The protagonist in this novel, a typical Murakami narrator, embarks on a journey to find a special sheep with a star-shaped birthmark in Hokkaido. The sheep with a star-shaped mark on its back serves as a central motif in the story, with potentially nefarious designs for the human race.
The novel weaves together an intricate narrative that blends the surreal with the ordinary, highlighting the complexities of human nature and the impact of ambition and war on society.
The Unnamed Narrator
The protagonist remains unnamed throughout the novel. He is a typical Murakami narrator, often characterized by his nonchalant attitude and cynicism. He co-owns a translating and advertising business and is recently divorced. He embarks on a journey to find the special sheep with a star-shaped birthmark, which sets the events of the story in motion.
The protagonist stands out as a figure of mediocrity, content with a simple life. His disconnection from ambition and his nonchalant demeanor serves as a counterpoint to the characters consumed by power and ambition.
A mysterious character with supernaturally dazzling ears. The protagonist is fascinated by her ears, and despite her claims of them being “blocked” and “dead,” she joins him on the quest. She usually covers her ears with her hair and claims they are “blocked” and “dead.”
She has multiple occupations, including part-time proofreader, commercial model specializing in ear shots, and a member of a discreet intimate friends-only club. She accompanies the protagonist on his quest but is driven out by the Sheep Man. However, she is driven out of the Rat’s residence in Hokkaido by the enigmatic Sheep Man.
A powerful right-wing figure becomes possessed by the special sheep and creates an underground kingdom. However, he is on the verge of death due to a cyst in his brain after the sheep abandons him. The Boss builds an empire fueled by gold and silver from occupied territories.
The Secretary is the Boss’s subordinate and is the one who seeks out the protagonist and orders him to find the special sheep. They play a minor role in the story but serve as a connection between the protagonist and the Boss.
A character who frequently uses God’s telephone number provided by the Boss becomes a caretaker for the protagonist’s nameless cat, Kipper, while the protagonist embarks on his journey.
A close friend of the protagonist and the Rat, owning three bars where they often drink.
The Ainu Youth
The Ainu Youth is from Sapporo and assists Japanese farmers in establishing Junitaki Village. The protagonist encounters him during his search for the Rat and learns about the town’s history and the youth’s personal tragedy tied to war.
The Rat is the protagonist’s friend and sends him two letters throughout the story. It is revealed that the Rat was the last person to be possessed by the special sheep. In order to prevent the sheep from controlling others, the Rat commits suicide while the sheep is asleep inside him.
The Sheep Man
The Sheep Man is a peculiar character who appears in the Rat’s residence disguised as the Rat himself. He exhibits the Rat’s mannerisms, including the habit of looking at his hands. The protagonist later exposes him as the Rat in disguise.
The Sheep Professor
The father of the Dolphin Hotel Owner, who had an illustrious academic career but was dismissed for his involvement with sheep. He was the first character in the story to be possessed by the special sheep. The Sheep Professor becomes a recluse consumed by his obsession with the sheep.
The Dolphin Hotel Owner
A character who connects the protagonist to his father, the Sheep Professor, during their stay at the hotel. The hotel is named after the dolphins from Moby Dick, a reference that recurs throughout the novel.
What themes are in ‘A Wild Sheep Chase?’
As the narrative unfolds, it becomes apparent that A Wild Sheep Chase encompasses more than whimsical magic realism. ‘A Wild Sheep Chase‘ explores themes of humanism, the celebration of the ordinary, and a critique of the forces shaping twentieth-century Japan.
What kind of novel is ‘A Wild Sheep Chase?’
‘A Wild Sheep Chase’ is a magical realism novel that focuses on mundane details, such as cooking, smoking, and drinking, and takes on new significance in light of these themes. It suggests a celebration of the simple joys of life, a rejection of ambitious pursuits tied to corruption and foreign influence.
What is ‘A Wild Sheep Chase’ about?
This is a surreal and enigmatic novel that blends elements of mystery, fantasy, and social commentary. The story revolves around an unnamed protagonist who embarks on a quest to find a rare sheep with a star-shaped birthmark, as instructed by a powerful figure known as the Boss.
Is ‘A Wild Sheep Chase’ important?
This novel is regarded as one of Murakami’s best. It is considered an important work in Haruki Murakami’s literary career and has garnered significant recognition both in Japan and internationally.