In Haruki Murakami’s ‘Kafka on the Shore,’ loneliness consumes the main character throughout the novel. Kafka Tamura’s loneliness is a constant inner battle that not only affects him but the people he meets along his journey through the mountainside town of Takamatsu. Kafka has an extremely complicated relationship with his memories. He wants to fill in the holes of his memory with the face and identity of his mother and adopted sister, but he also has a hard time forgiving her for abandoning him. So as a result, he closed himself off to everyone, and loneliness started to consume his whole life.
When Kafka was a child, his mother and sister abandoned him and left him all alone with his emotionally abusive father. Kafka learned to ignore his father. For several years they would rarely speak a word to each other. As a result, he decided on his 15th birthday; he would run away from home. For two years prior to this, he would go to the library every day and go to the gym for at least one hour each day. He was preparing for his leave. Kafka planned to take some money from his father, clothes, a phone, and a watch. He left and gave himself the name Kafka. We never learn his real name. Due to Kafka’s fear of being abandoned, he never made friends or create close relationships with anyone in his life. This fear causes him to leave people along his journey to ensure he will not be hurt again. The first girl he meets on his journey is named Sakura. She met him on his first bus ride. He was timid and did not speak much, but she was persistent in becoming friends. They exchanged numbers after Kafka told her he was 17. She assured him if he needed a place to stay, he could give her a call. Kafka called her after he woke up being unconscious and covered in blood. She let him stay over and said he could stay for however long he needed. However, due to his innate fear of being abandoned, he left the next morning without her knowing. Kafka did not have a place to sleep that night, but his habits of isolating himself caused him to leave someone he somewhat cared about. He was attracted to her, which made him even more fearful of abandonment. Deep down, Kafka wants to connect with others. He does not want to be all by himself anymore. His constant creation of walls builds around himself, and loneliness causes him to continually make bad decisions regarding his relationships with others.
Memory plays a massive role for every character in Kafka on the Shore, especially Kafka. Each character has a complicated relationship with the memory. For example, Miss Saeki, who is a middle-aged woman that runs Komura Memorial Library, lives inside her memories. She keeps replaying past actions and emotions in her mind, which prevents were from enjoying living in the moment and stops her from giving meaning to her life. She fears change — however, Kafka as the most complicated relationship to memory. Kafka has holes in his memory, which he longs to fill. He does not remember the face of his mother or his sister, which also plays a roll in him being unable to forgive his mother’s past actions. At the beginning of the novel, Kafka is excited to leave his past behind and create a new life for himself, but his past trauma quickly catches up to him which leads to him making several bad decisions, such as leaving Sakura, a girl he saw a future with, the moment he had the chance, taking him back to where he started: alone. Kafka also struggles with his identity. Memory and loneliness connect under the overall theme of his identity. Kafka often wishes to leave his body, which contains the DNA which connects him to his emotionally abusive father and mother, who abandoned him. Nevertheless, unfortunately for Kafka, this will always be apart of him. This causes an inner conflict within himself and almost leads to his complete destruction.
Kafka’s long journey through the small mountainside town is filled with confusion, loneliness, and loss. But Kafka overcomes this after a long journey filled with his own self-destructive tendencies. It is no surprise how broken he was. For almost his entire life, all he knew was abandonment and hatred. So, putting himself in a box and never creating close relationships was his way of protection. Kafka was secure and independent, but Murakami demonstrates that the ability to be alone is essential — but it is equally as important to allow support from others.
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