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A family supper is a short story written by Kazao Ishiguro, a well-renowned Japanese writer known for his tactful inclusion of emotions and his preferential use of widespread symbolism in his work. The family supper is an example of his distinct writing style that holds deeper meaning and significance as a form of creative writing. The plot, character analysis and setting reflect a range of themes that reside throughout the story (Das 12).
The story is set in Kamakura district, in modern day Tokyo, Japan. The region was synonymous with the well-known Samurai Japanese tribe. According to Beardsley and Smith (23), the Samurai tribe upheld the rich and traditional Japanese culture that had been passed down many generations. The age-old traditions provided a social balance in the Japanese community as individuals could easily relate with different situations without compromising the status-quo.
The participation of Japan in the World War II led to the introduction of new rules that threatened to upset the familiar Japanese culture (Prasol 38). The war changed perceptions of traditions as well as roles of individuals in the society. This situation rocked the quiet country as individuals sought to find their place in the new society under new sets of rules. As expected, this change did not augur well with the older generation who sought to cling to the old and familiar Japanese culture.
The Japanese history explained above is vital for understanding the basis of the story as presented in this paper.
Thesis statement: The acceptance of change is vital for the survival of individuals in the society.
The story involves three main characters, the narrator, his father and Kikuki, his sister. The narrator returns home to Tokyo for an uncertain period of time after spending 17 years in California. The story is presented in form of an alternate dialogue between two characters. The narrator returns home to join his family for a special supper organized by his father. The family was meeting for the first time after the death of the narrator’s mother. The story begins with the recognition of ‘fugu’, a Japanese term for blowfish or puff fish. The narrator makes a special mention of the fish as a result of his unfortunate encounter following the death of his mother from partaking in the meal. His mother did not like fugu but was anxious to please her friend from school.
The narrator did not keep in contact with his family and from his visit, he comes to learn that his father’s partner of 17 years, Watanabe, had commited suicide and killed his entire family in the process. His father identifies him as a man of principle and honor. His father’s firm collapses as a resulf of foreign intrusion as the two partners do not manage to cope with their demands. As a result, he retires and takes up a hobby in ship-building that helps him reminisce of his time as a war veteran. He also tries to convince the narrator to come back to Tokyo and live with him in the big house. The narrator is non-commital, although his father is confident his sister will move back with him once she finishes her university studies.
The narrator’s father prepares the special meal and the readers are left in suspense over the type of fish prepared, whether it is fugu or just fish.
The best way to interprete the story is to understand the symbolism present throughout the story. The presiding theme represents generational changes in society. The differences between the old and young generation are evident in terms of their divergent views on social and political aspects of society. The narrator’s father represents the older generation that wears a defeated and bitter face. This generation struggles to hold on to traditions that have been passed by time as they try to fight a losing battle with the changes taking place in the Japanese society. This situation takes place after the World War II when Japan changes its medieval traditional structures to emerge as a modern powerhouse (Alston and Isao 33). The old generation finds itself in a difficult position as it is forced to adapt to the new changes that includes aspects of foreign patterns that were previously looked down upon (Reed 45).
The conversation cues in the story indicate the nature of relationship between the individuals involved. For instance, the narrator’s father spoke succinctly and straight to the point. His tone indicated an end to the point made to the extent that it discouraged additional conversation. This is indicated in the dialogue that takes place between the narrator or his sister and their father. However, the tone of conversation changes when the narrator communicates with his sister as it creates a cheerful and easy environment for friendly conversation. These differences are attributed to the generational gap.
The narrator’s father is from the old generation that believes that young men should not chatter like old women (Das 44). On the other hand, the free-flowing conversation between the narrator and his sister represents the new generation that is free to discuss any topic and express themselves while doing so. In addition,the narrator’s father, a war veteran, also believes in war as a means to settle differences. These sentiments are not shared by his son, thereby depicting differences in beliefs between the two generations.
The business partner to the narrator’s father, Watanabe, takes his own life as well as that of his family as he fails to adapt to the new changes in society. He views the collapse of the business as a failure on his part as he chooses not to adopt the changes into his familiar system. The narrator’s father lables him a man of honor as a result of taking a stand against foreign intrusion. This situation represents the lack of tolerance by the older generation to accommodate foreign practices that consequently contributes to the growth of the Japanese economy (Xiaoming 29).
However, the narrator’s father appears to change his stand about his partner’s suicide towards the end of the story. Upon the clarification from the narrator about the suicide, he indicates that the pressure at work might have clouded Watanabe’s judgment thereby resulting to him killing his family. In addition, the narrator’s father indicated that there is more to life than work and he regrets not having spent enough time with his children.
Fugu in this case represents the old generation while fish represents the new generation. The decision to hold on to old traditions ultimately leads to death, as in the case of the narrator’s mother as well as the business partner. The narrator’s father expresses an interest to adapt to new practices as depicted by his optimism of living with his children. Therefore, the narrator’s father served fish at the family supper.
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Alston, John, and Isao Takei. Japanese business culture and practices. London: iUniverse, 2012. Print.
Beardsley, Richard, and Robert Smith. Japanese culture: Its development and characteristics. New York: Routledge, 2013. Print.
Das, Rajanikanta. Analysis of Kazao Ishiguro’s “A family supper”. New York: GRIN Verlag, 2009. Print.
Prasol, Aleksandr. Modern Japan: Japanese traditions and approaches to contemporary life. London: Hackensack, 2010. Print.
Reed, Edward. Japan: Its history, traditions and religions. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012. Print.
Xiaoming, Huang. Modern economic development in Japan and China: Development. Capitalism and the world economic system. New Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013. Print.