Written by students of FC1750.06
at Founders College, York University
Vol.2, no. 3, June-August, 1997
Hilaneh Mahmoudi: I wonder what Keiko is thinking when she is hanging herself. When she first come to England, she is a little eight-year-old Japanese girl, leaving her relatives and homeland. She must have felt lost in the new culture, living with an English father, and later her English younger sister. Etsuko, the only one left from the past, speaks English with them. Even the sound of the language must have alienated Keiko from her own mother and her step-family.
Derrick Choy: I feel sympathy for Mariko. When Etsuko relates Mariko's fight with two other children, Sachiko does not even ask if her daughter is injured from the scuffle. Later Sachiko asks Etsuko, whom she doesn't know very well at that time, to take care of Mariko for the day. As a child, I was taught never to speak to strangers, but Etsuko has to introduce herself to Mariko when she is a complete strange to the little girl. Furthermore, Mariko is not enrolled in school. She does not have the opportunity to play with other children or learn such basic knowledge as reading and writing.
Megan Donnelly: I am haunted by the scene when Sachiko drowns the kittens. If Mariko is, as I believe she is, the narrator's elder daughter, this scene highlights the type of horror the girl has to live with throughout her entire life. She is possibly afraid that her seemingly unconcerned mother might somehow dispose of her in the same manner as Sachiko murders the kittens or as a parent abandons her child in the aftermath of the atomic holocaust. That is a prevalent concern about the future of the children of the bomb era. The kittens' death in the Japanese vegetable box prefigures Keiko's suicide.
Jessica Martin: I am intrigued by the trip to Inasa. Sachiko, Mariko, and Etsuko ride the cable cars up the mountain. Etsuko remembers it as the day Mariko (or Keiko) is very happy. It is on this day Etsuko begins to stop fearing motherhood, I believe. Her maternal feelings for Mariko prompts her to defend the girl against the tubby Japanese woman and her precocious son.
Etsuko's attitude puzzles me, though. Does she think Mariko is happy because she enjoys playing with her binoculars? Perhaps this scene also relates to the title of novel in that Mariko's childhood is spent in an area where she does not have a good view of the world. In fact many residents in Etsuko's building experience the same sort of mundane existence. But on that day in the cable car, Etsuko gives Mariko a gift--the gift of vision, a more majestic view of the world. Etsuko also notices how advanced this boy is in his schooling and aspirations. Perhaps she realizes what Mariko has been missing and wants to give her an opportunity to have the same.
Shelly-Ann Gunness: The novel is set in a period of rebuilding and hope despite the dismal backdrop. In one particular scene that displays this freshness of life, Etsuko goes to visit her friend Mrs. Fujiwara, owner of a noodle shop. "In those days, returning to Nakagawa district still provoked in me mixed emotions of sadness and pleasure," Etsuko says (23). Fujiwara tells a story about a young couple who often visit their lost loved ones in the cemetery. She thinks how wrong it is for them to dwell on the sadness of life when they are preparing for the birth of their child. Etsuko, also pregnant at the time, is living her life with hope and happiness.
Michael Kociuba: Before reading Ishiguro's novel, I thought there was deep respect for family in Japan, but Jiro, Etsuko's first husband, gives the impression of an after-shock of the new- age movement. people in this movement tend to toss out the old. He makes no attempt to spend quality time with his father, Ogata- San.
And yet one cannot cherish, without reservations, the values which old Japan represents. Shigeo Matsuda notes that people of Ogata- San's generation indoctrinated their children with "terrible things," namely narrow-minded patriotism and unquestioning loyalty to a pugnacious emperor. As a result, Japan was plunged into the Second World War, which Matsuda describes as "the most evil disaster in her entire history."
One questions if Ogata-San represents a cohesive family lifestyle that Etsuko misses in England or Japan's blind faith in militarism, propelling the country to pillage in the prewar years.
Daniel Sun: The confrontation between Shigeo and Ogata-San impresses me most. We can't blame Ogata-San, as Shigeo does, for the imprisonment of five teachers in 1938 who disagreed with his "evil direction." His generation was taught to cherish the same values that Ogata-San has tried to preserve. The elderly gentleman, however, listens to Shigeo's cold speech and ponders over what he says. Ogata-San knows how to accept opposing views and apologizes for his own. I am pleased with this kind of spirit. Perhaps Japan will one day accept the responsibility of the pain it had inflicted on its neighbors during the Second World II and issue a full apology for its misdeeds.
Ben Bacola: The woman Mariko keeps claiming to see around their house at night fascinates me. Sachiko tells the story about this mysterious woman. It took place in Tokyo during a time when it had suffered great destruction and loss because of a war. Mariko, obviously disturbed by something, ran into the street. Her mother followed her into an alleyway with a canal at the end of it. There was a woman kneeling in the canal with her arms submerged in the water up to her elbows. The woman turned to face Mariko and smiled at her. Sachiko says that one could sense that something was wrong with the woman. The look in her eyes gave the impression that she was blind. At this point I was bracing myself to hear about how the woman was going to kill herself in front of Mariko and Sachiko. What happened next in the story gripped me even more. The woman brought her hands up out of the canal, holding a baby. I tried to picture myself as the woman cradling a beautiful little baby in my arms under the water in the canal, feeling the precious life fade from the child. What measure of pain and hopelessness did the woman feel that she would do such a thing? I cannot understand.
Brenda Lo: In Japanese society, women occupy a subservient position and must obey decision made by men. Etsuko, for one, exemplifies the qualities of obedience. Yet, all these expectations are about to change. Women are fighting for their rights, as the students are struggling for democracy in China. However, there are so many obstacles that women must go through in order to succeed. Their audacity amazes Ogata-san, who deplores the fact that wives are voting for a party not of their husbands' choice.
Neena Gill:Sachiko seems to be a very strange woman. She claims to care about her daughter, but she does the opposite. I believe Mariko displays the characteristics of an abused child. For example, she is suspicious of Sachiko because she does not trust her, she retreats to herself, frequently runs away, and claims of a woman who always approaches her. As well, she has cuts and bruises on her body. All she has and all she trusts are the kittens, which Sachiko eventually drowns.
Illustration by Billy Lo