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Oedipus in Kafka on the Shore

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Nicole
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**WARNING!! THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS  UP THROUGH CHAPTER 21, SO IF YOU HAVEN'T GOTTEN THAT FAR, DO NOT READ THIS POST UNTIL LATER.**

Okay so I've been wanting to talk about some recent connections I have come across recently in Kafka, but I don't know who has gotten this far yet. I know we have been talking about the connection between Kafka and Nakata both in class and in other forums, but chapter 21 makes this connection undeniable. It clicked for me yesterday in class, right before I read this chapter, that the night Kafka woke up bloody must have been from killing his dad. It also explains why Nakata was eerily blood-free after gruesomely murdering the mysterious Walker. It also explains why Walker was so emphatic that Nakata needed to kill him. Because he was fated to! And Kafka's running away, yet still fulfilling the prophesy though Nakata, is a perfect example of what Oshima said about how when people look for something, they don't find it, and when they run away from something, it inevitably catches up with them (I don't remember what chapter that is). Which again, this is all just related to fate. But my question is: how do you guys think this happened? Did Kafka leave his body somehow to Nakata's? Did all the blood somehow transfer to him when he returned to his body? How come Nakata remembers everything, but Kafka remembers nothing? Is this why Kafka's shadow was especially long when he awoke--because he had spent time "as" his other part (Nakata)? And what is up with the fish and leeches falling from the sky wherever Nakata goes? What is the point of this detail? ALSO, what do you guys think is the purpose of the addition to the Oedipus-like prophesy that Kafka's dad makes? What is the reason for adding that Kafka also must be with his sister? Lots of questions, but there is SO MUCH to talk about, so let me know what you guys think!


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TheBoulder
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I know it isn't most helpful to start with questions, but I have a few of my own. Why did Nakata see Johnnie Walker, not Koichi Tamura?? And Tamura was a sculptor, not a cat-killer? What kind of symbolism or meaning is in that? In relation, I can see the fish and leeches raining as an opposition to cats, but why raining down? First when Nakata murdered Walker, and then when helping the biker? Maybe its a sign of help? I 100% agree Nakata and Kafka joined (or something similar) in order to kill Walker/Tamura. Somehow it was fated for them to get away with it. I don't have any answers to your questions, I am equally miffed.


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Nicole
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@theboulder I'm wondering if Nakata seeing Walker instead of Tamura is related to the Colonel Sanders character we see a few chapters later. This character seems to kind of be there to move along the fate of the storyline. When Hoshino ran into Colonel Sanders, Sanders said he must sleep with the girl before he would show Hoshino where the entrance stone was. It says the girl is in college... so wouldn't that be the same age as Kafka's sister? Do you think that, since the Oedipus prophesy was extended to include his sister, Kafka slept with his sister sort of "through" Hoshino, like he would have killed his father "through" Nakata? Kafka and Hoshino aren't connected like he and Nakata are, but Nakata said that he doesn't experience sexual attraction, which would make sense why it couldn't be Nakata that sleeps with her to fulfill the prophesy. Anyway, Sanders also says that he isn't actually Colonel Sanders, but he can take many forms. Similarly, I would think he could kind of manipulate his surroundings to different forms, or to at least appear like something other than it is. And what would make Nakata more likely to kill someone than a cat killer? He wouldn't just walk right into someone's house and kill a sculptor for no reason; we even saw how hesitant he was to kill who he thought was a cat killer. So maybe it just had to appear that he was Walker in order for Nakata to get angry enough to kill him. And as for the fish and leeches, we see in the song "Kafka on the Shore" that fish falling from the sky is connected to Miss Saeki and her song, so I now understand a little bit the importance of that, but I'm not sure if it's necessary for the plot of the book, other than to show yet another connection.


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TheBoulder
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@nicole Hmm I could see the Hoshino thing working, but Nakata and Kafka have the whole shadow thing going on. I think the college girl was more of a teacher to Hoshino, like the coffee shop owner. Also, Kafka already talked a lot about Sakura as his sister, I think there is more there going on. After thinking about this for a bit longer, I was wondering about the connection between Crow and Johnnie Walker, maybe they are similar as they are both the unconscious sides of Kafka and his dad. If Walker is connected to Sanders, than is Walker a concept too? I don't feel that he is, though I guess he said his role is to make flutes of cat guts and that doesn't feel very human. 


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Nicole
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@theboulder I'm really not sure who or what Walker is, exactly. I saw him as being connected to Sanders because they were both moving along the Oedipal prophesy that Kafka was given. Plus, both characters aren't Japanese figures. Walker originated in Ireland, and Sanders is obviously from the US. I don't think Walker is like Crow because Nakata saw Walker. Not just Walker, but he saw Walker killing cats, which Tamura wasn't/wouldn't have been doing. Tamura was also said to have been undressed when he was killed, but Walker was not. If Walker was a part of Tamura, like Crow is a part of Kafka, that wouldn't have been visibly evident. Maybe the thought about the girl that Hoshino sleeps with being Kafka's sister could be a little bit of a reach, but it's weird that Sanders said that Hoshino must sleep with her. Why would he have to sleep with her if it wasn't to fulfill the Oedipus prophesy? And is it impossible that the girl is Sakura? She says that she is in college, isn't that about how old Sakura is? Sakura says that she is working as a hair dresser, but if she was the girl in chapter 28, is that really something she would tell Kafka? There isn't much of a physical description of the girl in chapter 28, so it is difficult to compare the two characters that way. Plus, the chapter where Kafka calls her and she says that work is a madhouse is the chapter directly following the one where Hoshino sleeps with a girl. Maybe it's a coincidence, and I can't actually prove that any of these things are necessarily true, but there are a lot of "maybes" that give me the feeling that this chapter was part of fulfilling the prophesy. I don't know, like I've said before, I could be way off base, but this is just what has been going through my mind as I read.


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Nicole
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While writing about Kafka's response to being told about his fate, I started thinking about the difference in his reaction between the three different parts of the prophesy. He ran away from the part of the prophesy saying that he has to kill his dad. He tried to get as far from his dad as possible because he didn't want to hurt him, but he ended up doing it anyway. However, with his mother and sister, he sort of... embraces the prophesy? He thinks Sakura could be his sister, and he just continues to think about her in a sexual manner. He thinks Miss Saeki is his mother, and he sleeps with her. So... why does he embrace one, but run from the other? Does he only embrace it once he kills his father, despite being in Takamatsu when his father is in Tokyo because he knows that he can't avoid it? Or is there some other reason causing such a difference in his responses?


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Gil
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@nicole as I read chapter 21, I couldn't help but feel sorry for Kafka, his father has basically cursed him. Any time Kafka now is to think about any girl, thoughts of wait, is my father right? Could this be my sister? would of course cross his mind. Unfortunately for Kafka, his father has drilled a connection now between sex and family. It is no wonder that when Kafka first looked at Sakura and thinks of her sexually, his next thought is if she is his sister- because of his father, he is embedded a connection between sex and his mother and sister. It is just like the concept we have talked about in class since the beginning, the more you deny something, the more it consumes you- Kafka is trapped in this prophecy. I have not read yet exactly to where he "embraces" this prophecy, but I think that Kafka, he is always going to be wondering if his father is right, if a sexual desire for a woman means that it is his sister  or mother. Maybe all he can do is to ignore that constant question within because there is nothing he can do about it if it is his fate. 


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Gil
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What do you guy think of this prophecy? What kind of father tells his elementary school child that he will kill his father and sleep with his mother and sister? My first feeling towards Kafka's father was that he was trying to mess up Kafka, to implant this idea within his head somehow and placing almost a kind of curse within him. Maybe, now that I think about it his father he seemed like he was trying to place hatred within Kafka similar to how Johnnie Walker told Nakata he needed him to hate him in order to kill him. There could be a connection there. It seems like the father is just crazy and trying to hurt his son, but since this book deals a lot with magical aspects and fate, his father knowing the fate of his son doesn't seem so crazy. Kafka mentioned that it seemed like his father was in touch with something beyond good and evil, I think that maybe he was.

A little side note! I would like to point out Crow's reappearance. Crow was in the very beginning of the book, but he has not been in the novel in a while. In chapter 21 though, he pops in to say, "distance won't solve anything", which is a huge theme of this book! Like you said in your last post @nicole, The more Kafka runs away and denies, the more it is just going to catch up to him. 


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Nicole
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@gil Reading your post, I'm starting to wonder: do you think Kafka's dad is responsible for Kafka's prophesy? To be honest, I don't know all that much about prophesies. But if Kafka's dad is just the messenger of the prophesy, does he have any responsibility for the prophesy itself? It's kind of like the question we asked before break: if you know your fate, do you have any responsibility over your actions to meet that fate? I agree that maybe he didn't give Kafka the prophesy at the right time (elementary school is a little young to be told that you will someday kill your father and sleep with your mother and sister), but maybe he didn't have any control over that, either. It doesn't seem to me that he was trying to plant hatred for himself in Kafka since Kafka ended up running away to avoid fulfilling the prophesy. So is there any significance in the fact that it was Kafka's father telling Kafka that Kafka would soon kill him, or could it just be that that's who Kafka lived with and spent the most time with.

On a bit of a more general scale, does anyone have any responsibility over a prophesy, whether it is their own or not? Or can no one take the responsibility, since nothing can be done to stop it. Does the responsibility fall on the deliverer? The person that it is about? From its source (I would imagine the source would change based on the ideology/theology under which it is prophesied--e.g. in Christianity, the source would be God; in the original Oedipus prophesy, I believe the source was Greek gods; in Islam, the source would be Allah, etc.)? Or does no one carry any responsibility for a prophesy?


