Klara and the Sun

by

Kazuo Ishiguro

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Klara and the Sun: Part Two Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Some time has passed, and Klara has left the store and is now Josie’s AF. Klara finds the house difficult to navigate, particularly the kitchen, since objects keep moving around. Klara likes how the kitchen has a lot of room to let in the Sun, though she finds it strange that out the window she can’t see traffic or other AFs.
Klara’s difficulties navigating around a house show how sheltered her existence was before being purchased by Josie and the Mother. The sunny window in the kitchen is one of the many windows that appear throughout the story.
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Klara believes at first that Melania Housekeeper is like Manager, and that she will teach Klara what to do, but Melania Housekeeper just tells Klara to stop following her around. Despite the lack of specific instructions, Klara eventually learns the routines of the people in her house, such as how the Mother takes a quick coffee every morning at the island in the kitchen.
As with Manager, Klara gives Melania Housekeeper a slightly unusual name: presumably her first name is Melania and “housekeeper” is just her job. Klara’s mistaking of jobs and names shows how in human society, sometimes jobs are as much of a person’s identity as their name. Perhaps it's notable, however, that the Mother has a job but is still referred to as the Mother, suggesting that, at least from Klara’s perspective, her role as a parent is more central to her identity than her role as a worker.
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Some mornings, the Mother doesn’t have to hurry with coffee. One day, she talks with Josie about the pictures she draws in pencil. The Mother encourages Josie to use color pencils, but recently, Josie has preferred drawing in black and white. These conversations are pleasant, but other conversations are tense, like when Josie describes problems with her various tutors, who help with her education.
This passage helps establish the daily rhythm of life at home for Josie and her family. Although it is tempting to draw a link between Josie’s remote tutorial lessons and the remote learning that many students experienced during the early part of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is likely that much of Klara and the Sun was written before the onset of the pandemic, particularly since today book manuscripts are often submitted well in advance of publication. Still, the remote, isolated nature of Josie’s education undoubtedly resonates with the shifting and unprecedented educational landscape of the early 2020s.
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 In Josie’s bedroom, there is a window that looks out at three adjoining fields. From there, Klara and Josie like to watch the Sun set while waiting for the Mother to come home. Once, when the Mother comes home early, Josie even interrupts the conversation so that Klara can see the sunset.
There is an interesting contrast between Josie’s bedroom window (which looks out at open fields) and the store window (which looked out on busy streets). Josie’s house is more isolated, and while it seems like a positive thing to be farther away from all the bustle and Cootings Machines of the city, the story later explores some of the downsides of Josie’s isolation.
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One object out the window that particularly interests Klara is a dark box, which Josie explains is Mr. McBain’s barn. For Klara, this barn appears to be where the Sun goes to rest in the evening.
The fact that the Sun seems to go down in Mr. McBain’s barn gives it an almost mystical quality, similar to Stonehenge, a landmark that many believe is related to the position of the sun and may have served a spiritual or religious purpose.
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Josie explains to Klara that she went to the barn one time, with her best friend Rick, back before she got sick. Klara is confused at first because she believes it’s her duty to be Josie’s best friend, but Josie explains that things are different and that she and Rick will spend their lives together. Rick lives next door, and Josie will introduce Klara someday.
Despite her very strong understanding of some aspects of human nature, Klara remains ignorant of other aspects—like, for instance, the ins and outs of friendship. The fact that Rick is one of the only other people around Josie’s house shows how isolated they are from the rest of the world.
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The next week, Klara meets Rick and sees the outside of Josie’s house for the first time. Before that, Josie has to finish a lesson with her professor (which she does remotely in the kitchen, on a device called an “oblong”). After getting permission from Melania Housekeeper, Klara and Josie go outside.
“Oblong” refers to a stretched-out circle or rectangle. It could be used to describe the shape of current phone or computer screens, suggesting that in the future these items have become even more ubiquitous and so have a more generic name.
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Outside, Melania Housekeeper takes Josie’s arm to help her walk, but eventually Josie persuades her to let go so that she and Klara can go next door to see Rick. They climb a hill to meet Rick, and Josie gets short of breath.
The fact that Josie gets winded on a short walk up a hill suggests the extent of her illness goes beyond just having a limp.
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When Klara and Josie get to Rick, he is busy flying mechanical drones that look like birds with a remote control. Josie introduces Klara to Rick, but Rick seems unexpectedly annoyed. He has a British accent and says Josie promised to never get an AF. Josie says she made that promise a while ago, and Klara isn’t just any AF. Klara realizes that she can learn from Rick about how to be a better friend for Josie.
Rick seems to be jealous of Klara because he believes that she will replace him as Josie’s friend. While on the one hand this worry is baseless—on the other hand, it is true that an expensive AF like Klara represents a life of privilege that could lead Josie in a different direction from Rick, whose family has less money.
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Melania Housekeeper calls for Josie to come back. Before leaving, Josie makes Rick promise to come to a meeting at lunchtime next Tuesday, and Rick reluctantly agrees. Josie asks Klara what she thinks of the outside world. Klara says she likes it, and that she likes Rick as well. Josie is pleased but admits that Rick doesn’t always make good first impressions.
