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Family Supper Essay

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A Family Supper by Kazuo Ishiguro

A Family Supper, by Kazuo Ishiguro, is a short story that begins with the son of a Japanese family returning to Japan to meet his family.

After hearing about his mother and dad’s business partner’s death, his sister and him talk and catch up, and they have dinner later on with the father. The story concludes with him and his father waiting for his sister to bring them some tea. This story is told in first person point of view, and the main theme that revolves throughout the story is the clash between different generations, as it creates a differentiation in the understanding of certain aspects of life, and it brings more parts of a Western lifestyle into traditional Japanese culture.

This theme is developed through the use of symbolism, plot elements, and tone.

Symbolism is used throughout the short story A Family Supper to further uncover the main theme of the clash between the different generations. Firstly, the exposition of the story opens up with the description of the Fugu fish, which when eaten without caution, causes “poisoning” and “is hideously painful and almost always fatal” (Page 1).

The fish symbolizes death. In addition to this, later on in the story the family get together to have fish soup, and the son even waits till the father eats it first, and then follows similarly, displaying signs of caution and awareness of how he does not know what type of fish he is eating. The Fugu fish does not directly link to the theme, but the content of which it symbolizes, which is death, connects to the theme of how the generation gap causes different perspectives on the way life should be lived, with the father “believing in war”, while the son does “Not particularly” believe in it (Page 4). Another strong symbol is the garden in the house, as during those scenes the son and daughter talk a lot and catch up, freely displaying their emotions on what they plan and where they plan to go later on in their life.

Therefore, this symbolizes the fact that the garden is a sign of freedom of speech and relaxation, as they both unwind the most during these moments and talk to one another without any second thoughts and hesitations. The children only freely talk to each other once the presence of the father is dismissed, indicating another connection between this and the theme of the conflict within the generational divide.

The third symbol found in the novel is the battleship model, which represents the son’s broken family. The father introduces the battleship by spinning it in between his fingers and mentioning how “These little gunboats here could have been better glued…” (Page 4). The lose attachment of the boats symbolize the weak bond betwe.....[read full text]

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Most of the story builds up the suspense through vague descriptions of events and situations, which finally ends on a cliffhanger. The ambiguity created also brings about tension for the reader, as they try to figure out what exactly is happening. This strain can be associated with the father’s emotions of how he is under tension from living alone, and how he must “Not only lose his children, but lose them to things he doesn’t understand” (Page 4), which is brought about from a generational division. The third plot element that stood out the most is the climax.

This can be interpreted as to when it happened, but the most obvious climax is when he “went on gazing into the darkness past my father's shoulder,” at a photograph of his mother and can not recognize her (Page 4).

The fact that he can not recognize his own mother after a few years of not seeing or regularly talking to her, shows how different generations have altered their ways of living together, the complete opposite of how it used to be in Japan, with children living with their parents and taking care of them. The plot elements that make up the story, but more importantly contribute to the overarching theme of how conflicts arise from a generation gap, include the cliffhanger, rising action, and climax.

          The third literary device used to provide further develop the theme of the conflict between different generations, is the narrator’s tone. The tone at the exposition of the story opens with the starting sentences of how a Fugu “fish has held a special significance for me ever since my mother died after eating one”, depicting how the narrator ignites the story in aa emotional yet formal manner (Page 1).

The emotion depicted here can be related to the way the father feels about his family, and the fact that he lives alone without his children and feels that his “house is too large for a man to live in alone” (Page 4). This was not a common situation in the past, as children normally end up taking care of their parents.

However, the modern generation gap has brought about a changed way in viewing the ways that life can be lived in. The tone’s formality may also be due from the fact that the son is more nervous and hesitant with the presence of his father, as his “relationship with my [his] parents had become somewhat strained” (Page 1). The narrator’s tone shifts from a gloomy one to a more positive, eventful and content tone with the arrival of the main character’s sister, Kikuko, yet it remains formal. The fact that the tone only shifts after the father’s presence is gone displays how the different generations cannot relate to each other comfortably and freely, and their hidden aspects are only shared amongst their friends or siblings. The third tone alteration occurs during the end of the novel, when the family “bowed to each other before starting .....

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A Family Supper

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Autor: Nabeel Mamar  •  November 12, 2015  •  Essay  •  608 Words (3 Pages)  •  743 Views

Nabeel Mamar

Mrs. Brooks

Period 2

10/28/15

A Family Supper  

  1. By doing this the author foreshadows that the knowing about this poisonous fish is important since later in the story they are eating fish. The whole story discusses death and how dying can be honorable in Japanese culture. This puts more of an emphasis on the fist and the importance of Japanese culture to the father which seems to be ignored by the children.  
  2. The narrator being from California has lost the essence of the Japanese culture will values family. The farther may be disappointed in his son because of this. The son has experience new things and has gone on adventure. He lives with his girlfriend. Unlike his father he has forgot about his family. His mother’s death was the only thing that brought him home. His father is very traditional and values family where as his son values new experience. This creates tension between the son and the father. The father never reveals his thoughts about his son’s current state in the story but it is clear that they are there.
  3. Kikuko is a mixture of both. She opens up with her brother but she is very traditional and formal in front of her father. The father says that “She’s a good girl” implying that she is following the values he has better than the son. The sister is also nervous around the father like she feels that she has to keep a good image around him where as the son doesn’t really care how he acts. Her values are of both her brother and her parents. She shows lots of respect to the traditional ways but even her is considering living with her boyfriend and living a life similar to that of her brothers. The father is disappointed because neither of the kids truly value their heritage. He feels like they insulted him by living him and his wife.
  4. His suicide shows how extreme the Japanese will go to maintain honor. The father is clearly also traditional so it implies that the father might do the same to his kids. The father even claims that Mr. Watanabe was an honorable man even after the suicide and murder of his family. The father claims that he killed his family also because the collapse of the firm was a huge blow and he wouldn’t be able to live after that. Because of his Japanese culture it is rather more probable that this is more of a cultural thing, like that of a samurai.  
  5. The ending is appropriate because it leaves whatever happens after to the reader. It is not clear whether the father kills himself and his children but it is suspicious due to the fact that they are eating fish. Also when the kids ask what they are eating the father replies with “just fish” but he doesn’t specify which one so it could be the poisonous one that kill their mother. Also towards the end of the story the father is deep in thought and not being clear with his thoughts. He is clearly thinking about something that he doesn’t want the kids to know about. Also because he might have been a pilot in WW2 he could have been a kamikaze pilot. They commit suicide to take out their target. Since he seems in agreement with the whole dying for honor thing it wouldn’t be a surprise if he killed his kids. Also he is very disappointed in them because of their new values and he could be doing it because he feels insulted or dishonored.

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