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The Dreamscape in Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami
Transcript of The Dreamscape in Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami
In Haruki Murakami's
Kafka on the Shore
, protagonist Kafka Tamura flees a prophecy which dictates that he will kill his father and then sleep with his mother and sister. Kafka's journey is complicated by his unexplained ability to cross over from his world into a dreamscape, where he subconsciously enforces his will back on Earth through aging simpleton Satoru Nakata. Nakata also possesses the unwitting ability to traverse the dreamscape as a result of a childhood incident in which his soul splintered and crossed over to the dreamscape for an extended period of time while his physical body lay in a comatose state. Throughout the novel, Kafka and Nakata's souls connect and collide in subtle, unpredictable ways, leading to the novel's finale, in which Nakata and Kafka's minds meld on a subconscious level. This melding, and Nakata's subsequent death, results in the creation of what we'll refer to from now on as the
, which allows Kafka to experience life with a complete body, mind and soul and escape the Oedipal prophecy that his abusive father inflicted on him.
Need for the Nakafka
Damaged by his father's abuse, Kafka runs away from home, determined to live a life away from him. However, the absence of Kafka's mother has also damaged him - without a force for good in his life, Kafka never develops a soul. Though his body and mind are both immensely strong as a result of Kafka's devotion to mental and physical stimulation, Kakfa lacks the moral compass necessary for living a full life. Conversely, Nakata has a good soul, but childhood trauma has left him brain-damaged while time has seen his body waste away. While Nakata became a martyr as a result of the horrors of WWII, it's not too late for Kafka - the convergence of Nakata and Kafka on a metaphysical plane allows Kafka to become a being with body, mind and soul, known as the Nakafka.
The Dreamscape as Graveyard for WWII
One interpretation of Kafka's father's alcoholism is that it was a coping mechanism for PTSD contracted during WWII. All Japanese citizens were soldiers of a sort during WWII - the Emperor required sacrifices of everyone, and all suffered. The dreamscape exists as a place for pain and suffering that happened during the world to detach from the subconscious and be resolved through metaphysical thought. Murakami also explores the ghosts generated by the war with Miss Saeki, Kafka, Nakata and the two soldiers in the forest.
The Origins of Kafka
Kafka was born to a famed sculptor, and his mother walked out when he was very young. Kafka is a voracious reader and writer who highly values physical strength. His sexual desires confuse and frustrate him. Murakami strongly suggests an abusive relationship between Kafka and his father, possibly caused by alcohol use. Kafka flees home after learning of the aforementioned prophecy. Johnnie Walker, a concept slain by Nakata after Kafka subliminally influences Nakata through the dreamscape, represents Kafka's father. He may also be the devil, which would make Kafka the Antichrist. Like the Antichrist, he has the capacity to either be fully evil or good, and he is destined to bring about a cataclysmic event.
The Origins of Nakata
Nakata was a bright boy who became a victim of WWII when he aroused the anger of his grief-stricken school teacher, who beat him to the point of death after he discovered clothing stained with her menstrual blood. When the rest of the children in his class also collapsed, it was assumed that a gas attack had taken place, but Nakata did not awaken for weeks afterwards. His soul crossed over to the dreamscape while he lay in a comatose state, and he became permeated with the mysterious atmosphere of the dreamscape. Rendered simple by decreased oxygen flow to his brain during his coma, Nakata lives a simple life, though he has the ability to communicate with the souls of cats, who, in Murakami's world, are aware of multiple lives and the dreamscape. His experience allows him to act as a metaphysical portal between the real world and the dreamscape, though he is unaware of this fact and never understands why he undertakes tasks - he only knows that they must be completed. Ultimately, he allows Kafka to rid himself of a parasitic worm representative of the sins of the father, evil, war and the Antichrist.
Made into a sort of soldier by his PTSD-afflicted father, Kafka maintains his body almost religiously. At the gym, "[he knows] exactly how much weight and how many reps work for" him, because of how frequently he works out (56). He also washes his body thoroughly on a regular basis. Prime health makes him feel like "the toughest fifteen-year-old on the planet" (56). Many people comment on how fit Kafka is. Conversely, Nakata is a feeble old man, whose body wastes away around him and makes the simplest tasks, like getting from one city to another, exceedingly difficult. Time has worn away at Nakata's body until it is little more that a barely functional shell containing his soul.
