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Kafka on the Shore and Sexual Themes

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Gil
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Today in class we touched on the attitude of the Japanese towards sexuality, for it is quite different than Americans. Mr. Chisnell said that there are some things that they are much more open about and others that keep more private. Depending on how far you are, you may have noticed that Murakami is not shy when it comes to sex. There are a few instances we could bring up, but what I want to zero in on is Chapter 12, the letter to the professor. I found it quite odd how the teacher was writing so much detail about the erotic dream that she had, but then when her period blood was found she claims that she was so embarassed that it made her go into shock and that is why she slapped Nakata. What I am wondering here is how can this woman go into so much detail about her erotic dream when she is that embarassd by her period? Does anyone else find this bizarre? What was Murakami's purpose of writing about this woman being so open and going into such detail with a professor, but being so embaraased about her period? Maybe he is trying to say something about Japan's attitude towards sexuality? What exactly is he saying then? What do you guys think? I'd be curious to see how the Japanese differ from us in their cultural attitude towards sex.


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Nicole
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I definitely thought it was odd when we talked about how the Japanese are much more open about sex than Americans, yet much more private about other things. I hadn't thought about, in chapter twelve, when the teacher goes into so much detail about the dream, yet is so ashamed of her period. The Japanese clearly view sex differently than we do, but it doesn't seem like their view of periods is all that different. I mean, I don't know anyone that has ever been so ashamed of her period that she slapped a child to the point where he went unconscious, but I feel like there is still a sort of "shame" that many feel about it, at least in certain situations? I started thinking that, well the human body is a natural thing, so why should they be ashamed of it or view as anything else? But, so is a period. The only thing I can really think of that is different in that regard is that a period is unique to women. As we saw earlier in the year, werewolves were originally associated with women because women seemed to become sort of like "monsters" during their period. Maybe it's sort of the same situation here, though not the "monster" part, just some sort of cultural intolerance of periods. I'm not sure why the Japanese would feel this way when they are so open to sex though. I did a little searching to see if maybe there is some sort of view the Japanese have about childbirth that differ from Americans, but I couldn't find anything. I think Murakami could definitely be saying something about how the Japanese view sex. Possibly trying to say that it's a little inconsistent and intolerant to hold such different views, if that makes sense. I'm curious to see how this idea develops through the rest of the book!


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Nicole
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There was another part that stuck out to me relating to sexual themes in Kafka. It doesn't relate to the teacher, but it still stuck out to me. Yesterday I was reading chapter fifteen, when Kafka is at the cabin, and Crow said, "You might control yourself, and not masturbate, but they'll get you in the end". First of all, I think it's the scenes like this that really show the difference between the Japanese and American views about sex. While reading these scenes, I felt quite uncomfortable, but he seemed to talk about them so openly! And as Mr. Chisnell pointed out, he uses the most private form of "you" to convey how open he was being. And second, this reminded me about our Yin and Yang discussion from last week. That no matter how hard you try to be or do something, you can only do it for so long until you snap. I'm wondering what connection this idea that appears briefly in chapter fifteen might have to the rest of the novel. Kafka is so rigid and disciplined in his habits (workout routine, eating habits, education, etc.), so is he eventually going to snap? Is there some other implication that the idea of Yin and Yang might have in Kafka? 


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Gil
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@nicole I LOVE this connection to the Yin and Yang! I definitely agree with you on it, I think it is a very big part of the novel. I feel like right now, Kafka is really burying things deep down within him. He is very open and honest about everything to the reader but he has yet to really even talk about why he ran away from home. During today's dicussion, Mr. Chisnell brought up that Kafka is very open and honest in his writing, however that still could mean that he is hiding something from himself. He is as honest with us as he is with himself, but he could be lying to himself. He is rejecting his dad so completely that it has got me wondering if it is going to soon snap. He is so very against his father and home life that I wonder if it is soon going to backfire on Kafka. I am curious how it will unfold!


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Delphine
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@Nicole I think that it's definitely possible that there's a bit of internalized misogyny in their culture that would cause her to be so shameful of her period. Their concept of sex may be more open, but women feel some sort of shame for not being "perfect" all the time. This is the only possible reason I can think of for this difference in reactions.


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SnowyYeti
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Another instance in this book I would like to bring up was in one of the early chapters, maybe 2-4.  When Kafka was on the bus and the girl sat next to him and she was asleep on his shoulder and he was staring at her breasts and imagining yeah yeah you know what I am referencing I dont need to go into more detail.  This was odd to me when I read it and even more odd after our class on tuesday.  Chisnell said that the naked body is not sexualized like it is in America in Japan.  But this part happened.  I have been thinking about this and how kafka went against what Chiz brought up in class and I am curious what you guys have to say about it.  


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username27
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@snowyyeti - I know exactly which part you are referencing because I was a little disturbed by it. I had read this part before out discussion on Tuesday which gave me a little bit of shock as I hadn't realized that the book would take a direction like this. A big thing I noticed about Kafka's character is that he notices and is so observant of everything. He is just so descriptive of his surroundings and how he is feeling about them. With how he described everything in the chapters before that, somewhere in the back of my mind I kind of expected this type of sexual description to come out, but it still came as a bit of a shock.


