Kafka on the Shore


Haruki Murakami

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Kafka on the Shore: Chapter 37 Summary & Analysis

Oshima and Kafka arrive at the cabin, where Oshima reiterates that he thinks it would be best for Kafka and Miss Saeki to spend some time apart. Kafka reluctantly agrees, but says it’s difficult not knowing whether they will see each other again and whether she shares his intense feelings. Oshima says that being in love means dealing with those doubts alone. At the same time that Kafka gets to feel the wonderful emotions of being in love, he must also “wander through the dark” by himself.
Kafka expresses the extent to which he has grown attached to Miss Saeki. Oshima expresses one of the paradoxes of being in love: the intensity of Kafka’s connection with Miss Saeki ultimately produces a sense of loneliness because he must grapple with his intense emotions alone.
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As Oshima is leaving, he reiterates his warning to Kafka not to wander into the woods. He says that right before World War II, a couple of soldiers disappeared in these woods during a training exercise. No one knows if they got lost, or deserted. Oshima goes on to say that the forest is like another world paralleling their own. It’s easy to step in, but not so easy to step out. He likens the woods to a labyrinth. Ancient Mesopotamians, he says, would inspect the complicated, labyrinth-like shapes of animal and human intestines to try to predict the future. In that way, the concept of the labyrinth is within Kafka as well as the woods outside. Stepping into the woods is like stepping into the labyrinth within him. With that warning, Oshima departs.
In this scene, Oshima connects the concept of the labyrinth with the turbulence of people’s hearts and minds. Oshima says that attempting to understand oneself or understand the future is like getting lost in a maze. Conversely, Oshima suggests that entering into an actual maze like the dense forest might cause Kafka to feel as if he is becoming lost within his own mind. The physical world of the labyrinth-like woods mirrors the turmoil in Kafka’s mind.
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That night, Kafka thinks about Miss Saeki. Crow points out that while Kafka is little more than a child, full of questions and misconceptions about the world, Miss Saeki has experiences and emotions he can’t even imagine. Thinking about this makes Kafka hate being fifteen. He wishes he could transcend his age and body and zoom like a crow to where she is, or that she would appear—for real or as a ghost—in the cabin. But he remains alone, and eventually drifts off to sleep.
In one of many instances in the book in which characters feel less than at home in their own skin, Kafka becomes intensely aware of the limitations of being so young. He feels trapped in a teenaged body.
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