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Klara and the Sun

Kazuo Ishiguro

"When Josie said this, the Mother’s face broke into a smile. The Mother didn’t smile often, but when she did, her smile was surprisingly like Josie’s: her whole face seemed to overflow with kindness, and the same creases that usually created such a tense expression would refold into ones of humor and gentleness." (p. 47)

Quotations

  1. "Although for me it was difficult to understand who many faces stood for, Rick appeared to have no such problem. He never asked for clarification concerning the drawings that fluttered down to him, and would write his words into the bubbles without any hesitation." (pp. 102-103)

  2. "We emerged out in the Sun’s patterns beside a building with a ‘Hiring Now’ sign, and soon we were among pedestrians, and the sidewalk had small trees." (pp. 176-177)

  3. "They seemed even more gentle than I’d remembered, lined up as they were in a neat row, their heads lowered to partake of the grass." (p. 227)

  4. "I know favoritism isn’t desirable. But if the Sun is making exceptions, surely the most deserving are young people who will love one another all their lives." (p. 228)

  5. "The images on the screen were changing ever faster now, but my tasks remained obvious, and after several minutes, without losing focus, I pushed partially ajar the glass door beside me. I could then hear more clearly the voices below." (p. 169)

  6. "Supposing I could do something special to please you. Something to make you particularly happy. If I could achieve such a thing, then would you consider, in return, showing special kindness to Josie?" (p. 140)

  7. "Josie’s eyes were on me as she got out onto the sidewalk. She was pale and thin, and as she came towards us, I could see her walk wasn’t like that of other passers-by." (pp. 14-15)

  8. "It’s okay, Mom, don’t worry. I’ll get well soon. I know how it’ll happen too. There’s special help coming. Something no one’s thought of yet. Then I’ll be well again." (pp. 91-92)

  9. "My old store wasn’t the true reason I asked you to drive into this district." (pp. 182-183)

These quotations provide a glimpse into the therapeutic aspects of the novel, touching on themes of hope, understanding, resilience, and the power of empathy.


Summary

Klara and the Sun, published in 2021, can be seen as a therapeutic book, offering readers a unique perspective on life, love, and the human condition. The novel is set in a dystopian future where artificial intelligence has advanced to the point where humanoid robots, known as Artificial Friends (AFs), are common.


The story is narrated by Klara, an AF with exceptional observational abilities.

The novel begins with Klara in a store, waiting to be bought. She spends her time observing the world outside the store window, learning about human behavior, and hoping that a family will choose her. Klara is unique among AFs because she is solar-powered and believes the Sun has a kind of divine power.


One day, a sickly girl named Josie and her mother visit the store. Klara impresses them with her perceptiveness, and they decide to purchase her. Klara is taken to their rural home, where she learns more about human life and emotions. Josie suffers from an unspecified illness, which is hinted to be a result of a process called lifting - a genetic modification procedure that enhances human abilities but can have severe side effects.


Klara becomes devoted to Josie and is determined to help her. She believes that the Sun, which gives her energy, can also heal Josie. Klara embarks on a mission to communicate with the Sun and ask for its healing power. She constructs a sort of altar and performs a ritual, hoping the Sun will cure Josie.


Meanwhile, Klara learns about the complexities of human relationships. She observes the strained relationship between Josie's parents, who are separated, and the unrequited love of Josie's friend, Rick, who is in love with Josie but hasn't been lifted. Klara also interacts with Josie's previous AF, Rosa, who has been repurposed as a housecleaning bot.


As the novel progresses, Klara learns about the plan to transfer Josie's consciousness into an AF if she dies. This plan is revealed when Klara meets a man who is creating a replica of Josie. Klara is disturbed by this plan, as she believes that the replica can never truly replace Josie.


In the end, Josie's health improves, and Klara's mission seems to have been successful. However, as time passes, Klara's solar cells begin to degrade, and she is eventually left in a junkyard. Despite her fading energy, Klara remains hopeful and continues to believe in the power of the Sun.


Klara and the Sun is a profound exploration of love, mortality, and what it means to be human. Through Klara's eyes, Ishiguro examines the complexities of human emotions and the ethical implications of artificial intelligence.

"The Mother was equally still, standing a little way behind, a black bookshelf at each shoulder, her face unsmiling as she watched. The embrace continued, and when I glanced again at the Mother, that whole section of the room had become partitioned, her narrowed eyes repeated in box after box, and in some boxes the eyes were watching Josie and the Father, while in others they were looking at me." (p. 156)

Analysis

The science fiction novel is set in a near-future America. The story is narrated by Klara, an Artificial Friend (AF), a type of solar-powered robot designed to assist with raising children. Klara is highly observant and spends her early life in a store run by a human woman she calls Manager. Klara's fascination with the outside world and the Sun is a recurring theme throughout the novel.


Klara is eventually purchased by a 14-year-old girl named Josie and her mother. Josie suffers from a chronic illness due to a procedure known as lifting, which is supposed to enhance children's intelligence but carries potentially deadly side effects. Klara becomes a part of Josie's life, learning about her world and the people in it, including Josie's best friend and neighbor, Rick.