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Gil
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@snowyyeti I noticed this as well. Honestly, I wouldn't have given this much thought if it wasn't for the fact that he had the thought, "what if she is my sister?" And then continued to think of her in a sexual manner- that seemed a bit strange. It also makes you question, if it matters what goes on in our heads. Can we really control what we think? Does it matter what we think or does it only matter if we act on our thoughts?  He is a fifteen year old boy so the thoughts he describes are to be expected. However, when he spends the night at her house and she does something to him....what about that?! He acts, even with the thought that he could be his sister, doesn't he. What are your thoughts? Is he supressing thoughts in order to give into sexual urges? Or was it simply no big deal?


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Nicole
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@gil Okay, so I think that we are responsible for what we think. It may not be a responsibility we want or asked for, but it is our responsibility nonetheless. I brought up in class today how Yeats said, "In dreams begins responsibility" (something like that). Like we talked about today, the thoughts are there, and it is your responsibility to process them in some way. Chisnell posed the question about whether or not we suppress those thoughts, or what we do with them. But the responsibility is in how we respond to the thoughts. Like the Yin and Yang idea I raised earlier, if you suppress the thoughts, if you ignore them, then you will snap, they won't go away, and you will be lead to act upon those thoughts. At which point it becomes undeniable whether or not you are responsible. I agree that we can't always choose what we think, but we are given the responsibility to act "properly". I didn't make the connection until today with all of Kafka's exercising that it could be to suppress these urges. I think it was in chapter fifteen where Kafka decided to do a workout routine rather than give in to his urges (which is where we then got that quote from Crow in my last post^). I didn't realize that this could be why he always works out. Anyway, through all this, all his attempts to ignore and suppress, like you mentioned with Sakura (?), wouldn't that be considered acting on his thoughts? So he definitely became responsible at that moment. He has the option to somehow "process" the thoughts, as Mr. Chisnell put it, or suppress them, in which case them can, will, and did surface.


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savhoisington
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I also think this is very interesting. I think her being so open about her dream and then so embarrassed by her period blood is shocking. For Americans, I feel as though both of these events would be embarrassing for an average person. Here we have such a risque view on sex (most likely due to christianity considering it literally dominates or countries whole foundation) that I do not think is necessary. I recently watched a video that was addressing how many other countries women walk around topless and it is not sexuallized at all. I think sex/ sexuality is so normal and so natural but it became bad in America's eye. Other cultures around the world, including Japan, just seem to have not diverted from the idea that sex, in itself, is not a bad thing, and that makes it much easier to be open about


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savhoisington
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@snowyyeti This was definitely a awkward scene to read. But addressing the American vs Japanese views on naked bodies is what I caught on most to too. This scene is contradicting to what Chisnell said in class almost directly, but it also makes sense considering who Kafka is? We touched on this a little in class, but he definitely listens to American music and I know I also read other references to American culture in Kafka's chapters (I'm really sorry I can't remember exactly what they were). I feel like listening to American music at this time as well as just observing American culture definitely can rub off some american view subconsciously ? I am not sure, but I feel lie that would affect a person in some way


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Gil
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@nicole I agree, I think that it isn't just our actions that make us who we are, but it is also our thoughts, too! I was thinking about this one thing Kafka asked Sakura, he asked her if he could think about her and she said it doesn't matter what goes in his mind, it isn't up to her and he didn't even really need to ask, but Kafka disagreed. I think this is interesting, emphasizing the importance of the mind and our reality.It is important to Kafka what he thinks, however, I feel that Kafka puts a pressure on himself because he cares what he thinks, so that is why he suppresses his thoughts which is a dangerous thing to do!

Even things that we wish we didn't think about, maybe those say less of character than the things we choose to think about, but don't those unpleasant things still kinda make up who we really are? Those thoughts we have no control over, those are like our id, but our ego is what helps us choose which thoughts to act on, both are still us though. 


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Jackson Von Habsburg
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Currently we have not understood the nature of the sexual themes in this novel . I know that Japan has a very open society when it comes to that in certain regards. I know chiz. I talked about that a lot. I think he's a lot of issues that he's dealing with obviously and I think does one front where he has a lot. Obviously thinking that that girl on the bus is his sister. It definitely kind of weird for sure. I think you are definitely super lonely because he has such a bad relationship with his own family that he doesn't know how to have relationships and not in that context. Obviously you know the words of his father are messing with him so that is also something to think about. Like I said I need to be a little more of the novel to kind of put more pieces together of the puzzle and kind of figure out what the deeper message is . There's only three I'm going to have to look at as I read the novel. So I really do need to figure out what the the play is here and kind of what he is thinking. But also we will have an easier time doing that because we are inside his head


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xwing37
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@gil, I was very curious about this too. I wasn't that surprised when he thought about stuff like this but when he wondered if it was his sister like it was no big deal it was rather strange to me. The idea of not being able to control/stop undesired thoughts and dreams has been explored in the book already. So maybe Kafka thought of stuff like this but disregarded it because he realized that in the long run he won't be able to stop it. This part of the book was really strange to me and I'm curious to see how the rest of this idea unfolds throughout the novel.


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TheBoulder
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@xwing37 I have been thinking about that too. Kafka has these sexual thoughts and never thinks "I need to stop thinking like this". He just accepts his thoughts as they are, sometimes he judges them as wrong, but he doesn't stop. I assume that while Japanese culture may be more open about sexuality, most aren't thinking incestual thoughts. Even while dreaming, Kafka seems in control of his actions. I never felt while reading that he didn't have a choice, he acted from himself and wasn't forced to do anything. So why does he honor these disturbing thoughts?


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