Kafka on the Shore


Haruki Murakami

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Kafka on the Shore: Chapter 31 Summary & Analysis

In the afternoon, Kafka takes coffee up to Miss Saeki’s office. He studies her carefully for a sign that she remembers the night before, but she doesn’t seem to. As they chat, she says that she believes that location of birth and location of death are very important. Kafka asks if she returned to Takamatsu so she could die there, and she responds that she isn’t sure herself.
Like Oshima, Miss Saeki has spent some time contemplating her own death and the circumstances under which she would like to die. Such musing suggests that she, like Oshima, believes that she can exert control over her own fate. In a way, this is comforting, because it means that she does not have to fear a sudden death. On the other hand, it might suggest that suicide is the only way to escape or control one’s own destiny.
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In a rush, Kafka reveals the rest of his theory. He says he believes his father wanted to die because he was in love with Miss Saeki, and, after she left the family, delivered the prophecy that Kafka would murder him and sleep with Miss Saeki and his sister. Miss Saeki seems surprised. She asks if she knows Kafka’s father, and he repeats that it’s just a theory.
Kafka has crafted a convoluted theory in order to confirm the prophecy that he believes must be governing his life. Kafka is desperately trying to make reality align with what he believes should be happening according to his father’s predictions.
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Then, Miss Saeki asks Kafka if he desires her, and he responds that he does—not just in theory, but in reality. She gently points out their age difference. When Kafka tells her he’s in love with her, she asks him to leave. He goes to leave, but turns back and tells her he feels as if he’s getting closer to a distant truth. Miss Saeki responds that she’s simply waiting for death—having wasted so much of her life wandering pointlessly, she now knows that she is ready for death and can picture when death will come. Kafka asks if Miss Saeki will sleep with him, and, more firmly, she tells him to leave.
Kafka believes that he must be in love with Miss Saeki now that he believes she is his mother (and vice versa). His belief in prophecy causes him to behave inappropriately, drawing him into a potentially damaging relationship with a much older woman whom he believes to be his mother. Meanwhile, Miss Saeki is fixated on her own perception that death is all that remains for her. Trapped in their separate visions of the future, both are tormented.
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That evening, Kafka and Oshima have dinner together. Kafka talks about the difficulty of being in love, and Oshima agrees. He says that anyone who falls in love is looking for a missing piece of themselves, and so being in love is naturally a little sad.
Oshima’s theory of love points to the potential dangers of codependence. Obsession with another person can in turn make one feel incomplete without them.
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That night, Miss Saeki—the real one—comes into Kafka’s room. This time, she doesn’t seem to be sleepwalking. She looks at the painting on Kafka’s desk and tells him that she remembers when it was painted, when she and her boyfriend were twelve years old. Miss Saeki takes Kafka down to the beach, and they sit at the spot where the picture was painted. Kafka says he was there at the time. As if he really is her long-lost boyfriend, Miss Saeki asks him why he had to die. They return to Kafka’s room and have sex. Unlike the night before, Miss Saeki cries afterwards. And this time, Kafka hears her car pull out of the driveway. As a crow caws in the distance, Kafka thinks that everyone in the world is living in a dream.
Both Kafka and Miss Saeki have been unable to get over relationships from the past, and now those continuing obsessions are guiding their actions in the present. Just as Kafka is using Miss Saeki to get over the loss of his mother, she is using him to get over the loss of her boyfriend. Unlike the night before, this time events seem to be happening in reality and not a dream, but the events are so similar that Kafka can hardly tell the difference.
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