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“A Family Supper,” by Kazuo Ishiguro

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“A Family Supper,” by Kazuo Ishiguro, is a story of uncertainty, nervousness, emotions, and loss of love in the family. The narrator, Ishiguro, is a Protagonist, was born in the Tokyo, Japan. He is returning home from California some two years after the death of his mother. After the WWII, Watanabe’s despondency of the loss of the company leads him to take his life and his family members. The Protagonist’s mother, who is believed by her husband to have lost hope in her life, commits a suicide as well. The Protagonist’s father who lives with the loss of his wife and his friend and business partner, Watanabe, feels hopelessness that leads him to consider suicide as a relief from loneliness and guilt. “A Family Supper,” by Kazuo Ishiguro explores the psychology of the desperate father, whose uncertainty about his life will be judged by the bond of love he shares with his son.

This story takes place in Japan after WWII. Kazuo Ishiguro returns his native home from California to visit his father and his sister, who lives in the Kamakura district. The garden creates an atmosphere of anxiety and worries: “Much of the garden had fallen into shadow” (466). The garden provides sensory background about her mother. Her worries, beliefs in ghosts, and disappointment on her son’s behavior leads her to commit suicide as narrator agrees that “My relationship with my parents had become somewhat strained around the period” (465). It’s a part of Japanese culture that people don’t live a disgrace life. It’s an honor to die. Suicide for the business partner and even for the air force pilots is glorified by the father. The description of the house contributes conflict and also reveals his father’s character. The protagonist, while walking through his old home, remarks “I had forgotten how large the house was […] but the rooms were all startlingly empty” (469).

This parallels with the illustration of his father – the owner of the house – who closes himself off emotionally from the rest of the world, including his children; when the protagonist asks his sister if their father is overly upset concerning the fall of his company, she replies “Don’t know. You can never tell with father” (468). The large, empty, cold rooms can be likened to the father, who appears statue of emotions and warmth. The Father foresees his future with no body at his home. He wants some one who take care him. He would feel happy if Ishiguro stays there: “If you wish to stay here, I mean in this house, you would be very welcome” (472). A model of battleship symbolizes glorious death and victory, love, and pride of real happiness. In every battle, an army tries to defeat their enemies. The bond of trust and love help them fulfill their dreams. The dreams and love, which their family depends on has been shattered by Ishiguro’s behavior.

The story is written in first person prospective, allowing us to know and understand the thoughts of his father and himself. However, Ishiguro thoughts are never given for himself, but we can portray his character through the conversation and his actions as negligence and irresponsible son, who doesn’t care about his family and the need of love, which his parents expect from him. At once, he can’t recognize his mother’s photograph: “Who is that old women in the white kimono” (470). On one side he says that she looks lot older, but on the other side he says, “It’s dark. I can’t see it very well” (470). The father is melancholic because his business has recently collapsed. Moreover, there are some family conflicts that are presented only indirectly: the father is prepared to forget his son’s unspecified “behavior” (466) in the past and longs for that time when his business did not involve “foreigners” (466); the son (the narrator) recalls his father striking him when he was a boy; the sister contemplates immigration to America with her boyfriend.

These conflicts are what the characters do not talk about. The father approves his partner’s action for its particular ethic and its general bravery: he calls his partner “a man of principle and honor” (466); later, the father says he wishes that he had been a pilot during the war, because “in an airplane . . . there was always the final weapon” (470). Ishiguro’s parents accepted their fault for sending him in the America. The son, who had been living in the America, has forgotten the custom and culture of Japan and doesn’t approve of his father’s values: “Perhaps I should have been more attentive father” (469). With the mother’s death as background and the partner’s suicide as foreground, death will be better decision for father to reunite and fulfill the bond of love.

Ishiguro’s use of language plays a crucial role in expressing the central idea. The family in Ishiguro’s story have become alienated. We see this alienation and lack of love in the imagery and symbolism. The darkness of night and the garden indicate their dark and broken relationship: “The light in the garden had grown very dim” (468). The metaphor show a father terrify and rigorous personality: “stony jaw and furious black eyebrows” (466). The simile conveys the generation gap and shattered relationship which creates many conflicts: “chattering like and old women” (466). The father is traditional and strict; he held himself responsible for his son’s life and change in his attitude.

The father admires his friend’s sacrifice and his wife’s respect and dedication by serving a fish. It creates quite nervousness for the narrator, who imagine that father may be trying to poison the family as he asks “Kikuko tells me Watanabe-San took his family with him” (471). His father lowers his eyes and nod. A model of battleship symbolizes his broken family. The father portrays his cracked family by spinning the battleship in his fingers, which is facing lots of storms and its survival may be impossible. Now the father doesn’t see any light in the clusters of clouds refers the situation as “‘These little gunboats here could have been better glued, don’t you think'” (469). The narrator is unfortunate that he doesn’t see any holes in his family relationship, which he claims as “It looks fine” (470).

The tone is emotional and formal. We see the father always in the sense of uncertainties, nervousness, and desire to have faithful relationship. The narrator is sloppy and never looks at his father’s emotions. The father shows him that the bond of love between father and son is far behind the battleship. He illustrates his love by calling his friend “A man of principle and honor” (466). The father offers Ishiguro the opportunity to stay with him by showing “all startlingly empty” (469) rooms. He is desperate that his traumatized family can never be happy. The author beautifully conveys this message by lots of pauses and soft gently conversation. The isolation, the father will feel, leaves an option for him to commit suicide instead of living a disgraceful life. A life with no ambitions will definitely demolish.

Kazuo Ishiguro through his emotional feeling and imagery illustrates the need of love and bond of relationship we share in our lives. He proves that how important our elders need love and compassion. Relationship is not about isolation from the rest of the world. It’s all about winning the hearts and minds of our elders. Never ever let them feel alone, as the mother never leaves her child alone. The pillars of love will definitely create strong and united families.

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