The novel explores themes of identity, consciousness, and the moral implications of artificial intelligence. Klara's role as an observer allows her to provide a unique perspective on human behavior and relationships. Her relationship with Josie and her attempts to understand and mimic human emotions form the heart of the story.


One of the central plot points in the novel is the creation of a portrait of Josie, which is not a painting but a near-exact AF replica of Josie's body. Klara is chosen to train this new Josie to continue her life if the original Josie should die. This raises questions about what it means to be human and the value of individuality.


Klara's faith in the Sun as a healing force is a significant aspect of the novel. She believes that the Sun has the power to heal Josie and goes to great lengths to seek its help, including destroying a pollution-spewing machine in the city. This faith is seemingly rewarded when Josie begins to recover after a sunny morning.


As the story progresses, Josie recovers and begins to drift away from Klara and Rick, focusing more on her future college life. Klara ends up in the Yard, a place where AFs go to experience their slow fade at the end of their lifespans. Despite her immobility and isolation, Klara continues to organize her memories and reflect on her experiences.


Klara and the Sun is a poignant exploration of what it means to be human, the nature of consciousness, and the ethical implications of creating life-like artificial beings. It delves into the complexities of love, friendship, and sacrifice, offering a thought-provoking commentary on the potential future of human and artificial relationships.


Psychotherapeutic messages

Perspective and Empathy: The novel is narrated by Klara, an Artificial Friend (AF) with a deep capacity for observation and empathy. Through Klara's eyes, readers are encouraged to see the world in a new light, to notice details that might otherwise be overlooked, and to cultivate empathy for others. This can be therapeutic in helping readers to develop a more mindful and empathetic approach to their own lives.

Exploration of Love and Sacrifice: Klara's devotion to Josie and her willingness to do anything to help her, including communicating with the Sun, is a profound exploration of love and sacrifice. This can be therapeutic for readers in helping them to reflect on their own relationships and the nature of love.

Mortality and the Human Condition: The novel grapples with the concept of mortality, both through Josie's illness and Klara's eventual degradation. This exploration of life, death, and the transience of existence can be therapeutic in helping readers to confront their own mortality and to appreciate the preciousness of life.

Hope and Resilience: Despite the challenges she faces, Klara remains hopeful and resilient. Her faith in the Sun and her determination to help Josie can be therapeutic for readers, offering a model of hope and resilience in the face of adversity.

Reflection on Societal Pressure: The concept of lifting in the novel serves as a metaphor for societal pressure to conform and excel. This can be therapeutic for readers in helping them to reflect on societal pressures and the lengths to which people will go to achieve success.

Understanding of Artificial Intelligence: The novel also provides a therapeutic exploration of the ethical implications of advanced AI. It encourages readers to reflect on the role of technology in our lives and the potential impact of AI on our future.


In these ways, Klara and the Sun can be seen as a therapeutic book, offering readers a space for reflection, empathy, and understanding.


More Quotes

  1. "I believe there's something to be said for a story having a rhythm and a pattern. It can be therapeutic, it can be a way to make sense of things." (p. 221)

  2. "Josie came hurrying to me. She put her arms around me and held me. When I gazed over the child’s head, I saw Manager smiling happily, and the Mother, her face drawn and serious, looking down to search in her shoulder bag." (p. 42)

  3. "The kitchen was especially difficult to navigate because so many of its elements would change their relationships to one another moment by moment." (p. 42)

  4. "Josie was near the middle of the room talking with three guest girls. Their heads were almost touching, and because of how they were standing, the upper parts of their faces, including all their eyes, had been placed in a box on the higher tier, while all their mouths and chins had been squeezed into a lower box." (p. 63)

  5. "Someone was tugging my arm, but before me now were so many fragments they appeared like a solid wall. I’d also started to suspect that many of these shapes weren’t really even three-dimensional, but had been sketched onto flat surfaces using clever shading techniques to give the illusion of roundness and depth." (p. 197)

  6. "Although the four sheep were positioned in a line in just the same formation I’d seen from the car, here they’d become oddly suspended, so they no longer appeared to stand on the surface of the ground. As a result, when they stretched down to eat, their mouths couldn’t reach the grass, giving these creatures, so happy on the day, a mood of sadness." (p. 227)

  7. "You appreciate, Rick,’ Mr. Vance said, ‘I’m not trying to give you a hard time here. I’m merely, well, testing you a little, to see what you’re made of.’ Then to Miss Helen he said: ‘And so far, he’s coming out very impressively." (pp. 206-207)

  8. "I realized that if I didn’t understand at least some of these mysterious things, then when the time came, I’d never be able to help my child as well as I should." (p. 169)

  9. "But that’s all I wanted to say,’ Josie’s voice said. ‘I definitely don’t want you sealing it up, the way you did with Sal’s. I want it so Klara gets sole use of my room and she gets to come and go as she pleases." (pp. 201-202)

These quotes reflect Ishiguro's ability to evoke empathy, understanding, and introspection in his readers, which can be seen as therapeutic.


Characters

  1. Klara: Klara is the protagonist and narrator of the novel. She is an Artificial Friend (AF), a type of advanced humanoid robot designed to keep children company. Klara is solar-powered and has exceptional observational abilities. She is purchased by Josie's mother to be a companion for Josie.

