Imagery in Kafka on the Shore

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Imagery Association in Kafka On The Shore

Vivid imagery requires specific and concrete details. As students, we are often taught that vivid images which best create pictures in the reader's mind are just like the pictures we see when we close your eyes and go there ourselves. Think of the novel page as a blank canvas. Only what the author chooses to disclose will be painted on that canvas. The more specific the detail painted, the more vivid the image on the canvas and in the reader's mind. As writers, we tend to lean heavily on visual images. Though crucial, visual images are not all-inclusive; but having them layered upon one another, can bring heightened meaning and a sense of symbolic order to a piece of writing.

In structuring a story, how does each image build upon the previous one? Just like how cards are stacked on each other, one must appreciate the depths Murakami has inhabited to create such a moving, all embracing, imaginative work in Kafka On The Shore. His labyrinthine story, like Japanese fairy tales, may confound readers looking for a logical or chronological format, but there is a strong continuity and coherence found in his images. Subtle connections are made by Murakami's layering of images (the boy named Crow, the entrance stone, blood spreading like a butterfly on the chest, twisted sculptures, a dense forest), connecting one incident with another and connecting present with the past. 

Kafka On The Shore tells of the eponymous fifteen year old runaway, whose metaphorical journey lies fraught with dreamscapes extending from a novelistic storm in his father’s library with his alter ego - “Crow”, to a room in the corner of a library in Takamatsu, and to the heart of a forest in Kochi where a slapstick duo of soldiers remain un-aged apparently since World War Two. Imageries abound in Murakami’s novel, taking up life as symbols serving as signposts and transcending worlds because they are meant to. Alternately twinned with chapters of an aging, illiterate old man - Nakata, who could speak with cats and becomes involved in an odd murder and even more bizarre incidents, imagery in the novel leaps across the pages and head towards each other in surrealistic angles, themselves pieces of a puzzle where no answers are given and only hinted at. Strange things happen in Kafka on the Shore and it’s not always immediately clear why. Like the dense, darkling imagery of Miss Saeki’s song, the novel is full of images and events that resonate viscerally but resist logical explanation. Indeed, a reader who looks to interpret the action through a rationalist framework will quickly find herself overwhelmed and exhausted.

Early onset, Murakami introduces the character “Crow”: implied to be Kafka’s alter ego, a repressed entity of a possibly fragmented individual, who deploys mockery to spur Kafka Tamura on to become “the toughest fifteen year old in the world” (Kafka On The Shore, 4). Kafka - jackdaw in Czech, the boy named Crow, and Kafka’s subsequent wish to “turn into a dauntless crow and fly out of this cabin”. Through this link Murakami provides a motif whereby the possibility of imagination and actuality and dreams are but a byproduct of one’s subconscious and that if the desire is strong enough, spirit can transcend the body.

Murakami gave Crow no other physical descriptions barring a “characteristic sluggish voice” (1). He is the voice behind Kafka, the chorus in Greek plays whose speech so often influences the protagonist. His presence is bolded to suggest how his words are a precursor to what Kafka thinks and does, emphasizing the shift of first person narrative to second person, purposeful in drawing the reader straight into this particular novelistic storm and see for himself the indomitable turmoil brewing inside the protagonist. Used in several parts of the novel, the bolded words immediately lend an eerie, illusory quality to the landscape; the line between dreams and reality severely blurred until...
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