Klara and the Sun

by Kazuo Ishiguro

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Part Two Summary and Analysis

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As she acclimates to the Arthur home, Klara struggles to make sense of a new physical space. Unlike the department store, where things stay fixed in place, a lived-in home has a certain fluidity that is entirely foreign to the AF. The housekeeper, whom Klara comes to know as "Melania Housekeeper," often moves things around the home, which throws off Klara's sense of landmark-based navigation. Soon, she comes to understand "the Island"—a kitchen island—as one of the home's most reliable landmarks.

As she adjusts to new physical terrain, Klara also has to adjust to new social and emotional terrain. The family's home is very remote, with only one neighbor, so Klara's days of stranger-watching come to an abrupt and unexpected end. Instead, she starts paying close attention to the relationships between Josie, the Mother, and Melania Housekeeper. The Mother and Josie, she notices, don't spend as much time together as either one would like, and Josie's illness means she’s tired much of the time. Even so, she's diligent in her studies and a talented artist, and the relationship between Josie and her mother seems, predominantly, to be warm, supportive, and immensely loving. Melania Housekeeper, too, is very devoted to Josie, although she only begrudgingly accepts Klara into the household.

As Klara and Josie are watching the sun set from Josie's bedroom window one day, Klara catches sight of a barn-like structure in the distance and notices that the sun seems to descend directly into it. Wondering why the sun might choose this specific place to rest at night, Klara asks Josie if she's ever seen steps going down into the earth, or a gateway of some kind. Josie says she's been to the barn with her friend Rick and hasn't seen anything, but maybe there's an entrance that appears only as the Sun goes down.

Klara asks Josie about Rick, and Josie explains that Rick, who lives next door, is her best friend. The two intend to spend their lives together, she tells Klara, once they have the "whole love and romance stuff" figured out. The next week, she takes Klara to meet Rick on her first ever trip outside, and the two find him testing a flock of mechanical birds he's built himself.

A few days later, Josie begrudgingly hosts a mandated "interaction meeting" for other students who, like her, have not been socialized among their peers. Rick attends at Josie's insistence, but it's soon clear to Klara that he's an outlier—the other students, she learns, have been "lifted," while Rick has not. As the social division among the guests becomes more evident, the mood at the party becomes increasingly tense. Klara begins to notice that Josie's personality has shifted a little bit to accommodate the changing social situation. She's a little more dismissive than before, even making a joke at Klara's expense to fit in with the other students.

When a very aggressive boy starts taking an unfriendly interest in Klara, Rick interrupts them to shift the attention from Klara to himself. A brief argument ensues, and Rick and Klara are soon left alone in the room. Klara thanks him for his intervention and mentions having observed the change in Josie's demeanor. This, Rick tells her, is what he intends to save Josie from. Klara agrees to help him.

Soon after the interaction meeting, Josie falls ill. If she is well by Sunday, the Mother promises, they'll take a trip to nearby Morgan's Falls. Excited, Josie shows Klara a picture of the family at Morgan's Falls taken several years earlier. Klara is surprised to see another young girl...

(This entire section contains 1116 words.)

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alongside them in the photo. Upon inquiry, she learns that Josie once had a sister named Sal, who died of a mysterious illness.

When Sunday comes around, Josie appears to have fully recovered, and the family loads into the car for the trip. Realizing just before they leave that Josie is still sick and has lied about her recovery, the Mother furiously sends Josie back inside. To teach Josie a lesson, she decides that she and Klara will go alone for a nice day out on their own. Klara, uncomfortable, is unsure what to do but stays in the car, and the two set off for the falls.

As they drive, Klara takes in the unfamiliar scenery. The Mother points out a factory and explains that it's where Josie's father—whom Klara calls "the Father"—used to work. He no longer works there, she tells the AF, as he's been "substituted."

Eventually the road ends, and the two continue on foot. The terrain is rough, and Klara soon comes to understand why Josie wouldn't have been able to join them without her full strength. When they reach the picnic area, Klara and the Mother begin a candid chat. Soon, the AF is surprised when the Mother asks her to imitate Josie again. When Klara, pretending to be Josie, mentions that she'll get well soon, the interaction becomes tense, and the Mother walks away from the table.

On the return trip, the Mother tells Klara that she's grateful for her and asks her not to tell Josie about their interaction. Arriving back at the house, Josie is clearly upset that they've gone to the falls without her.

Analysis

Klara's experience with the trip to Morgan's Falls is one of her first major emotional conflicts, and her ability to navigate conflicting feelings represents a major step forward in her emotional development.

Klara's main responsibility, and also her greatest joy, is to be a good friend to Josie. Usually, this is an easy proposition. But in this instance, Klara finds herself used as a bargaining chip between mother and daughter. When the Mother realizes Josie is pretending to be well in order to go on the outing, Josie implores her to them anyway. Klara, the teen argues, was so excited to see the falls. When the Mother responds by taking only Klara instead, she does it to prove a point to Josie: if Klara was so excited to see the falls, the Mother and Klara should simply go alone while Josie stays home in bed.

This puts Klara in an incredibly uncomfortable position. To be a good friend to Josie, she should stay with her to keep her company while she's upset. But going with the Mother, as commanded, is instrumental in ensuring Josie internalizes the lesson about getting well. This, she reasons, is also being a good friend to Josie. For the first time, Klara confronts a notion that all humans contend with: two conflicting things can both be true, and choosing between them isn't always a matter of what's right and what's wrong.

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Part Three Summary and Analysis