Klara and the Sun

by Kazuo Ishiguro

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Part One Summary and Analysis

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When Klara and the Sun begins, Klara, an artificially intelligent being known as an "AF," or "Artificial Friend," is living in a department store and eagerly awaiting her eventual purchase to join a real family. Though Klara's peers are all very intelligent and show distinct personalities, Klara is remarkable among them. She is uniquely perceptive, showing a keen interest in the outside world, and harbors an unusually perspicacious grasp on human emotion and an intense sense of curiosity.

Klara watches other AFs come and go from the shop as she anxiously awaits her own ideal placement. As she waits, she takes immense comfort and pleasure in the Sun. AFs are solar-powered, and Klara eagerly awaits the Sun's "special nourishment" as the shop's shutters raise every morning. From Klara's perspective, the Sun is a personified entity—a benevolent, fair deity who descends into the earth at the end of each day, bestowing his nourishment on those below with deliberate agency and intention.

During a turn in the store's front window with Rosa, another AF with whom Klara is close, Klara is grateful to have a closer view of the world outside. She spends her days analyzing the emotions of those who pass by, deeply fixated on accurately interpreting the relationships between those she sees. One morning, she finds her view suddenly impeded by billowing smoke and dust. She's able to determine the source as a piece of industrial machinery parked at a nearby construction site. On the side of the machine is the word "Cootings." Soon, Klara begins to see “the Cootings Machine" as a sinister emblem of darkness, intent on blocking out the sun.

When a beggar appears to have died across the street from the store one day, Klara is amazed to see him revived the next morning in the Sun's bright rays. She interprets this as an intentional act by the Sun, who, by bestowing his special nourishment on the man, has performed a miracle. Klara sees this as a reinforcement of her own relationship with the Sun, whose generous energy keeps her alive.

At long last, Klara is chosen by a teenage girl named Josie Arthur who once visited her in the storefront window. When they spoke previously, Josie secretly cautioned Klara that things might not always be perfect at home if Klara came to live with them. She would be deeply loved, the girl had promised, but things might sometimes be a little bit complicated. Klara, undeterred by both the earlier warning and the store manager's quietly evident apprehension, is thrilled to see Josie again.

Before agreeing to take Klara home, Josie's mother—called "the Mother" by Klara—insists on a short interview with the prospective AF. Without looking at her daughter, the Mother insists that Klara imitate Josie to prove her skills of perception. Identifying a slight weakness in one hip and pain in the opposite shoulder, Klara attempts to replicate Josie's tentative walk. Noticing that the Mother seems slightly vacant during the process, Klara is pleased to discover that her performance is convincing enough. To Josie's delight, her mother purchases the AF.

Analysis

In the book's first section, Ishiguro establishes important context for both the world of the novel and for Klara herself. From Klara's life at the storefront, the reader learns that Klara is unique among her peers. While the other AFs are friendly and content enough to await purchase, Klara's curiosity and interest in the outside world far outpaces the others’. Her fixation on relationships, in particular, foreshadows her emotional development.

Klara also demonstrates something important about herself in this chapter by acting disinterested in...

(This entire section contains 778 words.)

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a potential buyer when she's already become attached to Josie: a willingness to defy authority when her own consciousness suggests it might be appropriate. This small act of defiance hints that even at this stage of newness, fresh out of the box, Klara's mind is already advanced enough to function independently of her programming.

The narrative also reveals a certain myopia. Klara's perspective is incredibly limited, and because the book is told from her viewpoint, there are some gaps the reader must fill in on their own. The Cootings Machine, for example, appears to Klara to be a machine whose sole purpose is creating pollution. The reader, of course, knows this must not be true—machines have intentional functions, and the Cootings Machine must be part of a construction outfit.

From the existence of Klara and the other AFs, the reader can also make an inference about the world that Klara herself does not explicitly state: it's a world of impressive technological advancement, but also one of enough endemic loneliness to justify the AF industry.

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Part Two Summary and Analysis