The slight disagreement between Josie and Rick over the upcoming lunch meeting suggests that, despite everything Josie and Rick have in common, there are also some ways in which they differ, which the lunch meeting will highlight.
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That evening at dinner, Josie and the Mother discuss Josie’s upcoming “interaction meeting.” Even though Josie gets good grades, she still has to learn how to get alone with others, and so she must host a meeting with some of her peers. The Mother says that this skill is particularly important for college.
Modern education often includes extracurriculars or other activities to help students socialize, but remote learning makes this more challenging. In the future world of this novel, formal “interaction meetings” are how distant students get to meet each other.
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Josie asks if Rick can come, and the Mother agrees after some hesitation. Josie asks if the Mother thinks it’s a bad idea for Rick to come or if the other kids will be rude to Rick. The mother again hesitates, but says as long as Rick wants to come, everything will be OK.
The Mother’s hesitation before answering questions suggests that perhaps she knows Rick will be out of place at the meeting, but she doesn’t want to admit it. Something is clearly different about Rick and Josie, but at this point in the novel, Klara only has a vague understanding of it.
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On the morning of the interaction meeting, Josie is anxious. She goes into a room filled with the parents of the other children, then Rick appears at the door, and she introduces him. The adults are polite, but Klara notices that they’re cautious when speaking to Rick. The Mother tells Josie to go host her guests (the other children), so Josie takes Rick into the other room, leaving Klara standing there unsure what to do.
Rick’s arrival proves the Mother right, as it is clear that the other adults see something strange about him. While the interaction meeting is supposedly for the benefit of the children, it is clear that the meeting also plays a role for the parents.
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Left with the adults, Klara hears them talking about how Rick “missed out,” but they nevertheless agree that Rick seems bright and that it’s good for Josie to learn how to get along with all kinds of people. One parent asks if Rick’s parents decided “not to go ahead,” and this causes an awkward moment that leads to the parent apologizing to the Mother. The Mother just asks everyone to drop the subject.
This section is intentionally cryptic, as Klara begins to slowly understand what sets Rick apart from Josie. The parents don’t watch their speech around Klara because they don’t see her as human, which is perhaps meant to evoke how in the real world, rich people often treat servants like robots.
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The parents talk about Josie’s health, and the Mother says she has good days and bad days. The Mother soon changes the subject and says they should all go into the kitchen for pastries.
Even with other adults, the Mother is hesitant to discuss Josie’s condition, adding to the mystery in the novel surrounding the exact nature—and origins—of Josie’s illness.
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The Mother tells Klara that she should go in to be with Josie and the children, so Klara goes. Rick is standing alone, and some girls talk about how they should do something to welcome him, since he must feel weird. They offer him a chocolate bon-bon and start talking with him about movies. Rick doesn’t eat the chocolate, which creates an awkward situation, so Josie interrupts to introduce Klara.
The Mother seems to recognize that Klara is listening to the conversation, so she sends her away. Although the other girls at the interaction meeting say they want to help welcome Rick, it actually seems like they want to make him feel excluded by treating him differently from the others.
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After greeting Klara, the girls mostly ignore her and begin to gossip about the other children. One of the boys notices Klara and asks her to come over. He grabs her and pins her arms. Another boy says they should throw Klara, since the B3 models always land on their feet. The children give Klara other commands, but she doesn’t respond to them.
The gossiping behavior of the children mimics that of the parents, suggesting that perhaps one of the purposes of the interaction meeting is to help the children learn to be more like their parents. The fact that the children suggest throwing Klara around implies that perhaps they come from even more privileged backgrounds than Josie, since they are willing to use such an expensive robot so carelessly.
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When Klara doesn’t follow commands, a boy again suggests throwing Klara across the room. Just then, Rick intervenes by pointing out that the boy has a “pet object” on him (the sort of toys that children carry with them). The boy backs off.
This passage makes it clear that Artificial Friends like Klara are expected to follow commands and that Josie’s decision to treat Klara like an actual friend might be unusual. This treatment of AFs raises ethical questions, since Klara seems to experience something like human emotions—therefore, if she were forced to only follow commands, her existence would be uncomfortably similar to enslavement.
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The children go outside. Klara thanks Rick for intervening. Rick explains that he doesn’t belong in the group because it’s a meeting for “lifted” kids. Lifting is a procedure that parents (especially wealthy parents) have their children undergo in order to make them more intelligent, and it is required for most colleges. Rick talks about how he plans to save Josie from becoming like the other children. He talks about how he and Josie made a plan to always be together. Finally, Rick leaves, saying he has to check on his mother.
Lifting seems to be some sort of medical procedure in this story, but it is also a futuristic allegory for how real-world privilege can seem to “lift” some students with resources above poorer ones. Although lifting might seem beneficial, since it helps students get into college, the story also explores the negative side effects of “lifting.”