Miss Saeki lives in the past, consistently revisiting the teenage years she spent with her true love, before he was beaten to death with a steel pipe or baton during a student riot. Her boyfriend, and subsequently her, are both victims of WWII. Miss Saeki becomes a ghost of her former self, unable or unwilling to move on with her life. Her trauma is indicative of the painful memories of wartime present in the minds of all Japanese men and women who lived at the time. When Kafka first meets her, he feels "wistful and nostalgic," as she feels like a relic from the past (40). She agrees with the idea that she can never escape the shadow of the war and her grief, as she has already been entirely consumed by it. Miss Saeki represents the Japanese civilians who were so traumatized by grief that they found themselves unable to move on after the end of WWII. "'My life ended at age twenty,'" she admits to Nakata in her final confession (392). It's only once she is able to let go of her memories and allow Nakata to turn them to ash that she finally knows peace.
The Imperial Soldiers
Walker is a concept representing evil with the appearance of a famous whisky mascot. He represents the malevolence of Kafka's sculptor father. When Nakata first meets Walker, the concept says, "Most everyone knows who I am. Not to boast, but I'm famous all over the world," likely a reference to the fame of Kafka's father (126). Walker's relation to whisky is likely a dig at alcoholism present in Kafka's father, possibly brought on by the disappearance of Kafka's mother, the stress of raising a child or PTSD from WWII. "My father polluted everything he touched, damaged everyone around him," says Kafka at one point (203). If Walker is Kafka's father, how Nakata perceives him was designed by Kafka. Evidently, Kafka saw his father as a man ruled by his vices and addled with alcohol addiction, so he chose to portray him as a demented whisky mascot who makes grisly sculptures out of cat heads (which represent unnecessary death and mystery) while angrily complaining about war. Nakata kills Walker.
When Nakata meets Walker, the concept goads him by proclaiming to collect the souls of cats, animals with whom Nakata feels a strong emotional connection. Walker claims to want to die, because he's tired of living without being appreciated. "I have to get someone else to kill me... I want you to fear me, to hate me with a passion - and then terminate me," he says (142). If Walker is Kafka's father, it can be assumed a version of this demand was made from father to son. This explains the prophecy and also why Kafka fled. Walker represents the ghost of war and its irrepressible threat of violence, saying, "Nobody cares whether you like killing other people or not, It's just something that you have to do" (142). Nakata kills Walker, and blood covers both of them. However, Kafka awakens covered in blood, while Nakata does not have a drop on him, suggesting that responsibility for the killing lies with Kafka.
Kafka's Role in the Killing
Angry at his father for abusing him after suffering PTSD as a result of WWII, Kafka influences Nakata through the dreamscape. Kafka impresses anger at his father onto Nakata, who sees Walker instead of Kafka's father and is pushed into killing him. The guilt for the killing lies with Kafka, who awakens covered in blood. "I went through some kind of special dream circuit or something and killed him," theorizes Kafka (204). Kafka admits that he may be culpable for his father's death, saying, "In dreams begin responsibilities" (204). Murdering Walker is a catalyst for Nakata, who begins to realize his emptiness and search for a way to merge with Kafka, though neither is aware of this.
Deep in the forest, Kafka encounters two soldiers who deserted during WWII and died in the forest. They represent fear of death and are shown to be reasonable. Murakami uses them to comment upon the unreasonable demands the Emperor made of his citizens during WWII. They act as guides for Kafka, taking him to a ghost village where he ultimately decides that he has the choice they never had: to decide his own fate. Once he reaches this conclusion, he can break free of the prophecy that dictates that he will become a force for war and evil.
The Parents as Symbols
Kafka's parents represent polar opposites in his life. Kafka's father has become soured by his PTSD, and he embodies the violent, war-mongering spirit in his interactions with Kafka. Kafka's mother, however, embodies the peaceful woman, devoted to the principles of love and harmony. Her absence in Kafka's life partially explains his propensity for violence (particularly of the mental sort) and lack of a moral compass. His father represents evil, immorality and hatred (appearing as a metaphysical parasite) while his mother represents good and acceptance, which he finds by forgiving her for her sins in the past, on an ideological level at least.
The Role of Sex
Kafka is deeply troubled by the void he feels inside himself. He lacks a soul but does not know this, so he instead attempts to fill the emptiness with close, sexual connections to others. This sexuality drives Kafka throughout the book - when coupled with his growing maturity, his sex drive is overwhelmingly strong, to the point where he has difficulty thinking about much else.
Enter the Dreamscape
Rice Bowl Hill covers an entrance to the dreamscape. Nakata lapses into a coma when he dies atop RBH and becomes part of the dreamscape temporarily. The village that Kafka discovers with the help of the soldiers is likely beneath RBH, entirely in the dreamscape. RBH became the entrance to the dreamscape when a wartime attack (the teacher's terrified assault on Nakata) caused innocent children to collapse into comas. "It was like... a battlefield," said their teacher (18). So, the dreamscape came into existence first and foremost as a WWII graveyard, holding onto that period's ghosts so that people affected by the war later on could use them to destroy or deal with wartime traumas.
