The Disappointment Brought Upon By “The Elephant Vanishes”

“The Elephant Vanishes” is a short story written by Haraki Murakami. Personally, I really enjoyed reading this story, however it left me feeling extremely unsettled. One of the key factors to this story that drew me in is the fact that I wanted to know what happened to this mysterious elephant. As soon as the narrator started talking about the news article where the elephant went missing with no trace as to how it disappeared, I was entranced. While I continued to read, I was on the edge of my seat anticipating the big reveal of what truly happened, with a sudden twist in the story that none of us were expecting. But, that never came. In many of the previous stories we had read, there was a science fiction twist to them, always creating a sense of unknown and an unlimited amount of possible explanations. So, with this in the back of my mind, I was waiting for some unexpected explanation to occur.

While I understand that leaving the readers with such a cliffhanger was very intentional, and even may add to the story in so many ways, I was very bothered with it. As someone who does not like the unknown, and is constantly trying to figure out more information, this was a very unsettling ending for me. Not only were we left not really having any information about the author besides his interest in the elephant, but we also have absolutely no understanding of what truly happened to the elephant. What started off as a curiosity about this strange, mysterious creature, quickly turned into anger about how we will not ever realize how the elephant escaped. Was the elephant even real? Physically how did any of this make any sense? And I suppose we will never know.

9 thoughts on “The Disappointment Brought Upon By “The Elephant Vanishes”

  1. lsuchomel37

    After reading “The Elephant Vanishes”, I too was left feeling annoyed about the cliffhanger. I agree that it added to the story, but I think it did so on a whole other level. The reason that the narrator becomes fascinated with the elephant is that he cannot explain how it vanished. I feel as if Murakami hooks us into the disappearance of the elephant because we cannot explain it. If we could offer a realistic explanation, then our fascination with the story is lost, and we simply remember it as a story with a twist at the end. The cliffhanger in the case of “The Elephant Vanishes” leaves room for discussion and interpretation. If the story did not include this wide area for us to think about, it would not be much of a story at all.

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  2. mdaniels76

    I agree, this story really did leave me in unsettled anticipation. When the narrator described to his date that the elephant shrunk, I believed him completely. I think because he was so sure of himself and normally so sane and neat my mind had developed a trust in his character and saw no reason to not believe him. But in class when we began discussing whether or not the elephant really shrunk, if the elephant keep escaped with him, or whether or not the elephant existed at all, I really had to rewire my brain and take on a different perspective. The author was so enamored with the elephant I feel like some parts of it could have been a figment of his imagination (like the shrinking) because he needed something to offset the balance of his life and he was really not so sane at all. But now I think that the elephant was gotten rid of by his town’s government. I guess it ended that way so we coud decide what happened.

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  3. IRIS JUNKER

    I 100% agree with this. While the style of the story was interesting, it left me with many unanswered questions that I didn’t like. Having such a gap between the unknown in a story and what’s real, I think it was hard for me to grasp the true meaning of the story when I had so many questions at the end. I personally thought that the elephant and the story weren’t real in the first place, rather it was something made up in the mind of our main character. But because everything was so vague, it made it hard to come up with a legitimate answer for what was even happening in the story.

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    1. Connor D

      I disagree. I think the real meaning of the story directly involves the fact that we don’t know for sure what happened. I think if we knew, the story would lose some of its power.

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  4. Vivian P

    I think that the author proposes these theories of the keeper taking the elephant or the elephant shrinking down, to show the desperation of the narrator. He wants to know what’s going on, he wants to find the elephant but he has limited powers to do so. I also agree with what Lucy said about how the cliffhanger was needed. If we knew where the elephant was, than the story wouldn’t be anything. The elephant vanished. /That’s/ the story.

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  5. Alex Y

    I agree this post quite a bit; I mean, who doesn’t want to know about what happens to the elephant. I also agree with the fact that it’s a bit unsettling to that point that it causes anger, because not knowing who the elephant vanishes is rather bizarre for a story about an elephant vanishing. However, I don’t that this absence takes away from the story nor does it make it any less realistic: so often in life we believe that things have to have a shocking twist ending or satisfying conclusion and yet more often than not things end anticlimactically. I think that this anticlimax adds a lot to the theme of realism, because all throughout the story, the narrator is looking, searching for this special meaning and revelation about this elephant. And yet, there’s nothing. But I think that’s okay, because that’s how life is.

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  6. Ella B

    I definitely found the lack of conclusion frustrating. I too wanted to know what had happened to the elephant. Still I think that a desperation to learn the ending helps one to identify with the narrator.

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  7. Toby K

    I agree as well, I think the story was one of the more interesting that we read. It had the best beginning and had me hooked from the start and I became more and more interested in how the elephant had escaped. After finishing the story, I was angry with the author for writing a great story but leaving the reader out to dry. I also disagree that the author’s ending helps the reader understand the narrator, Murakami just did us dirty.

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  8. Grace S

    I agree, I was left unsettled when nothing more happened in the story. I kept trying to look at the story in a different way but as you said I think the author intended for it to be that simple. I think that the story was interesting but very frustrating. The elephant vanished and gave us no explanation.

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