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Gil
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@nicole I have been pondering Oedipus+Kafka for a while and as Kafka called Sakura for the second time and she told him, "you're like a brother to me", it made me feel like whether or not this is Kafka's fate, he trying to make it so. Even if Sakura is not his sister and Ms. Saeki is not his mother, he kind of acts like they are. He is so desparately searching for his mother and sister, that Kafka is creating his own reality of Sakua as his sister and Ms. Saeki as his mother. I feel like Kafka is almost trying to fulfill his prophecy, he is trying to fill in the gaps and like you said earlier, "embrace" it. When he sees all of these connections to Ms. Saeki that he could be his mother, he doesn't stop once in his attraction to her, he seems only to feel more connected to her. I don't fully know why he would be trying to fulfill his prophecy maybe because it has been engraved within him, with his father hammering it in, he feels the need for it to be true? Maybe because he craves a connection, both in sex and family, resulting in a very confusing state. Do you think Kafka wants to fulfill this prophecy? And why would he?


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Gil
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@nicole I feel like when it comes to fate, it seems like the responsibility lands on the one who it is about. For as we see in Oedipus, it doesn't help if you know your fate or not. If Kafka's father knew, it would not help Kafka if he knew as well. If this really is Kafka's fate, maybe his father is trying to prepare him in a way, like it isn't your fault, this is just gonna happen. Is fate something to blame? Or is your fate just you? Like if one were to commit a crime and it was their choice vs. if one were to commit a crime and they were fated to, could that be a possible excuse? Like it isn't my fault, I was just destine to do that! As I type that, it sounds ridiculous, but I have a hard time wrapping my head around fate. Is your fate really just who you are? You would always commit that crime because of who you are, not because of some external force? I think maybe fate is within you that you are the one that makes decesions and so you actually do execute your fate, it's just that because of who you are, you will always end up in the same spot?

Kafka feels trapped, like his fate isn't his own- do you agree? Is that what fate is? It isn't a part of you? Or is it? Is Kafka's mentality almost worst because he actually could change what his father told him and instead he is making his father's idea more of a reality?


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TheBoulder
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@nicole I think the idea that Kafka's dad isn't the giver of the prophecy is the right idea. Colonel Sander is the first in the book to introduce the idea of gods/higher beings, and from what it seems all the characters don't really have control over their own lives. Miss Saeki's life was ruined, Kafka and his Dad have this prophecy, Nakata lost his ego, Oshima was born in a mismatched body, and so on. In a way, is Kafka's dad not just as tied to the prophecy as Kafka is? I mean, he had to acknowledge his own death, by his own son.

Responsibility with prophecies is a struggle for me, cause I don't believe in them. I don't think it's the deliverer, nor the one who falls. It's the gods, or the universe, or whatever. In Greek mythology, prophecies could be more like punishments for parents actions, is the kid responsible? I guess they have to deal with it. But in this case, there is no answer to who did it! It's all a mystery.


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TheBoulder
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@gil It is so strange, because when he talks with Oshima he claims to not want the prophecy to happen, but his actions are just following the prophecy. He doesn't even try to resist. Not even once! He comes to these conclusions, and never really finds the answers to his questions. It can be assumed Miss Saeki is his mom, but is she really? Kafka has nothing else fueling his life. He never felt connected at home, and only knew of this prophecy. Maybe just the knowing of it made him feel a need to fulfill it. He had nothing else to do, he didn't have any plans or goals. Oedipus didn't go out searching for this fate, it all sort of happened. Perhaps the differences between Oedipus and Kafka can help uncover Kafka's situation.


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Nicole
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@gil I don't think Kafka wanted to fulfill the prophesy in the sense that he wanted to kill his father and sleep with his mother and sister. I think he was very clear that he did not want to do those things, but I think it's definitely possible that he wanted to fulfill the prophesy in order to break free of it. It seems like he is kind of consumed by the prophesy and wants to be liberated from it in a way (which raises another question: are prophesies a burden? Are they something to try to escape?). Like you said, it seems like he is trying to find these connections and trying to find his mother and sister in order to fulfill the prophesy. Well, at the beginning he seemed to be trying not to find them to fulfill the prophesy. It seemed to be on his mind that he could be coming across one or both of them, but he seemed to just be trying to run away from something, not toward something. It seems like it was after he killed his dad that he began to try to find them to fulfill the prophesy. As though he realized that there is no way to avoid fulfilling the prophesy, so he might as well find them to fulfill it and get it over with.


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Nicole
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@gil I may have said this before, but I think someone has responsibility (or should I say accountability?) over their actions and response to their fate, but maybe not their fate itself. Like you said, it's part of you, whether you believe fate comes from a higher power, nature (as in, it just is), or somewhere else. So how can you change the outcome? I say this because you can't control your fate, but you can control your response to it. It's kind of like a personality trait. You can't decide who you are, but you can decide what you do. Take Oedipus for example. He was destined to kill his dad, and he did just because. He didn't really have a reason for killing him, he just kind of... wanted to. But if it had been an accident, something that he couldn't control (which I guess would be a completely different conversation about responsibility and control), then would it be fair to say that he did the best he could with his fate? I don't know if that made much sense, but it reminds me of when people say "control what you can control". Especially when I'm at track and cross country, I hear the phrase "control what you can control" alllll the time. Isn't this sort of the same idea?


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