Klara and the Sun

by Kazuo Ishiguro

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Klara and the Sun Characters

The main characters in Klara and the Sun are Klara, the Sun, Josie Arthur, and the Mother.

  • Klara is an AF, or “Artificial Friend,” an artificially intelligent humanoid robot created to serve as a companion to a human child.
  • The Sun is revered by Klara as a kind of god, as she herself is powered by solar energy.
  • Josie Arthur is the young and ailing girl for whom Klara is purchased to be a companion.
  • The Mother, Chrissie Arthur, is Josie’s mother, who goes to great lengths to ensure the survival of her daughter.

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Characters

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Klara

Klara, an artificially intelligent humanoid robot known as an "Artificial Friend," or "AF," is the protagonist of Klara and the Sun. The story is told from her first-person perspective.

Like all AFs, Klara is specially calibrated to be an exceptional companion to a human child. Klara, however, is unique among her kind. She's remarkably perceptive, endlessly curious, and deeply interested in human emotions and relationships. When Klara is purchased by Josie and her mother, and finds herself an up-close witness to the difficult dynamic between a dying child and her desperate parent, she develops a much deeper and richer sense of the human condition.

Though Klara's sense of emotion and feeling develops throughout the book, her limited life experience and internal programming engender a lasting sense of naive, highly literal interpretation that often pervades her growing emotional intelligence. At one point, when Josie is struggling and wants to be left alone, Klara interprets this very literally: she sees not that her friend is hurting, specifically, but that Josie’s signals have become "keep away ones."

Over the course of the novel, much like the humans Klara finds herself increasingly identifying with, she ultimately becomes what might be called spiritual. All AFs are solar-powered, and so Klara begins to view the Sun—always capitalized, as though a proper noun—as a generous and benevolent god. When Josie's health takes a dramatic downturn, Klara is certain that appeasing the Sun is the only way to save her.

In her quest to help Josie, Klara shows herself to be generous and benevolent with her emotional resources, too—the only way to appease the Sun is to vandalize the Cootings Machine, which requires her to sacrifice some of her own internal material. She does this willingly and gladly, certain that the best outcome for her is her friend's lasting health and happiness.

The Sun

From Klara's perspective, the Sun is a sentient character in his own right. Klara's own life force comes from solar energy, so she personifies the Sun as a noble, giving deity with whom she can converse and bargain.

When Josie's health begins to fail, Klara approaches the Sun at sunset and attempts to bargain for her friend's life. After two "meetings," in which Klara becomes increasingly desperate and begs the Sun for his swift intervention, Josie is bathed in a swath of blinding sunlight and miraculously recovers.

Josie Arthur

Josie Arthur is the teenage girl for whom Klara is bought to be a companion. When she is first introduced, she is suffering from a nonspecific ailment that becomes more acute over the course of the novel.

Josie is bright, vivacious, and funny, and instantly and effortlessly takes Klara into her confidence. She is also solitary and self-driven, and she struggles to feel comfortable around her peers after a lifetime of distance education. Besides Klara, her only friend is Rick, the boy next door. Though it's suggested that Josie and Rick are not in a physical relationship, they are emotionally involved and often discuss their romantic future together.

As the novel progresses, it's revealed that Josie's sickness comes as a result of her being "lifted"—an elective genetic process intended to give children advantages in their studies and other pursuits. Josie prefers not to think about her sister, Sal, who died of the same illness.

Josie eventually recovers and goes on to college in good health.

The Mother (Chrissie Arthur)

Chrissie Arthur, called "the Mother" in Klara's narration, is Josie's mother.

Chrissie cares deeply for Josie, and her life predominantly revolves around Josie's failing health. She adopts the AF with some reservations, which initially...

(This entire section contains 1039 words.)

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seem to be a function of a mother’s worries. As the story progresses, it's clear that something more complicated is afoot: Klara has been purchased not just to keep Josie company, but to "learn" her. In the event that Josie dies, Klara will be asked to take over and "continue" Josie.

It's evident that Chrissie's feelings about this plan are mixed. She makes the plan as a mother desperate to keep her surviving daughter alive however possible, but she also struggles immensely with the emotional, ethical, and personal implications of following through with it.

Her attitude toward Klara is a complex one. It's clear that she grows fond of the AF and comes to care about her as a being in her own right, but Klara also represents something—Josie's failing health—that brings Chrissie immense pain. For this reason, her mood toward Klara throughout the book is somewhat inconsistent.

Rick 

Rick, the teenage boy who lives next door to the Arthurs, is Josie's closest friend and her romantic interest. Over time, he and Klara develop a trusting friendship, too, and he helps her travel back and forth to the barn where she bargains with the Sun.

Rick cares deeply about Josie, but he finds himself increasingly frustrated by the societal constraints that complicate their relationship. Josie, as a "lifted" teen, is seen by the rest of the world to have a bright and valuable future. Rick, who was never lifted but is very bright, is considered something of a lost cause with few opportunities.

During Josie's illness, Rick is close at hand and takes shifts with the rest of the household to watch over her. Between her recovery and the time she leaves for college, the two drift apart. When Klara asks him if this means their love wasn't real, he assures her that this isn’t the case. What it means, he tells the AF, is that he and Josie will both take a little bit of their love with them for the rest of their lives.

The Father (Paul Arthur)

Paul Arthur, whom Klara calls "the Father," is Josie's father.

Paul lives apart from Josie and Chrissie, and it's through his living situation that the author offers a wider glimpse of the dystopian world outside the Arthur household. When he meets Josie and Chrissie in the city, he's living in a radical compound of sorts with other people who have been ejected from the workforce. It's implied that they're heavily armed as a precaution against widespread civil unrest.

A former engineer, Paul agrees to help Klara vandalize the Cootings Machine.

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