Written by students of FC1750.06
at Founders College, York University
A Pale View of Hills is a novel of the human aftermath of Nagasaki's atomic experience. Etsuko is married to a hardworking classic postwar Japanese man, and has borne him a daughter named Keiko. After his death, she settles with her English husband in England, where she gives birth to a second daughter. The plot revolves around Etsuko's memories of the past on the anniversary of Keiko's suicide.
Etsuko remembers a woman named Sachiko, who might exist only in the protagonist's imagination. Regardless, the events of Sachiko's life closely coincide with those of Etsuko's past, and the two women become friends. If we view Sachiko as Etsuko's alter ego, much light is shed on the reasons for her leaving Japan.
Etsuko is conservative and is puzzled by Sachiko's desire to move to America with Frank-San, a drunkard G.I., although he keeps letting her down. The alternative of working in a lowly noodle shop is the kind of misery that pushes Sachiko towards America. She had belonged to elite society prior to the war, and she wants to spare her daughter, Mariko, of the atrocities that plagued Japan at the time. The United States, under such circumstances, becomes a mecca.
. Although much can also be made of the Western references in "The Young Zelkova," they merely reflect a sign of the times. Surely the young Sukhui drinks Coke, plays tennis, and is familiar with European literature, but does this signify some deep betrayal of Korean culture? On the contrary, the American influence in Korea was a conditional outcome of the Second World War. Just as Koreans had adopted Chinese and Japanese modes of life, so American consumerism affected Korea.
Sukhui's plan to go overseas is motivated by her love for her stepfather's son. Because of cultural taboos, the lovers are forced into a dilemma, which could be resolved by moving to a foreign country where they are not prohibited to express their affection for each other.
Ishiguro, Kazuo. A Pale View of Hills. London: Faber and Faber, 1982.
Kang, Sinjae. "The Young Zelkova." In Flowers of Fire: Twentieth-Century Korean Stories.
Copyright © 1996 by the author. Information from this article should be attributed to the author.