connection between Kafka and Miss Saeki. This moment shows the various ways that music can be meaningful: in addition to its haunting melody, the song’s surreal lyrics make Kafka feel as if the music is speaking directly to him.  It is as if he is being drawn into the world of the song.
The Virtues of Self-Sufficiency Theme Icon
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