What Symbolism is used by Ishiguro in A Family Supper?

Expert Answers
Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that the basic symbol of a family dinner is used to convey the difference between what should be and what actually is.  The family dinner is a symbol of the hearth, where the family comes together and where connection is evident.  In the story, Ishiguro uses the family supper to represent fragmentation and the embodiment of the disjointed family.  The mother is absent because of death, and the father and son feature a communication that is awkward, filled with uncomfortable moments, and possesses an ending that is unresolved, at best.  The symbolism of the mother's death is also worthy of note.  She ate the poison found in the sexual glands of the fugu fish, and did so to not offend her host.  This is symbolic for a couple of reasons.  The first would be that the sexual and reproductive glands contain poison, almost bringing to light how toxic relationships between children and parents can be.  Additionally, it is symbolic that the mother dies honoring a tradition, symbolic of how blind obedience to tradition and practices without questioning can be destructive.  I think that another level of symbolism would be the fragmentation evident between parent and child.  The narrator indicates that his relationship with his parents was frayed and stifled and this might bring to light how modern Japan is fundamentally trapped between the honoring of the past and the modern present, which almost encourages repudiating former associations in the name of progress and advancement.  The fact that there is little in way of resolution in the family relationship might also be symbolic of how there is little certainty in achieving an answer to this particular question.