Contextual Discovery: Shadows and The Mind
In the beginning of Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami, the main character has to have his shadow removed to enter the mysterious Town that he has created within his subconscious. In this enigmatic world, the shadow represents an extension of the mind and when it is removed, it slowly dies and eventually the mind of the person the shadow belonged to dies away also. The person forgets completely where they came from or what their life was like before coming to the Town. Also, when losing one’s shadow, and the mind, you lose all emotions, all feelings, anything you might associate with mind.
While reading this book, I tried to figure out what the significance of the removing of one’s shadow could be. What I realized was that the person’s shadow represents a past and things that are hidden. By removing this past, the person has nothing to hide and nothing to go back to, so the only thing for that person to do is live openly and without secrets. Which is also quite ironic for this place, or The Town as it is called, because everything about it is an enigma. The Librarian tells the narrator to stay away from the Woods and the Pool, she doesn’t know exactly why she is afraid, yet she knows she is afraid and many others are too. She calls the Pool “dangerous” and she even says “there is something malign about it.” The people of the Town know things about the Town the narrator does not but they keep this information from him, as secrets, unless specifically confronted. It is as if the people have lost their minds to keep information secret, yet they have the mind to keep some information protected from the narrator.
I did a little internet research on shadows and on the mind and how it works. Firstly, the simple know how to shadows. A shadow is defined as an area where direct light, from some source, cannot reach due to an obstruction from from an object. I found this definition to be really interesting actually. Again, the idea of a shadow seems that there is an area of a person’s life that person is trying to conceal, ergo the shadow. Yet, in the Town, the shadow is stripped from its owner and nothing can be concealed, nothing can be hidden, or kept secret. In this Town, there is not one area of the person’s life that can be obstructed from everyone’s view, which brings to mind this definition of “shadow”. Secondly, there is the mind. From an article from slyasafox.com, the mind is a “pattern recognition system.” The “mind creates, stores, and recognizes” patterns it receives. Your mind can take in raw data and place it into a recognizable pattern which we can decipher. This immediately brings to my mind the end of the story where the narrator works for hours to decipher the pattern and create the Librarian’s mind from the “old dreams” inside the unicorn skulls. This information was at first jumbled, unreadable, and indiscernible when he was originally doing the dreamreading, but when he discovered these “dreams” were actually pieces of the mind, he collected them and pieced them together (or so we believe from the ending of the story). These two objects become one in the sense that the shadow of the story holds the lost pieces of information that one associates with the mind. When this is taken from us, we can no longer decipher, decode, or what-have-you any incoming information; we can only perform what we already know. This reveals how intertwined the shadow and the mind were in this story. To be able to piece together a scrambling of information, we must be able to recognize these random pieces. Since the mind is also the shadow, the person cannot even try to formulate a new pattern with no prior recognition because the mind is not there to piece things together.
The shadow and the mind give some interesting insight into this story. They together illustrate an object of concrete nature for readers about how the mind works for every individual.