Sunday, June 3, 2018

The Seventh Man by Haruki Murakami Analysis

The Seventh Man by Haruki Murakami is a short story written from the narrator’s perspective - about his life. The author gave the name "The Seventh Man" because the story was told by the narrator in front of others, probably six people. Numbers have significance dependent on culture, so the other interpretations of the title may exist too. This story is a classic example of suspense as a genre of literature. Here is the first line of the story:

A huge wave nearly swept me away,” said the seventh man, almost whispering. “It happened one September afternoon when I was ten years old.

The narrator detailed his life in a small Japanese town which was located on the shore of the ocean. The story was about his friendship with his classmate, he named him in the narrative as K. That boy had a kind of speech impediment. K. was frail, so the narrator always played his protector. As an artist however, K. was great, as it was said in the story, "Just give him a pencil or paints and he would make pictures that were so full of life that even the teacher was amazed." There two friends used to play together on the seaside. They were close to each other like brothers.

One day a heavy typhoon was going to hit the town. The schools and shops were closed,. The radio informed them it was going to be the worst storm in ten years, they warned people against leaving their homes. The narrator's family like other people in the town prepared emergency bags with water and food, nailed wood panels to their home’s doors and windows. The wind caused a lot of damage, blowing roofs off houses and capsizing ships. Many people had been killed or injured by flying debris.

Suddenly the storm disappeared. The weather became quiet, it was possible to hear a bird crying in the distance. The narrator asked his father to allow him to go outside the house. The father said that the narrator could walk around for a few minutes because the wind would come back. K. saw the narrator and asked where he was going. “Just down to look at the beach,” the narrator said. K. and his little dog joined the narrator.

Two friends went to the beach just as always, but now everything looked different, "the color of the sky and of the sea, the sound of the waves, the smell of the tide, the whole expanse of the shore.
 The waterline was much farther away than usual, even at low tide. They were examining the things that had washed ashore. The author described it, "Plastic toys, sandals, chunks of wood that had probably once been parts of furniture, pieces of clothing, unusual bottles, broken crates with foreign writing on them, and other, less recognizable items: it was like a big candy store."

The narrator described the feelings which crept him, "something ominous about them—something like the touch of a reptile's skin—had sent a chill down my spine.". He cried K. to go out of there, but his voice did not seem to have reached him. "He might have been so absorbed in whatever it was he had found that my call made no impression on him. K. was like that."

The narrator stood near the breakwater, and when a huge wave came, he survived. But K. with his dog had no chances to escape. The wave had swallowed them. The narrator stood near the breakwater and the second tremendous wave came. This is a description of the storyteller what he saw:

"In the tip of the wave, as if enclosed in some kind of transparent capsule, floated K.'s body, reclining on its side. But that is not all. K. was looking straight at me, smiling ...— it was a big, wide-open grin that literally stretched from ear to ear. His cold, frozen eyes were locked on mine. He was no longer the K. I knew. And his right arm was stretched out in my direction, as if he were trying to grab my hand and pull me into that other world where he was now".

The life of the main character changed dramatically after that. He hardly ever recovered after the tragedy. Nobody blamed him even parents of his friend K. He was in a deep depression for years, K. came to him in nightmares. He left the town trying to escape from this delusion, but memories pursued him.

Being already an elderly man, the narrator came back to his hometown. Everything had changed since he was young. There was no house of his family, no house where K. lived. The narrator walked through the beach. We stood there and thought, "It began to seem as if the whole thing were an illusion that I had dreamed up in vivid detail. And then I realized that the deep darkness inside me had vanished. Suddenly. As suddenly as it had come."

The main character suffered all his life trying to recover from a disaster and the loss he experienced following a devastating childhood tragedy. As it was made clear at the end of the story, losing health and turning to insanity could have been avoided it if the narrator had accepted the fact. The narrator recounted events that took place before the beginning of the story. This technique helped readers to understand the seventh man and his struggle to recover from tragedy. There are some practical points which could help people to recover after tragedy: talking about it, to be open for communication with society - many people would agree, it makes sense.

This is a link to the original text of the story: