The author of The Seventh Man, Haruki Murakami is a Japanese author born on January 12, 1949 in Kyoto, Japan. (Newsmakers). His parents taught Japanese literature and raised him in an remarkably religious and traditional household. Although he showed no regard to Japanese literature, the young scholar enjoyed reading novels and furthering his knowledge of literature from around the world. As a young adult, Murakami valued the importance of jazz music. Specifically, in 1964, Murakami was gifted a concert ticket to see Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers. Newsmakers).
Soon after, in 1974, he and his wife, Yoko Takahashi, opened a jazz bar in Tokyo, Japan, called Peter Cat. The reader can connect Murakami’s musical influence with his writing style by comparing his works to the way a song is written. For example, in an interview, Murakami explains how the harmony is an analogy to how well the scripture flows in a novel. This strategy helped the Japanese scholar and by 1980, the writer had crafted the novel, Hear the Wind Sing. With the eclat of the novel, it won the Gunzo journal’s new writer’s award.
From there, the Japanese author expanded his works and furthered his career. Later, he released Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, in 2013. The novel was later translated in English. (Newsmakers). Most of Murakami’s novels are related to a real world situation or issue of his home country, Japan. In The Seventh Man, the short story is based on a tsunami that killed the main character, “the seventh man’s” best friend. Although it is not confirmed, critics have suggested the novel is based on a disastrous tsunami that hit Japan in 1933.
In the Seventh Man,Murakami uses many religious allusions to portray characterization and tone, which directly ties to the author’s religious background. First, the writer portrays characterization of the seventh man by using words like redemption. The word redemption, in terms of Christianity, directly translates to the action of being saved from evil. (Merriam). Throughout the short story, the man feels guilty for the death of his best friend. He explains what happened the day the tsunami struck. He describes seeing his friend, K. in the huge wave,” And his right arm was stretched out in my direction, as if he were trying to grab my hand and pull me into that other world where he was now…”(Granta).
This direct quote from the novel creates an image in the reader’s mind of a boy transitioning from life on earth to the in-between or heaven, or “another world”. One can gather that Murakami intended for the imagery of K in the wave smiling to be his happiness now that he has left earth to heaven. Also, the Japanese writer uses hell or Devil imagery. In the novel, the seventh man informs the reader he woke up in the hospital after the natural disaster.
He remembers this, “I lost consciousness again, sinking into darkness. ” (Granta). In a religious aspect, darkness corresponds to hell and the Devil. In the bible, hell is perceived as a dark, burning, unpleasant place. In this scene, the seventh man had just lost his best friend and was in a hospital under critical conditions. Both situations have negative connotations which ties into the Devil imagery Murakami presents. Also, Murakami personifies the wave that killed K as being monstrous and often calls it a snake or reptile.
These figurative adjectives for the wave relate to the Devil as well. On the other hand, Murakami refers to water quite often throughout the plot. For example, the fact that a tsunami took his best friend from earth, K’s watercolor paintings, and the seventh man’s nightmares occurring in the ocean. Water has significance in many religions. First in The Bible, “The word “water” is used in a variety of metaphorical ways in Scripture. It is used to symbolize the troublesome times in life that can and do come to human beings, especially God’s children. (Water). ( Psalm 32:6 ;Psalms 69:1 Psalms 69:2 Psalms 69:14 Psalms 69:15 ; Isa 43:2 ; Lam 3:54 ).
In Hinduism and Islam, water symbolizes cleansing powers and both religions have prayers and rituals designed around the beauty of water. Geographically, where both religions originated, water is very important to those regions due to the dry climates. (World Religions). All of these religions are staple religions in the continent of Asia, therefore Murakami relates water to the religions significant to Asia, and more specifically to Japan.
Then, towards the end of the man’s story, he tells the audience that he finally revisited to his hometown after a whole lifetime of avoiding it, He sets up the scene by saying his town looks nothing like it used to and he finally steps foot in the water. The seventh man looks up to the sky and explains how a weight was lifted off his shoulders and he no longer felt guilt or darkness. Looking up to the sky is light imagery, again which ties back to religion. The sky is suggestively where God lives and watches over his children.
The seventh man claims that in order to get past a tough situation, one must face their fears. With God, he faced his fears and overcame his guilt. Therefore, Murakami most likely suggests that with the power of God, people can learn to get through their life struggles. In conclusion, Murakami uses specific imagery related to religion to establish characterization, plot, theme, and other aspects of his short story, It establishes a common theme throughout the novel and can directly compare religion to Asia, since religion is extremely important in that region.