Why The Elephant Never Mattered

In “The Elephant Vanishes” by Haruki Murakami, An elderly elephant disappears from a suburb outside of Tokyo, but none of it matters. The elephant came into the ownership of the town through somewhat comedic means, and even though it caused quite the uproar for some time, the elephant was never more than an amusing oddity to the town. When the elephant disappears along with its keeper, the town sinks into a temporary state of mass hysteria, but as blame is thrown to just about anyone, the town slowly forgets about the elephant.

Our main character, despite his passion for keeping up on the happenings on this elephant, unfortunately slips back into the functions of everyday life. In time, it is clearly shown that everyone forgets, or wants to forget, about this elephant. Why do they forget? Because the elephant has no significance to them. It’s an oddity; a conversation starter. What did the elephant ever contribute to the town besides some possible publicity? It was simply an abandoned animal, and why the main character ever cared is an illusion.

At the time of the disappearance, there was a lot of attention given to the elephant. There were multiple high class investigations, and it even led to some political unrest. Even though all of these things seem significant, they made no change on the state of the suburb or those living in it. Our main character still went to his day job just like everyone else, and life moved on. The suburb before and after the elephant was the same. The status quo remained the status quo.

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