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Klara feels that Josie acted different during her interaction meeting with the other children and was more distant toward Klara, but in the days after, Josie is cheerful toward Klara again.
Klara begins to understand that humans act differently depending on the environment they’re in, something that Klara never would have had the opportunity to notice before, given her isolated existence at the store and in Josie’s house.
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Three weeks after the interaction meeting, Klara notices a change in Josie’s health. The Mother tells her she must get well so that they can go on a trip to Morgan’s Falls. Josie promises to get well and then asks if they can take Klara. The Mother says they can.
The Mother seems to be using Morgan’s Falls as an excuse to try to motivate Josie to get better. Josie’s request to include Klara shows how much Klara has become a part of Josie’s life in such a short time.
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Josie shows Klara old pictures of her family at Morgan’s Falls. In one photo, Josie has a companion—when Klara asks about her, Josie reveals that it is Sal, her sister, who has been dead for a long time (from a different illness than what Josie has).
This passage reveals the particular significance that Morgan’s Falls has for Josie’s family. The presence of Josie’s dead sister in the photo seems to suggest that the place has nostalgic memories attached to it, although perhaps also painful ones as well.
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The Mother warns Klara in advance of the Morgan’s Falls trip that Josie sometimes gets overexcited, and so Klara will have to watch out for her. The Sunday morning of the trip, Klara notices Josie looking weary, but they get in the car anyway. It’s Klara’s first time in a car.
One possibility is that, consciously or unconsciously, the Mother has planned this Morgan’s Fall trip as a test for Josie. Josie clearly wants to go on the trip and will try her best to seem healthy. This will show the Mother the extent to which Josie is able to overcome her illness.
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In the car, the Mother suddenly accuses Josie of hiding how sick and weary she feels. She wants to call off the trip, but Josie pleads that Klara’s looking forward to it. The Mother surprises everyone by ordering Melania Housekeeper to take Josie out of the car so that Klara and the Mother can go to the falls on their own. Josie reluctantly agrees to stay home, but she says that Klara should go.
The Mother’s actions here are surprising and perhaps seem irrational, but it also makes sense that she would act irrationally, given the stress she feels about Josie’s declining condition. By forcing Josie to stay home, it almost seems as if the Mother is punishing Josie for being sick, showing that she is angry about Josie’s condition and sometimes lashes out in the wrong direction.
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The Mother drives in silence with Klara for a while before talking about Josie. The Mother wishes to be more like Klara and not have feelings, but Klara believes that she does have feelings, and that she discovers even more feelings the more she observes. They talk about Josie’s father (the Father)—he works at a place on the way to the falls, and he and the Mother get along fine now, according to her.
Klara is not sure at first why the Mother wants her to come on the trip. It seems at first that perhaps the Mother just wants an escape, and Klara’s presence is incidental, given that the Mother does not even think Klara is capable of having human-like feelings.
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The Mother parks the car, and she and Klara begin to walk up to Morgan’s Falls. They make it to the falls themselves. The Mother wonders if maybe Josie could have made the trip after all. The Mother talks about how the whole family used to come with Sal. Klara asks why Sal died, but the Mother doesn’t want to answer. She concludes it was right not to bring Josie.
The Mother’s conversation with Klara emphasizes how the real significance of Morgan’s Falls seems to relate to the Mother’s dead daughter (and Josie’s sister), Sal. Klara’s question about Sal shows that she’s getting bolder and willing to ask about things that are not necessarily related to performing her duties as an Artificial Friend, but the Mother’s reluctance to answer suggests that it’s still a very sensitive topic.
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The Mother asks Klara if she’s still able to mimic Josie’s walk. She doesn’t ask Klara to do the walk, but she does ask Klara to do other things in the style of Josie. Klara roleplays, talking as Josie, saying that she just felt a little tired this morning but that she’s going to be fine. Klara (as Josie) says that some “special help” will be coming to make her feel better. Eventually, the Mother abruptly ends this by calling Klara by her real name.
This passage is intended to be a little unsettling. By asking Klara to imitate Josie, the Mother seems to be preparing for a future in which Josie is gone. It makes sense that the Mother would be thinking about this, given how Morgan’s Falls is tied to her memories of her dead daughter. It is unclear how well Klara understands what’s going on here, since Klara doesn’t reveal everything she knows to the reader, though Klara can clearly tell that the Mother’s behavior is unusual.
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On the ride back, the Mother says she enjoyed the trip, and suggests perhaps they can do it again, if Josie is too sick to come. The Mother asks if the “special help” Klara mentioned (to cure Josie) is real, but Klara says it’s just a hope, based on observation.
The Mother’s suggestion of future trips suggests that she is hoping Klara will be able to fulfill the role Josie once played in her life. Klara’s mention of “special help” is one of the first signs of her growing interest in spirituality, although many humans dismiss her feelings as nothing more than superstition.
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When the Mother and Klara get back, Josie is drawing intensely. Klara thinks that Josie seems mad at her and wants to be alone, so she leaves Josie to continue sketching.
Like her mother, Josie also experiences anger about her illness and sometimes expresses it by lashing out.
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