Critical Overview

Scholarship on Ishiguro often addresses his narrative techniques, which control information in such a way that the reader is unsure of the narrator’s reliability. In “A Family Supper,” for example, we must question the relationship between “the narrating son” and “the narrated son,” about whom the narrator in fact says very little. We must also interpret the story through what is not said as much as by what is, for silence is a prevailing motif within the dialogue. Other critics understand Ishiguro as a postcolonial writer, and he is often compared to Salman Rushdie and Chinua Achebe, for example, or explored in terms of the theories of Edward Said or Frantz Fanon. Significantly, although A Pale View of Hills and “A Family Supper” deal with conflicts between Japanese and Western culture, this theme does not pervade all of Ishiguro’s fiction. However, questions of identity are important, including ways in which a character does not understand himself in relation to those around him or to the life he has led. This form of alienation can resemble the “otherness” that critics such as Said find central to the Orientalism that pervade Western understanding of non-Western cultures. Within this line of thought, the son in “A Family Supper” can be asking for a new “self-rule” of his life, and so might the father be seen as liberating himself from the rules of the past that have up to now silenced an emerging identity. On the other hand, the story tends to exoticize the traditions of Japan, making them incomprehensible to the son and the reader.