Style and Technique
The aura of silence and shadows that permeates “A Family Supper” is at the crux of Ishiguro’s method for evoking and maintaining a mood of uncertainty throughout the story. Amid the narrative flow, small details are crucial in determining the thought and emotion behind each character’s utterances. Although the narrator’s mother and younger sister play an important part in revealing the central conflict between traditional ways of being and the necessity for change and adaptation brought about by a radical alteration in circumstances, the two men are the primary players in the tableau. Similarly, the references to the ghostly presence in the garden are more of a suggestion of the existence of mysterious, uncontrollable forces rather than a crucial plot element. Subtle nuances of speech and the implications of motive in a careful control of tone are the ways in which Ishiguro explores psychological foundations.
As the narration progresses, the shift toward dialogue from the initial alternation of conversation and exposition moves the focus from the son to his father, whose admission that there “are other things besides work” indicates that the son’s expectations about rigid attitudes are not entirely accurate. Paradoxically, the father’s somewhat tentative and distant responses are replaced by a direct declaration that Watanabe’s decision was a mistake, echoing Kikuko’s description of the murder and ritual suicide as “sick.” Nevertheless, the father’s explanation that he would have preferred service in the air force because a plane, when struck, was “always the ultimate final weapon” seems to support Watanabe’s determination to retain his honor. However, the father’s hopes for a future with his family indicate a different attitude. This method of incremental adjustment and advance in comprehension gives “A Family Supper” a resonance that reverberates considerably beyond the story’s apparent conclusion.