A Wild Sheep Chase

by Haruki Murakami

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There are no proper names used in the entire novel. Why do you think the author chose not to include these names? Do you believe this style helped or harmed the story?

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Murakami’s work usually inhabits a mystical, experimental, magical-realist space (Norwegian Wood being the noted exception) which often makes it difficult to make any real assertions about his work. The choice to forego the use of names in A Wild Sheep Chase does add to the mystic vibe of the story. The lack of monikers give it the feel of a parable. Because he did not name the narrator specifically, the events of the novel feel as if they could happen to anyone; it is easier for the reader to insert themself in the narrator’s place, or the place of any other character in the novel.

The lack of names might also be exploring the idea of the lack of cultural identity in Japan post-WWII, a definite theme of the novel. The readers do not know who the characters are, but perhaps the characters do not know who they are, either. A Wild Sheep Chase is also a novel dealing with themes of unknown mystical power, and by withholding names from the characters, the world of the novel feels as though it is inhabited by empty vessels, through whom trends, forces and powers might move. Finally, without names, the markers of each character become immutable: “The boss” and “The Rat,” for example, inhabit their designations completely. The choice not to name his characters seems to help Murakami’s novel immensely—but that is a matter of opinion.

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