The Elephant Vanishes and the Absence of Unity

The Elephant Vanishes by Haruki Murakami tells the story of an elephant that disappears along with its keeper without a trace from its pen in suburban Tokyo. The story is told from the perspective of an unnamed narrator who has shown a fascination with the elephant, and who finds himself confused with the seemingly impossible to explain escape. We later learn the extent of the narrator’s interest with the elephant. He watched the elephant and its keeper interact and he was struck by the bond they shared. He repeatedly brings up the unspoken trust between the two.

The story seems to be a critique of the lack of unity in the modern world. The narrator lives by himself and is fascinated by the elephant and keeper because of their unity. He even remarks during his job how he finds unity important. The narrator speaks to a woman in a bar, and while the two seem interested in each other, the topic of the elephant sours the conversation, and an attempt at unity between the two fails. The narrator says that he feels his life has become monotonous and bland in his high ranking corporate job. A point is made to show that the narrator’s company insists on using the English word “kitchen” rather than the Japanese word. I believe that this story is a vehicle for Murakami to criticize contemporary Japan.

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