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Psychoanalytical Pathway to Kafka on The Shore

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The world around us is woven not only of economic ups and downs, revolutions and wars but also made up of the beings we are. It is made of the thought process we carry, our dilemmas, inner struggles and psyche. From reality to fiction psychoanalysis has found its place and till date has engulfed every mind in its territory. Sigmund Freud, the father of Psychoanalysis developed this theory in the late 19th century.

Murakami’s Kafka and Freud’s Psychoanalysis are deeply imbibed in each other. To say Kafka can be analysed without Freud’s intervention is a false hypothesis. Kafka’s struggle and Freud’s concept of Oedipus Complex and Nakata’s search for half shadow forms the plot of the novel. The novel begins with the altar ego of Kafka known as Crow talking to him. It states that it is important to get your storms fixed so you can be at peace. It asserts : “Sometimes fate is like a small sandstorm that keeps changing directions. You change direction but the sandstorm chases you. You turn again, but the storm adjusts. Over and over you play this out, like some ominous dance with death just before dawn. Why? Because this storm isn’t something that blew in from far away, something that has nothing to do with you. This storm is you. Something inside of you. So all you can do is give in to it, step right inside the storm, closing your eyes and plugging up your ears so the sand doesn’t get in, and walk through it, step by step. There’s no sun there, no moon, no direction, no sense of time. Just fine white sand swirling up into the sky like pulverized bones. That’s the kind of sandstorm you need to imagine.

And you really will have to make it through that violent, metaphysical, symbolic storm. No matter how metaphysical or symbolic it might be, make no mistake about it: it will cut through flesh like a thousand razor blades. People will bleed there, and you will bleed too. Hot, red blood. You’ll catch that blood in your hands, your own blood and the blood of others.

And once the storm is over you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.” (Murakami, 4)

It is this storm within Kafka which he wants to settle down. His storm is linked with the prophecy made by his father that ‘he will kill him and sleep with his sister and mother’. Kafka runs away from home so he can escape from his father and this prophecy. “My father told me there was nothing I could to escape this fate. That prophecy is like a timing device buried inside my genes, and nothing can ever change it. I will kill my father and be with my mother and sister.” (murakami, 11)

The novel is picaresque in nature as Kafka travels from Tokyo to Komura Memorial Library in Takamatsu, where he becomes acquainted with Oshimo and Miss Seki, the head Librarian. On his voyage, at Takamatsu province, he meets a girl named Sakura whom he understands to be his sister. Throughout the journey Kafka tries to avoid the prophecy. The relationship that Kafka develops with the other characters, especially with Sakura and Miss Saeki, both in the conscious and unconscious level, play an important role in the fulfillment of prophecy. The novel presents the idea that inorder to reconcile with the present we need to confront the past. As Kafka asserts, “…things in life are fated by our previous lives. That even in the smallest events there’s no such thing as coincidence.” (Murakami,39)

The novel makes its progress through alternate chapters. The odd chapters of the book discuss the progress of the protagonist Kafka while the chapters with even numbers talk about the other protagonist Nakata. Nakata is distinctively an odd character. He has a unique way of talking. He can talk to cats and predict future events. These unique attributes were developed after a strange accident took place in a forest where Nakata lost his memory and shadow. Murakami connects the progress of both protagonists by linking their lives to one another which in no way feel connected till one reaches the middle of the book. While searching for a cat, Nakata happens to kill Koichi Tamura (the father of Kafka) who kills cats believing that it will make him immortal. After murdering Koichi Tamura, Nakata travels to Shikoku with the help of Hoshino and together they move to Komura Memorial Library.

Maria Flutsch opines that Kafka on the Shore is, “ a psychoanalytical interrogation of themind of a young, deeply disturbed patricide whose oedipal crisis culminates in a descent to the pre- oedipal, Kristeva ‘semiotic’ level of the unconscious in order to begin the healing process” (Flutsch, 69-79)

To show incompleteness in the being of the protagonists of the novel, Murakami uses the theme of magic realism where anything is possible.“Murakami is like a magician who explains what he’s doing as he performs the trick and still makes you believe he has supernatural powers . . . But while anyone can tell a story that resembles a dream, it’s the rare artist, like this one, who can make us feel that we are dreaming it ourselves.” (The New York Times Book Review ) One of the characteristics of postmodernism is its fragmentation and this fragmentation is easily depicted through magic realism. “The term magic realism is broadly descriptive rather than critically rigorous, and Matthew Strecher (1999) defines it as ‘what happens when a highly detailed, realistic setting is invaded by something too strange to believe.’ ( Strecher, 267)

This incompleteness in kafka results from his yearning for a mother and is ignited by his father’s prophecy. This prophecy creates a rift between a father and a son. Kafka’s mother and his elder sister abandoned Kafka when he was four years old. Kafka finds her sister in Shikoku, a living soul of fifteen-year-old and his mother in the shadow of the library director, lean and reserved Miss Saeki, who is over fifty. Miss Saeki and Kafka Tamura talk like this:

“We’re not metaphors.” “I know,” I say. “But metaphors help eliminate what separates you and me.” A faint smile comes to her as she looks up at me. “That’s the oddest pickup line I’ve ever heard.” “There’re a lot of odd things going on—but I feel like I’m slowly getting closer to the truth.” “Actually getting closer to a metaphorical truth? Or metaphorically getting closer to an actual truth? Or maybe they supplement each other?” “Either way, I don’t think I can stand the sadness I feel right now,” I tell her. “I feel the same way.” (Kafka on the shore, ) Small wonder, as the teen-ager admits, that “the whole confused mess swirls around in my brain, and my head feels like it’s about to burst.” (murakami,385)

