Literary Analysis of 'The Seventh Man' and the Theme of Guilt Highlighted in It

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Imagine taking a daily stroll down the street and witnessing something unexpected: a bully in action. As a witness to this terrible incident, the immediate thought is to intervene, but the physical response is to ignore and avoid the situation. This is the exact dilemma the seventh man faced in the story 'The Seventh Man'. Many people believe that the seventh man should not be held responsible for K.’s death because he was only a child and ran away in fear. Others argue that he should be condemned for leaving his best friend behind. The fictional story 'The Seventh Man', written by Haruki Murakami, is a framed story about a boy who lives with fear and guilt after watching his best friend die but learns to accept his mistake in the future. The seventh man should be culpable for not rescuing his friend because he disregarded the early warnings of the typhoon and decided to run away alone.

The seventh man knew about the forewarnings of the waves and decided to escape on his own. As the seventh man and K. were on the beach, the seventh man knew about the waves and had an ominous feeling, yet he did not take the proper action to evade the upcoming wave. The author states, “I knew instinctively that they were alive. The waves were alive. They knew I was here and they were planning to grab me” (Murakami, 27). This quote demonstrates that he had knowledge about the waves, but did not take immediate action to return back home, as his father told him to do. He also personifies the waves as 'alive' and 'planning to grab me', indicating his fear of the waves, which resulted in his ultimate decision to run away. Furthermore, the seventh man claimed to be his protector, but ran away on his own, even after knowing about the waves. In the story, he claims, “I knew that the wave was coming, and K. didn’t know. As clearly as I knew what I ought to be doing, I found myself running the other way—running full speed towards the dyke, alone” (Murakami, 30). This statement displays the seventh man’s action of running away was completely opposite to what he believed to be the right thing to do. Also, K. did not know about the approaching wave due to the seventh man’s unsuccessful attempt to save him. As a result of the seventh man’s actions, K. was swallowed by the wave, and therefore, the seventh man should be held responsible.

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On the other hand, some would argue that the seventh man did attempt to warn K. and he ran away because of fear. While K. was occupied with something on the beach, the seventh man told him he was going to leave. In the passage, he states, “My fear was totally groundless—and totally real… 'I’m getting out of here!' I yelled to K. He was maybe ten yards down the beach, squatting with his back to me, and looking at something. He might have been so absorbed in whatever it was he found that my call made no impression on him. K. was like that” (Murakami, 27, 28). Although it is true he warned K., this statement mentions a problem K. has—getting absorbed into things and forgetting everything else—and hence shows that the seventh man had prior knowledge about K.’s issue and knew about the possible consequence. Furthermore, he claimed he had time to save K., which shows that he did not truly attempt to rescue him. While it may be true he warned him and his true intentions were to save him, there is a confession from the seventh man that he had time to protect K. The author claims, “I knew the truth. I knew that I could have saved K. if I had tried. I probably could have run over and dragged him out of the reach of the wave. It would have been close, but as I went over the timing of the events in memory, it always seemed to me that I could have made it” (Murakami, 41). The fact that the seventh man confesses he had time to save K. shows he had the capability to rescue him from the wave. In addition, the seventh man describes in detail what he could have done to save K. While, some would argue that he did attempt to warn K., in the end, it was his actions that escalated to K.’s death.

In Haruki Murakami's story, the seventh man's ignoring the signs of danger and escaping on his own demonstrates that he should be liable for K.’s death. Multiple evidence has been presented to demonstrate that the seventh man was indeed responsible for K’s death. The seventh man was fully aware of the warnings but did not take the necessary steps to save K. Moreover, his thoughts clearly indicated that he had a strong desire to save K., but his actions ended up being otherwise. In closing, when faced with a situation in which a difficult decision needs to be made, actions are what ultimately matter in the end, rather than thoughts. Now, looking back at the bullying incident, what was the right thing to do?

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Literary Analysis of ‘The Seventh Man’ and the Theme of Guilt Highlighted in It. (2024, February 28). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 22, 2024, from
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