Themes and Meanings
“A Family Supper” deals with the difficulties that a generation, accustomed to power and confident that an established culture will continue indefinitely, faces when its familiar world is swept away. Kazuo Ishiguro was born in Japan and came to the British Isles at age five when his father, an oceanographer, was invited to participate in a British government research project. Although England was a primal part of the victorious Allied effort in World War II, while Japan experienced defeat, both countries were utterly changed by the conflict. England suffered a stunning decline in power in the aftermath of its empire, and Japan was transformed from a semi-medieval regional power into a modern economic colossus.
“A Family Supper” examines the ways in which both the generation that governed Japan before the war and the next one, which grew up in an entirely different social and political situation, attempt to deal with drastic changes in a nation fully involved in previously scorned foreign patterns of behavior. The father represents the older generation, bitter in the face of defeat and loss. The collapse of his firm is a symbol for the failure of the older Japanese approach to the world. His partner Watanabe’s decision to commit suicide is an appropriate response in terms of traditional Japanese culture but somewhat questionable in postwar Japan. His choice to take his family with him is completely outrageous by any but the most primitive codes...
(The entire section is 596 words.)