The subconscious part of the human mind has some desires which are repressed as they are not acceptable to the society we live in. These repressed thoughts find their way on the way in one way or the other. One of the ways is by transmuting them which according to Freud means ‘‘directing them towards a more socially valued end’’. Oedipus complex is described as a boy’s sexual desire for his mother and an overwhelming anger towards his father. “ The repressed but the continuing presence in the adult’s unconscious of the male infant’s desire to possess his mother and to have his rival, the father, out of the way.” ( Abrams, 322). Aiming the rules of patriarchy, the boy makes peace with his father and suppresses his desires. But kafka doesn’t get any chance to do that. He is unable to fit himself in that patriarchal hierarchy. Instead, he goes beyond and tries to fill what was repressed in him, for so long. He tries to gain meaning out of him through filling that prophecy.

Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore is a surreal novel. All the unrealistic happenings add to the complex narrative and the plot of the novel. The accidents of “leeches falling from the sky, soldiers of second world war taking refuge in the forest”, Nakata talking to cats, Kochima killing the eats to be immortal billboard and the labels and billboard coming to life craft the path of Kafka and Nakata. It is only through these happenings that Kafka and Nakata are able to connect their lives to each other. Nakata is an extension of Kafka’s id. Because of the childhood incident by a teacher, he is in touch with the spirit of animals and plants and even of things. He can talk to them in their language and be empathetic to their joys and sufferings as if they were his own. After nakata was slapped by his teacher, Nakata splits from his conscious self which Freud terms as “splitting of the consciousness” in moments that “are to be described as ‘traumatic’” (Spiegel 126). In “Hypnosis, Dissociation, and Trauma,” David Spiegel explains, “a person in a fugue [state] functions as an individual who lacks memory or his usual personal identity” (127). As the novel is surreal in nature, it is this lack because of which the shadow of Nakata grows fainter. As Nakata makes progress in finding his half shadow, he often uses the phrase ‘empty’ to define himself. As Nakata tries to regain some of his lost memory, he entrust to the truck driver Hoshino :

“ Nakata’s empty inside…Nakata’s like a library without a single book. It wasn’t always like that. I used to have books inside me. For a long time I couldn’t remember, but now I can. I used to be normal, just like everybody else. But something happened and I ended up like a container with nothing inside.” (Murakami 306)

This dissociation of shadow and this lack has started since the teacher slapped Nakata. This gave a new life to Nakata making it empty and all his life Nakata was to fill this bowl with a meaning and his ‘fulfillment of meaning’ ends with the completion of his shadow. It is only through dissociation and violence that Nakata is to find his shadow back and die with an accomplishment.

When Nakata meets Jonnie Walker (father of Kafka), Walker baits him to kill cats so he can cut the hearts of cats and eat them so he can be immortal. Here Nakata connects the fragments of his life, half shadow. This killing of cats connects the incident of war that happened in the childhood of Nakata thus, clarifying his role there. “This is war. You’re a soldier, and you have to make a decision. Either I kill the cats or you kill me” (Murakami 143).

Nakata uses his sense of dissociation when he stops Jonnie Walker from killing cats. Nakata is experiencing a negotiation between an “emotional” personality, which surfaces as a result of traumatic events in patients with post-traumatic stress disorder, and an “apparently normal” personality (Van der Hart and Marmar 317).

Of Nakata in this scene, Strecher asserts, “His darker inner self rises to the surface, forcing his surface persona into a subordinate position, and let loose its destructive urges” (103)

Like the way in which Nakata is disassociated with his spirit, Kafka feels the same lack which makes him to run away from the home at the age of fifteen. There are moments where his spirit and body felt lined and he asserts : “safe inside this container called me. With a little click, the outlines of this being–me–fit right inside and are locked neatly away. Just the way I like it. I’m where I belong” (Murakami 55). It is only at one point in the whole journey where he feels his body and spirit are completely detached when he finds himself in a pool of blood. . In this moment, he must “pick up the scattered pieces of me lying all around” (Murakami 69).The sense of separation from one’s body is referred to by psychologists as “depersonalization” and is a symptom of dissociation (McNally 172).

Like Nakata, Kafka uses this sense of disassociation while trying to save himself from all the violent acts he commits though he wants to confront without any fall. While talking to Oshima, Kafka asserts : “but it’s like there’s somebody else living inside me. And when I come to, I find out I’ve hurt somebody” (Murakami 266). Kafka does not remember anyone committing any violent act and finds a way to blame it on someone else. Compartmentalization of the self in Kafka’s character requires that “two or more parts of the personality and the associated actions” remain “relatively divided” (Nijenhuis and Van der Hart 422).

Miss Seki proves to be the object of gratification for Kafka. She is reduced to an object for him. The absence of the mother is filled but as Kafka is attracted to her so the relationship turns complicated. She guides kafka for the unification of the spirit so he does not live with the same emptiness as in her. Her unification of body and spirit results in the death of the library.

In The Forbidden Worlds of Haruki Murakami, Matthew Strecher describes Miss Saeki as sustained by her memories, which she writes in a notebook throughout her life and instructs Nakata to burn before her demise (Murakami 51).

Nakata, Kafka Tamura, and Miss Saeki–utilize psychotic techniques in order to fight the traumatic events and crises, and bounce back into some other world as a result. Through the psychological concepts like dissociation it is easier to understand the pattern flowing in the plot. Haruki Murakami himself warns readers against trying to tie up the novel’s ending–as it provides no lucid meaning to any reader but, it is inly through the interpretation that one it able to connect the dots.


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