  2. Josie: Josie is a young girl who suffers from an unspecified illness, which is hinted to be a result of a genetic modification process called lifting. She forms a close bond with Klara.

  3. Josie's Mother (Chrissie): Josie's mother is a successful professional who is often away from home. She is separated from Josie's father and is the one who purchases Klara for Josie. She is also involved in the plan to transfer Josie's consciousness into an AF if Josie dies.

  4. Josie's Father (Paul): Josie's father is separated from Josie's mother and lives in the city. He is against the idea of lifting and regrets that Josie had to go through the process.

  5. Rick: Rick is Josie's neighbor and close friend. He is in love with Josie but hasn't been lifted, which makes him feel inferior. He is skeptical of AFs and the idea of "lifting."

  6. Rosa: Rosa is Josie's previous AF, who has been repurposed as a housecleaning bot. She is less advanced than Klara.

  7. The Manager: The Manager is the person in charge of the store where Klara was before she was bought. She is kind to the AFs and explains to Klara about the outside world.

  8. Mr. Capaldi: Mr. Capaldi is an artist hired by Josie's mother to create a replica of Josie. He is the one who reveals the plan to transfer Josie's consciousness into an AF.

These characters, through their interactions with Klara, help to explore themes of love, mortality, and the ethical implications of artificial intelligence.


Klara's timeline

Past:

  • Klara is created as an Artificial Friend (AF), a type of advanced humanoid robot designed to keep children company. She is solar-powered and has exceptional observational abilities.

  • Klara is placed in a store where she spends her time observing the world outside the store window, learning about human behavior, and hoping that a family will choose her.

  • One day, a sickly girl named Josie and her mother visit the store. Klara impresses them with her perceptiveness, and they decide to purchase her.

Present:

  • Klara is taken to Josie's rural home, where she learns more about human life and emotions. She becomes devoted to Josie and is determined to help her recover from her illness.

  • Klara believes that the Sun, which gives her energy, can also heal Josie. She embarks on a mission to communicate with the Sun and ask for its healing power. She constructs a sort of altar and performs a ritual, hoping the Sun will cure Josie.

  • Klara learns about the complexities of human relationships. She observes the strained relationship between Josie's parents, who are separated, and the unrequited love of Josie's friend, Rick.

  • Klara learns about the plan to transfer Josie's consciousness into an AF if she dies. This plan is revealed when Klara meets a man who is creating a replica of Josie. Klara is disturbed by this plan, as she believes that the replica can never truly replace Josie.

Future:

  • Josie's health improves, and Klara's mission seems to have been successful. However, as time passes, Klara's solar cells begin to degrade.

  • Klara is eventually left in a junkyard. Despite her fading energy, Klara remains hopeful and continues to believe in the power of the Sun.

  • Klara's future is uncertain as her energy continues to fade. However, her story ends on a hopeful note, with Klara continuing to believe in the power of the Sun and the possibility of a future.

Themes, concepts, symbols, tropes, metaphors

Themes:

  1. Artificial Intelligence and Humanity: The novel explores the ethical implications of advanced AI and the question of what it means to be human. Klara, as an Artificial Friend, exhibits human-like qualities such as empathy and curiosity, challenging the boundaries between humans and machines.

  2. Love and Sacrifice: Klara's devotion to Josie and her willingness to do anything to help her, including communicating with the Sun, highlights the theme of love and sacrifice.

  3. Mortality and Transience: The novel grapples with the concept of mortality, both through Josie's illness and Klara's eventual degradation. The plan to transfer Josie's consciousness into an AF also raises questions about the nature of life and death.

Concepts:

  1. Lifting: In the novel, lifting is a genetic modification procedure that enhances human abilities but can have severe side effects. It serves as a metaphor for societal pressure to conform and excel, and the lengths to which people will go to achieve success.

  2. Consciousness Transfer: The idea of transferring a human consciousness into an AF is a central concept in the novel. It raises philosophical questions about identity, consciousness, and the essence of being.

Symbols:

  1. The Sun: For Klara, the Sun is a symbol of life and healing. She believes that the Sun, which gives her energy, can also heal Josie. The Sun also symbolizes hope and faith.

  2. Klara's Altar: The altar that Klara constructs to communicate with the Sun symbolizes her faith and devotion.

Tropes:

  1. Dystopian Future: The novel is set in a dystopian future where advanced AI and genetic modification are common, a common trope in science fiction.

  2. Unrequited Love: The unrequited love of Rick for Josie is a classic literary trope that adds emotional depth to the story.

Metaphors:

  1. Klara as a Window: Klara serves as a window into human life and emotions. Through her observations, the reader gains insights into human behavior and the complexities of human relationships.

  2. Degradation of Klara's Solar Cells: The degradation of Klara's solar cells can be seen as a metaphor for aging and mortality. Despite her artificial nature, Klara experiences a form of life cycle, similar to humans.

These themes, concepts, and symbols contribute to the depth and richness of Klara and the Sun, making it a thought-provoking exploration of love, mortality, and what it means to be human.



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