Murakami’s peculiar writing style in “The Elephant Vanishes”

Reading “The Elephant Vanishes,” one thing I noticed was the major differences in writing and storytelling style between Murakami Haruki and George Saunders. Compared to Saunders’ style, which is very action-packed and transports the reader directly into his world, Murakami’s style tends to be slower, but in a very particular fashion. While he skips over entire months after the elephant vanishes (packet page 36), he focuses, with peculiar intensity, on the elephant-house dedication ceremony (packet page 34). 

Having read other work by Murakami, I noticed that this style is consistent throughout most of his writing. While this style does give some parts of his writing a “slower” feel, it actually gives the reader more insight into the stories he is trying to tell. Specifically, by showing some parts and omitting others from the narrator’s perspective, readers are better able to understand their perspective and opinions. As a result, I feel that I know and understand the narrator in “The Elephant Vanishes” better than I do Robin in “10th of December,” for example. However, in my opinion, George Saunders’ writing is more enjoyable due to its fast-paced, engrossing nature. 

Coping with Struggle via Chess

202 Checkmates is an action-packed story with tons of insight into the game of chess, financial crisis, and a difference in parenting styles. Within this short story, the reader is thrown into the relationship and life of a daughter and father. Both of these characters have a strong bond with the game of chess, and at times, use it to cope with outside struggles. Throughout the short story we are shown multiple games of chess and how at times, we lose ourselves in something of passion and joy. Regardless of the financial struggles that the father faces, he is able to use chess as a positive device to combat his rather difficult lifestyle.

As the story transitions, we learn that the father creates issues inside and outside of the household setting. This is evident through the mother’s disapproval of the father’s work ethic and the game of chess. The mom goes on to claim that “Chess doesn’t get work done”, reinforcing the idea that the father’s passion for the game is perhaps a waste of time. The conflicting relationship between the mother and father in the story hone in on how parental influence and marriage conflict directly affect the child. In this case, the daughter distances herself from the father as he starts to become absent in their household. All in all, 202 Checkmates is a short story full of real-life struggles and how we deal with difficulties.