I put in only the three body paragraphs, so as not to burden you guys with reading the whole darn thing. Can you please check for mechanical errors, you don't need to care about the story. It's basically a story about a Japanese guy who lived in America and has come back to Japan in order to attend the funeral of his mother, and is now conflicted in whether or not to stay in Japan or to go back to America. Each side has its flaws. We're supposed to critically analyse or break down the story. The main character is the narrator:
The narrator's father appears to be a man who values family honor, tradition, and is very strict. He values integrity and believes strongly in his family. Upon the narrator's arrival, the father suggests considerably, "You must be hungry. We'll eat as soon as Kikuko arrives." (Ishiguro 632) This quote shows how collectivist and interdependent the father's Japanese morals are. It is in the Japanese culture to wait and eat as a family, one that is barely seen in the busy American culture. The Japanese put an immense amount of stress in family honor. They wait around dependently in order to preserve the family during eating. The father also values ethics. "We were partners for seventeen years. A man of principle and honor. I respected him very much." (632) This quote is saying clearly, that the father appreciates a strong sense of right and wrong. He believes in upholding the honor in the family. This is part of the story almost makes it seem like the father was content with the idea of Watanabe killing himself because of the disgrace and dishonor that the old firm has put on the family. This dependence on the integrity of the family is now especially seen in the story. After the mother's death, the father became more concerned about the family.
The narrator's sister is the direct opposite of the narrator's father. She has a much more modernized character, who wants to be westernized. Kikuko starts to talk to the narrator and tells him almost immediately that she has a boyfriend. Obviously, having a boyfriend is not a prevalent theme in conservative Japan. She starts to act jittery when in the narrator's presence, solely for the reason that he is from America.
"I've been dying for a smoke for the last half-hour,' she said, lighting the cigarette.
'Then why didn't you smoke?'
She made a furtive gesture back toward the house, and then grinned mischievously.
'Oh I see,' I said.
'Guess what" I've got a boyfriend now.'
Except I'm wondering what to do. I haven't made up my mind yet.'
'You see, he's making plans to go to America. He wants me to go with him as soon as I finish studying." (633)
This quote clearly states that Kikuko is trying to break free from old Japanese tradition. She has taken up smoking in order to look more western and to fit into a more Japanese society. The sister believes that there is still room for retribution for the narrator. She thinks that the narrator was much more better off because he was the first child, and not the second, which means that there were much less restrictions placed upon him then her.
'Mother never really blamed you, you know,' she said in a new voice. I remained silent. 'She always used to say to me how it was their fault, hers and Father's, for not bringing you up correctly. She used to tell me how much more careful they'd been with me, and that's why I was so good.' She looked up and the mischievous grin had returned to her face. 'Poor Mother,' she said." (634)
This quote shows that the sister is thinking that she would be better off leaving Japan and going to America. She feels that she is restricted, and would much rather go to America.
The narrator, on the other hand, doesn't know which decision to make. He is caught between joining his father and staying in Japan, or to go with his sister back to America. Each decision has a reason and an outcome. The narrator could either want to stay in Japan because he feels sorry for the family after the death of his mother, or he could go back to America and move on with his life.
"Are you going back to California?'
'I don't know. I'll have to see.'
'What happened to—to her? To Vicki?'
'That's all finished with,' I said. 'There's nothing much left for me now in California." (634)
This quote shows that the narrator resents California, and doesn't see anything left for him there.
However, there are negative sides to these choices as well. The narrator does not want to stay in Japan because he doesn't agree with the drastic punishments that the Japanese pay for dishonor. Having lived in America, the narrator knows of the injustices that it is capable of.
"Did he tell you about old Watanabe? What he did?'
'I heard he committed suicide.'
'Well, that wasn't all. He took his whole family with him. 'His wife and his two little girls.'
'Those two beautiful little girls. He turned on the gas while they were all asleep. Then he cut his stomach with a meat knife." (634)
The narrator now sees that even Japan has its downsides. He thinks that the level of importance that the Japanese give to honor is too high, and that he doesn't want to live in a place where his life is at stake for a mistake that could make which could dishonor him.
The narrator is stuck in a dilemma between what two sides he should take.