The Worm, Pt. 1
Representative of fury, war and evil, a parasitic worm lives inside Kafka throughout the book, influencing him to command Nakata to kill his abusive father and then to rape his sister. The worm prevents Kafka from gaining a soul. When Kafka enters the dreamscape under RBH and forgives his mother, "the frozen part of [his] heart crumbles," allowing him to escape the worm (442). With Kafka suddenly resolute against it, the worm looks around for an escape. When Kafka sleeps, "[his] consciousness is sucked into a dim, dark corridor," a
existent only in the dreamscape (445). On the other end lies Nakata, who has allowed the entrance stone to open a portal inside him so Kafka can get rid of the worm and gain a soul. The worm may also represent the Antichrist, the evil spawn of war passed down by Johnnie Walker/Kafka's father.
The Worm, Pt. 2
The parasite tries to find a new host to keep the evil of war present within someone, attempting to pass through the entrance stone into a person, but Hoshino stops it by trapping it in a room with him. The "long, pale object," notes Hoshino "had to come from somewhere else, and it's... using Mr. Nakata as a passageway for its own purposes" (451-52). Kafka's father gave the worm to Kafka by transferring to his son the traumas he experienced in wartime, but with the pure blood of his birth mother that Kafka drinks in the dreamscape, he is able to finally stand up to the specter of war and defy it. When Hoshino traps the worm, he renders it powerless. Fire, a symbol of cleansing in the novel, is used to turn the evil worm into ash and kill
the worm forever.
Kafka keeps his mind sharp, reading with great zeal. One day, he "finish[es]
The Arabian Nights
" then "tackle[s] the complete works of Natsume Soseki," determined to expand his knowledge as much as possible (60). In Oshima's cabin, he voraciously looks through many books, desperate to discover more about everything. Nakata, comparatively, can't read or write and lacks all but the most basic mental abilities. "'I'm not so bright,'" he says to Hoshino on multiple occasions (347). His coma claimed his mind: "'It's not just that I'm dumb. Nakata's
inside... like a library without a single book... I used to have books inside me" (306). While Kafka has knowledge, Nakata does not, which makes the older man an ideal 'empty shell' for the portal to take root within.
Nakata possesses a pure, childlike innocence and morality. When he murdered Johnnie Walker, "[he] went to the police right away, and told them about him," expecting and wanting punishment for his crime (307). Nakata has goodness and purity that Kafka, through his father's machinations, has never known. Nakata lives a content, simple life, only seeing the best in people and devoting himself to helping others. Meanwhile, Kafka's moral compass is almost nonexistent, particularly when he succumbs to the prophecy and sleeps with two women who he believes to be his mother and sister, exploiting the former and raping the latter. Sakura's vision of Kafka "in this huge house that was like a maze" reflects Kafka's struggle to find the moral path and attempt to escape the soulless labyrinth constructed as a trap by Kafka's father (466).
When Nakata acts as a portal so that Kafka can dispose of his inner evil, he also transfers his soul to Kafka, allowing the boy to possess body, mind and soul so he can live as a full individual. Nakata's soul was the only thing keeping him alive, so when it leaves him, his physical body dies, but the soul lives on through Kafka who, through Nakata's sacrifice, has been cleansed of his father's sins. Their convergence into one person is the true meaning of the novel.
Kafka on the Shore
by Haruki Murakami
Rise of the Nakafka
A Prezi by Isaac Feldberg
Nakata as a Victim
An innocent child robbed of his future by the devastation of WWII, Nakata is a victim of wartime trauma. His school teacher, missing her husband, takes her fury and fear out on Nakata when he confronts her with evidence of her sexual restlessness. Like a soldier killed in combat, Nakata loses the bright future he once had. His childlike personality reflects the effects of the beating, which prevented him from growing up.
The Nakafka as a Symbol
After WWII, Japan was left fractured and broken. Like Nakata, it was a hollow shell of its former self, complete with nuclear devastation and trauma that affected everyone. Like Kafka, Japan's people felt trapped by the stigma that the country's past had created. Many felt that Japan lacked morality because of its alliance with Germany, and that it would never become a well-respected nation again. The Nakafka represents two broken people becoming a whole individual after slaying a malevolent force - similarly, Murakami asks Japanese citizens to heal Japan by forgiving past transgressions, overcoming the ghosts of the past and moving forward into a better, more healthy future.