A Wild Sheep Chase

by Haruki Murakami

Start Free Trial

How is the story in chapter 29 of A Wild Sheep Chase a foil for the novel ?

Chapter 29 of A Wild Sheep Chase serves as a foil for the novel as a whole in that the story of the Ainu youth's search for identity contrasts with the unnamed narrator's search for his identity.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

A Wild Sheep Chase is Haruki Murakami's third novel. In this postmodern take on the detective novel, Murakami's unnamed narrator goes on a search for a strange sheep with a star-shaped birthmark for a man known as "The Boss." In chapter 29, the narrator and his lover take a train from Sopporo to Asahikawa. On the way, he reads the Authoritative History of Junika Township, which tells the story of an indigenous Ainu youth who guides a group of dirt farmers from Tsugaru to the land which eventually comes to be known as the Junika Township.

The Ainu youth serves as a foil for the narrator, and his journey subsequently serves as a foil for the novel (the narrator's journey) as a whole. The narrator of Murakami's novel is journeying to find the sheep for The Boss, whom he does not know. It is only over the course of the novel that he (somewhat) discovers why The Boss is looking for the sheep and what the sheep is. Similarly, the Ainu youth (also unnamed) is embarking on a long journey to guide the farmers to fertile land. It is only later that he discovers that the farmers are not looking for fertile land but to escape their creditors. For both of them, the apparent goal of their journey is unknown, and so are the reasons. Metaphorically, both their journeys are about a quest for their own identity.

On a more metaphysical level, the Ainu youth's search for identity serves as a foil for the narrator's search for his own. After guiding them to the land they settle down in, the Ainu youth "chose to stay on with the settlers." When the government gave the villagers sheep as part of a military campaign, he

learned methods of sheep raising from the territorial official and took on the responsibility of the village pasture. There is no knowing exactly why he became so devoted to the sheep.

The youth finds his identity and dies as a Ainu shepherd. The narrator, on the other hand, realizes in the climax that his quest for the sheep was simply a distraction from banalities of his life. At the end, he never discovers his identity or his own desires. While the youth's initial journey is taken for the farmers, he eventually discovers what he likes—the sheep. The narrator never truly discovers what he wants outside of what he does for others. In this way, the indigenous Ainu youth serves as a foil for the modern-day, Westernized narrator, making chapter 29 a foil for the novel as a whole.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team