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The Soldiers in the Woods


Nicole
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**SPOILERS FROM NEAR THE END OF THE BOOK. THIS TOPIC WILL TALK ABOUT EVENTS IN CHAPTERS IN THE EARLY 40s.**

I wanted to open a topic about the soldier in the woods. First of all, what is this place in the woods? There isn't a ton of explanation about what it is. We know that the entrance stone opens the entrance to this place, but what is it!! The soldiers keep talking about other people that have been there before, but who are these people, and why are they there? Why does Kafka have to go there? I also noticed the repetition of the soldiers saying, "time isn't much of a factor here." And one thought I have about this is why were they in such a hurry to get where they were going? Kafka (who has already been established as being in pretty good physical shape) was having a hard time keeping up with them, and they said that they even have to carry some people because they can't keep up. So if time isn't really a factor, then why are they in such a rush? So what do you guys think about these soldiers and the woods??


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Steve Chisnell
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I'll drop the idea that perhaps this is two different questions:

1) What is the function of this place in the archetypal woods (with no paths to it) which is only open briefly (and to which Johnny Walker hopes to reach)?

2) Why, among all the inhabitants of this place, are there also WW2 soldiers who "got lost"? 


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Persephone
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To me this metaphysical place in the woods was the afterlife. I had this idea when it was first mentioned due to the presumably dead soldiers, and it was only reaffirmed when Ms.Saeki showed up after her passing. That being said, why is there a stone able to open the rift between life and afterlife? Moreover, what was the strange creature trying to get in, and is this creature part of the reason Kafka was urged to leave? A lot of these aspects were left in the air at the books close, and I'm curious for others input...


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Gil
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@persephone If this place is the afterlife, why would there by a fifteen year old Miss Saeki? Would it be because metaphorically that part of her has died? They talk about how she changed, like the part of her died and so maybe that is where her soul has gone- to this forest. I did find the forest very off putting, the fact that Kafka didn't see anyone else, except Miss Saeki and how the TV was programmed just for him. It was very eerie. Why do you think there was this whole town but he didn't see anyone? Was it just not significant to have anyone else there? Or perhaps this was adding to the eeriness of this place that such a creepy place would pull Kafka in when he turns back and longs to stay there. Also, this could not actually be a connection, but I when they said that the little town was in a basin area, it made me think of when Nakata's class when they went mushroom picking! Do you think there is an intentional connection there or no?


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Nicole
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@gil I think the reason why Miss Saeki would be fifteen in this passage is exactly what you said. A part of her died when she was younger, and since then she has been more existing, reliving memories than actually living. The only thing about that explanation is that didn't she say that she stopped living when she was twenty? Then fifteen year old Miss Saeki wouldn't make any sense. She should have aged five more years before going there. That makes me think that if it is the afterlife, then not everyone there is necessarily "dead", and it is tailored to Kafka and his desires, just like the tv was. The other alternative is that it isn't the afterlife, but it is still tailored to Kafka in the same way. In that case we are still left with the question of what is this place? Also, why might Kafka be in the afterlife? He obviously didn't physically die, could he have "stopped living" in the same way Miss Saeki did when she was young? What other explanation could exist for this occurring?


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Nicole
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@gil And as we have been saying all year, we have to assume that everything is intentional. Especially with all the connections we have learned throughout the book, the assumption is that this new connection is intentional as well. Could it relate to the idea that it's the afterlife again? That place where Nakata's class went to pick mushrooms was where he went into a coma. While it's not really "dying" or "ceasing to live", his life was changed forever in a very dramatic way. Maybe there are other connections between these two places/storylines as well?


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@nicole I think it was a vaguely afterlife place. Distinctly not the afterlife, for he didn't die, but a place that binds the mind of life and death. I think he was being given the choice like young Miss Saeki, the choice Nakata didn't have; to continue on or to stop. It was a place of abandonment, the soldiers chose to abandon their fate in the army, Miss Saeki chose to abandon her life when her boyfriend died. Maybe Kafka could chose to abandon the rest of his. I don't think we will get to an answer about what this place really is, it is purposely muddled.


