QuoteTechniquesWho?Analysis
“But this is all of limited relevance here”
“At the time, I acted in good faith”
Irony
Unreliable Narrator
OnoThemes: Self Deception, Memory.
Analysis: Ishiguro uses dramatic irony as the reader comes to understand the reality of Ono’s past in a form that his narrator is incapable of understanding. Ono informed the authorities about how Kuroda did not oblige to painting patriotic painting. Led to Kuroda being a war prisoner and called a traitor. He passes over the severity of what he did to Kuroda. Downplaying the situation. Memory is subjective and reliant upon personal interpretations that may or may not be correct. As a reader we sympathise, although we suspect his self deception, as Ono declares his recollections are often flawed.
“Father was, after all, a painter”
“Forgive me, but it is perhaps important to see things in a proper perspective”
“I wouldn’t for a moment consider the sort of action Naguchi took."
“I am not too proud to see that I too was a man of some influence, who used that influence towards a disastrous end.”
Use of DIALOGUE highlights the unreliable narrator, making what he has already told us ambiguous through the way Ono talks about his immense impact of Japanese society throughout the war.Setsuko
Setsuko
Ono
Ono
Themes: Family, Self Deception
Analysis: Setsuko reveals her concern that Ono had drawn a comparison between himself and Naguchi, the famed composer who committed suicide. Ono reassures her that he is not considering suicide, but Setsuko remains concerned. Setsuko reveals her concern that Ono had drawn a comparison between himself and Naguchi, the famed composer who committed suicide. Ono reassures her that he is not considering suicide, but Sestuko remains concerned. She says that, from her perspective, Ono’s role in the war was not significant enough for any such action to be warranted. Though she means to be supportive of her father and insists he has nothing to feel guilty about, she is implicitly threatening Ono’s belief that he achieved relevance as an artist. Setsuko’s words in this moment make all of Ono’s prior apologies for his wartime mistakes seem disingenuous. Rather than feel shame for his role in agitating the national consciousness, it becomes clear now that Ono inflated his own importance to show that he left an artistic mark—even a negative one—on the country.
“With her usual foresight, she had argued the importance of our having a house in keeping with our status — not out of vanity, but for the sake of our children’s marriage prospects.”Symbolism: House represents his impression of his own social status.OnoThemes: Family Reputation/Self Protection and Self Deception.
Analysis: At the beginning of the novel, Ono reflects on the way he came to own his impressive house. His words here immediately establish the importance of status and reputation in Japanese society and set the stage for the marital drama that will inform much of the text. This moment also reveals Ono’s personal preoccupation with status, as well as his tendency to gloss over—if not outright lie about—potentially negative aspects of his personality. Here, for example, he thrusts the desire for a grander house solely onto his wife, insisting that he personally was unconcerned with such markers of wealth and prestige. Throughout the book, however, it will become clear that Ono is both a deeply unreliable narrator and extremely concerned with issues ofreputation, suggesting that he likely felt just as much urgency as did his wife when it came to obtaining a house “in keeping with” their social standing.
“For indeed, a man who aspires to rise above the mediocre, to be something more than ordinary, surely deserves admiration, even if in the end he fails and loses a fortune on account of his ambitions.”High Modality languageOnoThemes: City/Nation/History, Memory/Self Protection and Self Deception.
Analysis: Ono wants to envision himself as similar to Sugimura, who tried to reshape the culture of the city by funding the building of new institutions. In his mind, Ono, too, shaped Japan’s culture through his support in establishing the Migi-Hidari in the pleasure district, where he held court with his students. Ono’s assertion that Sugimura’s work was not in vain betrays his own desire to see himself as someone who pursued his dreams and rose above mediocrity, even if the ideas he once subscribed to are no longer relevant.
“The area has now been rebuilt and has become quite unrecognizable”Symbolism: Changes to the landscape are symbolic of changing societal values.OnoThemes: City/Nation/History
Analysis: Ono seems unaware, or unwilling to acknowledge that, in this new climate, the old nationalist pleasure district has no role. The pleasure district has been completely rebuilt as a commercial district. Young Japanese office workers, enthralled by hopes of American-style prosperity, now work in the area. Ono has come to terms with the fact that his legacy has been erased, but he credits himself with having acted in good faith, even if his ideas turned out to have been mistaken. In the final moments of the novel, Ono sits on a bench in front of a newly-constructed office complex where the Migi- Hidari once stood. Ono seems to realize that the time of his generation has passed, and that the city will never be as he knew it again. This suggests that they, too, may one day grow disappointed about their contributions to the world and, like Ono, delude themselves about their pasts.
“And when those mistakes were made on behalf of the whole country, why then it must be the greatest cowardice of all”.Hyperbole
Sub-textual insult to Ono.
Jiro MiyakeThemes: City/Nation/History, Intergenerational Conflict.
Analysis: Jiro tells Ono that the President of his company commited suicide (acceptable apology for his responsibilities during the war). Miyake views them as no better than war criminals. The reader concludes that this must have been confronting for Ono, considering the role he played in promoting the war. Highlights the intergenerational conflict between the Ono’s generation and the younger generation.
“But I remember walking around the district shortly after the surrender and many of those buildings were still standing…. And I remember wondering to myself as I walked past those shattered buildings, if they would ever again come back to life.”Symbolism: Symbolic of Ono’s career.OnoThemes: City/Nation/History
Analysis: For Ono, Mrs. Kawakami’s bar is a vestige of a time when he was at the height of his artistic career. This moment evidences his desire to return to the world as it was before the war, as well as his preoccupation with the physical landscape of the world around him. His observations hint at the breadth of physical changes to the Japanese landscape following the war, themselves reflective of colossal cultural shifts that left men like Ono behind. Though he doesn’t pinpoint the reason that the authorities tore down the buildings in the district, it is probable that authorities razed buildings that had been associated with nationalism following the war.
“Half of my high school graduation year have died courageous deaths. They were all for stupid causes, though they were never to know that.”Irony
“Courageous deaths”–> Older generation will react differently to that statement
SuichiTheme: Intergenerational Conflict
Analysis: Suichi is annoyed that the people (Ono’s generation) that are the reason for those innocent lives being lost are still walking free. Through rhetorical questions, Ono debates in his mind why it is necessary for Suichi, (younger generation) to “harbour such bitterness for his elders”. Through the juxtaposition of the new and old ways of life in Japan, Ishiguro is portraying how Ono’s way of life is gone forever.
“But to see how our city has been rebuilt, how things have recovered so rapidly over these years, fills me with genuine gladness.”SymbolismOnoTheme: City/Nation/History
In the final moments of the novel, Ono sits on a bench in front of a newly-constructed office complex where the Migi-Hidari once stood. Ono thinks the bench is in approximately the same place where his old table in the bar was positioned and watches the world pass by from this perch. Here Ono seems to realize that the time of his generation has passed, and that the city will never be as he knew it again. His hope that the young office workers—who are of the same generation as his children—will succeed where Ono failed suggests his acceptance of the changing world. Of course, the younger generation’s optimism resembles that of Ono’s own generation. This suggests that they, too, may one day grow disappointed about their contributions to the world and, like Ono, delude themselves about their pasts.
Pranav Sharma
Pranav Sharma
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Year 12 Student, site owner and developer.

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