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This chapter...wow...Okay so I am sure your first thoughts like mine are, "why?" Which seems to be a valid question. Right now, the chapter is very fresh in my head and I am thinking that the purpose of this whole show Johnnie Walker puts on is to make Nakata fear and hate him so that he will meet the "rules". In the beginning of the chapter Johnnie Walker says these are the requirements to kill him and he certainly does well to build up a rage within Nakata. He seems so psychotic though, even if all this is to get rage out of Nakata, Walker still eats the hearts, and he seems to enjoy it and have the routine down. Why does he do this? For the cat flute? What is this "cat flute"? What is the purpose of these cat souls and flute? What are these rules? Why is this even in the story? I assume as we continue to read, we will learn more, but for right now what are you guys thinking?!!
My reaction to chapter sixteen was definitely, "why?" When he was describing the flute, I just sat there staring at the pages, not really sure what to make of what he was saying. I'm not sure what the purpose of the flute is, or why he wants it, but it is clear he will go to great lengths to get it. I think we could also see this chapter full of what Mr. Chisnell talked about in class, how the Japanese view the soul being locating in the gut. The first thing Walker did was cut open the torso of the cat, and then, more relating to westerners' belief of the soul being in the heart, he eats the heart in order to get the soul. Then, of course, when Nakata killed him, I believe he did it by piercing his torso (if my memory serves). It seemed that the purpose of the cat souls was to get a bigger flute to get more souls which he could then use to get an even bigger flute, and so on and so on. But that doesn't seem like much of a purpose.
Another thing that I couldn't help but think about was Oedipus. When Chisnell told us about Oedipus, it seemed quite clear that he didn't want to kill his dad. Nakata kind of showed the same sort of feeling toward killing Walker. I'm not saying that I think Walker is Nakata's dad, and it is probably an irrelevant connection that I made only because we just heard about Oedipus today, but I still thought maybe I would share since it was running through my mind as I read. I don't know if there were any other parallels to Oedipus, but this is the one that I saw.
Johnnie Walker: American Whiskey. Why this connection? As you know, Johnnie Walker is the man that is killing the cats, why is it Johnnie Walker though? Is it a connection between America and Japanese cultures, a metaphor of American whiskey killing Japanese cats? What is the significance there? Are cats somehow meaningful for the Japanese? Is there a typical attitude towards cats associated with spirituality, Japanese or otherwise? I mean Walker is using the cats for a soul flute, maybe somehow the cats have a spirituality about them. We spoke about how maybe Nakata sees the world for how it really is, that cats really talk- maybe there is something special about cats. Or maybe I am reading too much into it haha, what do you guys think?
To go off of @gil 's point, the symbolism behind the character Johnnie Walker is one of the key points of the chapter. Not only is the name Johnnie Walker the name of an American company, but an alcohol manufacturer. The Japanese post-WWII were dealing with, as we have talked about in class, an identity crisis related to their governance being controlled by the United States. They lost to the US in World War II and were being controlled by the US for it. Not only did they lose, they were on the receiving end of the only example of nuclear weapons being used in war. The Japanese people suffered from the war, although the Japanese government started the war in the Pacific, the civilians were not to blame for it. During the post-WWII period, this identity crisis had a disastrous effect on the history and identity of the Japanese. I believe Johnnie Walker killing cats is symbolizing American consumerism destroying something in Japan, being the cats. What do the cats symbolize?
@gil I think we have come to a pretty stable conclusion about what Johnnie Walker represents regarding the relationship between America and Japan, but I am also curious what it is about cats, specifically, that is important to the story. Cats are a symbol of good luck in Japan, which is why cats are everywhere there (Hello Kitty, cat cafes, etc). According to Smithsonian Magazine, Japan also holds a belief that when something lives long enough, it starts to develop magical powers (like the foxes we saw in the film a few weeks ago). Cats are one of the creatures that are said to have developed said magical powers, according to Japanese folklore. There is a lot of lore surrounding cats in Japan, from shapeshifters, to demonic corpse-eaters. I imagine that Murakami's choice of cats is related to the love-hate view Japan holds on cats. The magical powers part of it makes a little bit more sense why Walker would be gathering their souls for a flute, as well as possibly why they have the ability to talk? The belief that they bring good luck could even be the reason why he wanted to make the flute. I don't think there was any explanation to what the flute is or what it does, but I guess it would make sense that whatever it is, the souls of an animal that brings good luck would probably be a "good" thing for whatever its purpose is, right? Does that make any sense? I'm curious, though, if there is any other significance in the choice of cats in this chapter (and every chapter when Nakata was speaking to them).
@gil It is certain that Johnnie Walker is American influence coming over to Japan after the WWII and Japans Identity crisis due to that. But one thing I can't get myself to understand is why did he kill the cats the way he did. If Murakami just wanted to metaphorically express the American influence then he could've have Johnnie Walker simply kill the cats a simpler and less time consuming way ,and not go through the gruesome process every single time. But what I think the cats heart and guts being part of the process is probably the americans taking japanese culture and perversifying it. That is my theory at least.
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