The Elephant Vanishes

by

Haruki Murakami

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The Townspeople Character Analysis

The inhabitants of the suburban community where the displaced elephant comes to live. The townspeople are generally opposed to the mayor’s decision for the town to take over the care of the defunct zoo’s elephant. They are indifferent toward the animal and its keeper once they come to live in the town’s makeshift elephant house, prioritizing finances, progress, and urbanization over any concerns about the elephant’s wellbeing. In the aftermath of the elephant and keeper’s disappearance, the narrator feels alienated from the townspeople as he believes the pair vanished, while the townspeople believe the media’s narrative that the elephant escaped or was stolen.

The Townspeople Quotes in The Elephant Vanishes

The The Elephant Vanishes quotes below are all either spoken by The Townspeople or refer to The Townspeople. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Alienation, Connection, and Unity Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Vintage edition of The Elephant Vanishes published in 1994.
The Elephant Vanishes Quotes

The longer the elephant problem remained unsolved, the more interest the developer had to pay for nothing. Still, simply killing the thing would have been out of the question. If it had been a spider monkey or a bat, they might have been able to get away with it, but the killing of an elephant would have been too hard to cover up, and if it ever came out afterward, the repercussions would have been tremendous.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), The Elephant, The Mayor, The Townspeople
Page Number: 310
Explanation and Analysis:

On its right rear leg, the elephant wore a solid, heavy-looking steel cuff from which there stretched a thick chain perhaps thirty feet long, and this in turn was securely fastened to a concrete slab. Anyone could see what a sturdy anchor held the beast in place: The elephant could have struggled with all its might for a hundred years and never broken the thing.

Related Symbols: The Shackle
Page Number: 312
Explanation and Analysis:

Riddled as it was with such perplexities and labored circumlocutions, the newspaper article as a whole left but one possible conclusion: The elephant had not escaped. It had vanished. Needless to say, however, neither the newspaper nor the police nor the mayor was willing to admit—openly, at least—that the elephant had vanished.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), The Elephant, The Mayor, The Townspeople
Page Number: 315
Explanation and Analysis:

It seemed that people were beginning to shove the elephant case into the large category of “unsolvable mysteries.” The disappearance of one old elephant and one old elephant keeper would have no impact on the course of society. […] Amid the endless surge and ebb of everyday life, interest in a missing elephant could not last forever. And so a number of unremarkable months went by, like a tired army marching past a window.

Page Number: 318
Explanation and Analysis:

What struck me immediately when I saw the elephant and keeper alone together was the obvious liking they had for each other—something they never displayed when they were out before the public. Their affection was evident in every gesture. It almost seemed as if they stored away their emotions during the day, taking care not to let anyone notice them, and took them out at night when they could be alone.

Page Number: 323
Explanation and Analysis:
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The Townspeople Character Timeline in The Elephant Vanishes

The timeline below shows where the character The Townspeople appears in The Elephant Vanishes. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
The Elephant Vanishes
Alienation, Connection, and Unity Theme Icon
Order, Perception, and Imbalance Theme Icon
Modernity Theme Icon
Humans vs. Animals Theme Icon
...debates on the subject. Flashing back to the past, an opposition movement rises up among the townspeople in response to the mayor’s decision to take in the elephant, arguing that housing the... (full context)
Alienation, Connection, and Unity Theme Icon
Modernity Theme Icon
While the mayor assures the townspeople that the “malicious act” of stealing the elephant will be punished, members of the town’s... (full context)