In the short story “Landscape with Flatiron” by Haruki Murakami, we begin with the main character, Junko, recieving a call from her acquaintance, Miyake, inviting her and her friend Keisuke to come do a bonfire on the beach. The collection this short story is from is set just after the Kobe earthquake in 1995, which inevitably creates the clearly somber and hopeless tone of the story.
Another way the Kobe earthquake makes its way into the story was through each of the characters’ personalities. Starting with Junko, who is perhaps the most obvious of the three, Junko’s feeling of emptiness and her want to give up is especially clear when she described reading “To Build a Fire.” Miyake’s personality shows a similar feeling, especially when he describes how he knows that he’s going to die a slow death of suffocation while trapped inside a refridgerator. Lastly, another example is when Keisuke says
“The trouble is, I don’t have a damn thing to do with anything fifty thousand years ago—or fifty thousand years from now, either. Nothing. Zip. What’s important is now. Who knows when the world is going end? Who can think about the future? The only thing that matters is whether I can get my stomach full right now and get it up right now. Right?”
All of these feelings were common after the disaster in Kobe, as many people felt hopeless and skeptical of whether life would ever return to how it used to be.
One of the objects that is referenced and repeated the most often in Murakami’s short story is fire, which I believe is intended to represent community and family. This is shown clearly when Murakami says
Junko never said much in the presence of the fire. She hardly moved. The flames accepted all things in silence, drank them in, understood, and forgave. A family, a real family, was probably like this, she thought.
Also, in the story, the bonfire is what brings together the three characters, as both Miyake and Junko confess that they each felt some form of connection while watching the fire; Junko thinks of it as what a family might feel like while Miyake experiences “this deep, quiet kind of feeling.” Also, both characters agreed to die at the end, but decided to wait until the fire went out, so that they could “keep it company.”
One part of this story that I would really love to include in my own writing is the incorporation of a real-life event and somehow using the feeling and emotions induced by that event to influence the tone of my writing. Also, another thing I really liked from this piece was the use of one single reoccuring symbolic object throughout the story.