As the war in Afghanistan continues and as climate change causes more natural disasters, we are left with survivors who often feel guilty about surviving. Although it may sound ridiculous to the average citizen, survivor’s guilt is very common among veterans and those who have survived natural disasters. These people often feel guilty over matters they have no control over and situations in which they couldn’t have done anything. Haruki Murakami writes about this very thing in “The Seventh Man”. In Haruki Murakami’s “The Seventh Man”, the main character suffers from survivor’s guilt for many years but he should have forgiven himself long ago. The short story revolves around a man, who has been given the nickname “the seventh man”, telling a group of people and the reader of the death of his childhood best friend whom he calls K.
The seventh man’s trauma occurs when he is only an elementary student; he was only a child, thus it would be irrational and very cruel to believe that a child should not forgive himself early on or that he shouldn’t forgive himself at all. A young child’s mind has not finished developing yet so of course when he saw his best friend die, it greatly affected him to the point that he couldn’t marry someone because of the nightmares he received. For many years the seventh man believes that his friend’s final facial expression is one of anger with a wicked wide grin on his face, it is not until the seventh man’s brother sends the seventh man water paintings made by K. that leads to the seventh man’s revaluation of K.’s death. The seventh man realised that after all those years that K.’s face might have been displaying a gentle smile of eternal parting. “For no matter how long I continued to look at the picture, I could find nothing in it but a boy’s gentle, innocent spirit.”(paragraph 54) This revaluation led to the seventh man forgiving himself which led him to get over the trauma he experienced.
Although some say in the time it took the seventh man to yell to K. and the time he stood behind the dyke he might have been able to carry or persuade K. to move away from the wave in time to run to safety. This didn’t happen because we know that the seventh man was so terrified that he couldn’t find the power to move or talk. The seventh man describes this as “…a fear so overpowering it took my voice away and set my legs to running on their own.” (paragraph 30) We also know that as soon as the wave swallowed K. and the seventh man saw K.’s body he passes out and is either taken to his family or his father’s hospital by a neighbor so if he had gone to grab K., the seventh man might have died along with K.
The seventh man blames himself for many years because he was the only one that could have possibly saved K. but according to “The Moral Logic of Survivor Guilt” by Nancy Sherman, the seventh man was not morally responsible for the death of K. The seventh man’s life was at risk so his body reacted for him and ran while K. was observing something on the beach despite the warning the seventh man gave him. If it were not for the seventh man’s quick reflexes, the seventh man would have died as well. Despite the fact that the seventh man wished that he could have done something to save a K., causing him to think of K.’s death for several years, he wouldn’t have been able to do anything; therefore the seventh man should allow himself to forgive himself as he should have done many years ago.