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Nicole
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@theboulder I like the idea that it's a place of abandonment. As you mentioned, all the people there were choosing to abandon something. Even Kafka was trying to abandon his old life when she ran away from Tokyo. Then like you said he had the choice of whether or not to abandon everything. When he chose to leave this place, he didn't just choose to return to the "real" world, for lack of a better word (but even that adjective doesn't seem appropriate here), but he went back to his life before running away. Instead of staying away from his old life and staying in Takamatsu, he went back and chose not to abandon his life. Why was Johnnie Walker trying to go there then? What was he trying to abandon? Why did Hoshino have to stop him from going? Is this place the "limbo" he is talking about? Is he trying to get out of limbo by going through the entrance stone? I'm sure there is no answer, definitely none that will satisfy us, but I would still like to hear your thoughts about it!


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TheBoulder
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@nicole I see Johnnie Walker to Kafka's dad as I see Crow to Kafka, but then I get confused because both Kafka and Crow were in the woods, but only Johnnie Walker was there. I have no clue what he was trying to abandon, or what was going on with his cats. It was all irrational. Maybe it was a way of explaining why awful people to awful things- that there is no rational explanation? I would love to hear someone's take on it. And what do you mean by Hoshino stopping him from going, like why he had to close it? If so, I think it was to balance the world after Kafka made the decision. Like destiny, no one else was destined to make that choice at that time.


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abuzz
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@theboulder Is it quite possible that this is a figment of Miss Saeki's afterlife or even her memory? Kafka constantly repeats that he sees no one there. The only individuals he encounters in the woods besides the soldiers are 15 year old Miss Saeki then Miss Saeki as he knows her. They exchange the fact that there are no books, which is coincidentally after Nakata destroys Miss Saeki's archives. She also wants Kafka to remember her, and does not care if anyone else does. It seems very intentional to me that this space is representative of Miss Saeki.


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TheBoulder
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@abuzz Wow thats a good point. The only question I now have, is what about Oshima’s brother? He knew about the soldiers in the woods. I doubt he knew Miss Saeki the way Kafka did. Is the place catered to the person, like the Room of Requirement in Harry Potter? I like the idea that its in her memory, but there isn’t much evidence for that, though there isn’t much evidence for anything.


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FRANKLIN
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I was really confused by this part of the book. This forum has helped me understand what others think regarding this part of the book that is crucial to the storyline. The fifteen year old Miss Saeki made it known that she was going to take care of Kafka during his stay at the house on her first visit. I thought this was to represent all the lost time she could've had as Kafka's mother and that she was trying to show him the mother she could be. That didn't make sense to me though because the chapter before she was discovered to be dead at the library. Furthermore, I didn't understand what the soldiers had to do with the story. I assumed there was a connection between the two soldiers and the WWII history that was discussed in the opening chapters. 


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FRANKLIN
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@theboulder I wish we found out more regarding Oshima's brother. We were introduced to him within the last ten pages of the book so what we knew was limited. One thing that I took away from his interaction with Kafka on the drive home to the library was that Oshima and his brother didn't have the best relationship. Oshima seemed surprised to find out that his brother opened up to Kafka and perhaps was hurt by that. I wish his brother would have provided insight on the significance of the two soldiers and the house that Kafka stayed in for a short period of time. 


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Nicole
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@gardella I think this place is one thing that we will never get a satisfying answer to. We can talk about it and speculate, but it will just be another one of those things that we don't get a resolution. I like the connection you made between Miss Saeki taking care of Kafka as though she were a mother figure to him. As for the WWII soldiers, I'm not sure. All I can think of is the parallel between Miss Saeki and the teacher from the beginning of the book. There seems to be a lot of similarities between Miss Saeki and the teacher. They can't be the same person, most obviously because of the age difference between them, but they have a lot of similarities (perhaps in the same kind of way Kafka and Nakata have similarities in their lives?). The scenes at the beginning of the book took place during WWII. This really seems to be the only other connection to WWII in this book (if I am remembering correctly). So maybe there is some connection between the parallel of Miss Saeki and the teacher and Miss Saeki being here/the idea that it could be some sort of her memory or afterlife or something?


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