A Master of His Domain

A Declaration of My Views and Insight

Archive for the category “Contextual Discussions”

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.

Contextual Discovery: Whirlpools

When first introduced to the whirlpool of the End of the World that the narrator visits in his subconscious, I thought it was quite interesting. I was really interested and confused about this mystic whirlpool. Apparently, it is supposed to be very deadly and will suck anything down into an abyss if they get trapped by it’s current. So I did a little more research on whirlpools; how they are formed and how dangerous they can really be.

Firstly, for a whirlpool to be created two opposing, powerful currents meet at one point and this causes the water to spin and create what we know as a whirlpool. Interestingly enough though, large whirlpools are even called ‘whirlpools’, they are called ‘maelstroms’. When reading Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, I pictured this dangerous whirlpool as the something quite large, like Charybdis from Homer’s The Odyssey, that can destroy anything that happens to fall into it. Yet, something even more interesting is how dangerous these whirlpools truly are. Looking at some websites, such as Wikipedia.or, apparently most whirlpools aren’t very dangerous because they are so small. Some of the larger maelstroms can cause damage to small ships though. One such maelstrom is the Saltstraumen maelstrom whose currents have been recorded flowing at speeds of 25+ miles per hour.

I think this whirlpool in the woods is quite interesting because of where it is and how it brings fear into everyone in The Town. For whirlpools to be created, they are almost always in large expanses of water like oceans, or at a point in a strait where two bodies of water are meeting and their currents are strong enough to cause the water to turn into a vortex. This whirlpool has claimed the lives of a few in this Town and now it has become one of the biggest fears in the townspeople. It’s interesting how this whirlpool could be a representation of the Town itself. It pulls things into its grasp and once they have entered, they can no longer leave. The captured are forced inside and no matter how hard they try, they can’t escape its hold, just like the people of the End of the World Town.

Corryvrechan Whirlpool

I’ve added this link to a youtube video of a whirlpool that has been taped off the cost of Scotland. As you can see, it is in the middle of a large body of water, probably the ocean, and it isn’t the huge catastrophic vortex of popular belief. The boat and people taping are clearly getting quite close to the whirlpool and not being taken into it. Of course, I believe they do have some sort of motorboat, so the powerful motor probably isn’t easily overpowered, but in any case, the horrible picture of a giant water funnel leading to the dark depths of an abyss are of no fear here.


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