Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 405
The Buried Giant, written by Kazuo Ishiguro, is set in the Dark Ages of England following King Arthur's death. In this novel, the residents of the countryside suffer from an alarming level of amnesia that they call "the mist". As the novel progresses, one can interpret this great forgetting as the way in which the residents of the village, and all those who live in the ever-constant warring times of the Dark Ages, cope with the immense tragedy of constant war. The Saxons and Brits, who have a long and brutal history of war, are at peace with each other in the novel because the mist prevents them from remembering the past atrocities they have committed against each other. However, the mist also prevents the characters from having lives of depth and meaning due to their intense amnesia.
Axl and Beatrice are an elderly couple who also suffer from the amnesia of the mist. They decide to embark on a journey to find the son that they believe they have (they can not exactly remember whether they have a son or not). Upon the way, they meet several characters who are also affected by the mist in different ways. The entire countryside, indeed, seems to be shrouded in the confusion, sadness, amnesia, and distrust that the mist brings. Along their journey to find their son, the elderly couple meet Wistan and Sir Gawain, who are both tasked with the slaying of the dragon, Querig, who is believed to be causing the mist. When Sir Gaiwan is discovered to be a protector of the dragon, he is then killed in a duel by Wistan, who then slays Querig. With the death of Querig, the residents of the countryside are able to recover their memories.
The recovering of their memories allows them to recover meaning and depth in their lives; however, they are also able to remember war and the conflicts between Saxons and Brits. As a result, the tensions between them returns. One can interpret this as the complexity of living full, meaningful lives in the midst of war. It appears that the characters either numb themselves to the realities of war—and in this numbing are unable to truly live their lives—or face the realities of war and the complexities it brings to their lives. This is a story of collective and individual trauma, coping, forgetting, remembering, and living in the midst of war.
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