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Updated Up To 23/01/2018
Volume 10, Issue 1 (January 2012) : 77-92
Evasion and the Unsaid in Kazuo Ishiguro’s A Pale View of Hills

Ken Eckert
Rubric A: Topoi
Rubric B: Twentieth-Century Novel


Kazuo Ishiguro’s A Pale View of Hills (1982) has been described as having a culturally Japanese location and setting, reflected in its stylized narrative subtlety and indistinctness. However, the functional stage of the novel is not a physical place but rather the recollections and thought processes of the protagonist, Etsuko, as she attempts to come to an understanding regarding her daughter Keiko’s suicide. The historical fact of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki and its repercussions for the city and the nation both ground and symbolize Etsuko’s thoughts, her acts of repression and evasion in response to her submerged sense of personal guilt for Keiko’s death through her emigration and remarriage. Ishiguro evokes Etsuko’s inner life through narrative, characterization, and imagery, particularly that of living space. In Etsuko’s memories of Nagasaki, repression is seen at the level of the community of survivors, in interpersonal relationships, and in Etsuko’s cognitive actions of recollection and representation, which often indicate symbolic interconnections or meaningful lacunae caused by psychological repression. While criticism has tended to focus on how Etsuko’s unreliable narration affects the “truth” of the story, the narrative focuses on the ways in which Etsuko’s mental processes reflect a conflict between desire, evasion, and resolution.

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