A Family Supper by Kazuo Ishiguro – Short Story Analysis

Could it be that the fish that they were about to eat was Fugu? If it wasn’t, then why did the author emphasize Fugu in the first two paragraphs if Fugu was not really that important?

The story starts by giving information about a kind of fish that is called Fugu.  The narrator tells that his mother died by eating that fish.

There is a tragic atmosphere throughout the story because of the following reasons: (1) there is the collapse of the narrator’s father’s firm, (2) the narrator’s mother’s cause of death, and (3) the circumstance of Watanabe’s and his family’s deaths.

The narrator’s past or his past behavior is likewise very mysterious.  I wonder what it is about since the father only says “I for one am ready to forget the past…”  His sister also says, “Mother never really blamed you.”  I’d like to believe that the family was hurt with the narrator’s decision to study in California.  Perhaps his parents wanted him to be involved in the firm but he chose to leave instead.

While reading the story, I was thinking that there is a suggestion of another death.  Could it be that the fish that they were about to eat was Fugu?  If it wasn’t, then why did the author emphasize Fugu in the first two paragraphs if Fugu was not really that important? Why did he give an extensive discussion about Fugu? The narrator could have said, “Mother died while I was in California.  She died because she ate Fugu.” In this case, the focus is no longer on the fish but on her death.

The family’s supper is likewise a big deal.  While their recollections are ongoing, the readers know that the day’s events will culminate in the family’s supper.  To me, their eating of the fish is eerie.  I am certain that they are eating Fugu.  Will they die? Perhaps, they won’t.  And I am convinced that they won’t. Since the father prepared the dinner himself, perhaps he cleaned the fish well. 

The father was obviously happy upon seeing his son.  He likewise looks forward to spending his time together with his children.  In other words, he will not think of doing what Watanabe did to his family.  His wife may have died by eating Fugu, but they will rise above it.  The family will be intact.  They will have an open communication and they will start it by having supper together.

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2 Comments
  1. Posted January 9, 2011 at 10:07 am

    What I find interesting is that nowhere in the story it says that the main character is a man or a he, we don’t even know if it’s a man. My take on the story is that it in fact is a woman, a lesbian, and that’s why the father has problems with the way she lives.

  2. Mami
    Posted March 27, 2011 at 11:44 pm

    Regarding your comment “Since the father prepared the dinner himself, perhaps he cleaned the fish well”, cleaning the fish well or not does not really matter. It is tetrodotoxin in the internal organs that could kill people–which is why only the licensed cooks can prepare fugu. Anyone in Japan knows this and I believe Kazuo Ishiguro had the same perception.

    I do not think it was fugu that they ate for supper. Fugu is not that popular for everyday-meal. People don’t really eat fugu at home.

    I think it is just to add something to the mysterious-ness which is running throughout the entire story

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