Cheng relates the concept of English to Ishiguro’s previous two novels and states that the fact that Ishiguro depicts the lives of Japanese protagonists in Japan and their resentment of America in the American language creates a “double apostrophe” effect in which both the Japanese and the American are out of place (233). Cheng clarifies that this is so because the Japanese are in an Americanized environment in their own nation while Americans are side-lined by some in Japan. Cheng reveals that this concept is displayed in A Pale View of Hills because Etsuko lives in Britain, yet she addresses Englishman as the other and classifies herself as one of the Japanese; therefore, due to where she resides, the roles are switched, and she becomes the other in the eyes of the majority. Cheng explains that Etsuko comments on Americans’ insufficiency in languages other than English as if she is narrating to Japanese spectators or readers, but considering her narration is mostly in the American language, the readers or listeners change to those that can clearly comprehend the language, therefore, to the other. Cheng declares that Etsuko views Britain as the other in the present and America as the other in her recollection of her past; therefore, she can be seen as an indecisive and undependable narrator because she consistently refers to both America and Britain as the other to conceal the English identity she’s adopted while living in Britain and the fact that she is distant from her former Japanese identity.
Cheng refers back to An Artist of the Floating World and argues that Ono classifies the American other based on peculiarity which highlights the fact that he is unable to recognize his own eccentricity in the eyes of those around him. Cheng points out that like Etsuko, Ono is also addressing a Japanese audience, but the English account swaps the intended audience to the other. Cheng notes that Ono has an impression of what something with an American style would look like and what Americans would find typically Japanese, which a Japanese person wouldn’t, but despite this fact, the Japanese, including Ono ridicule themselves by continuing to present Americans or the other with what the Americans view as Japanese rather than what is. Cheng comments on the ending of the novel by stating that Ono expresses uncertainty towards the reformation of Japan through America because even though he submits to and accepts the change, he is still somewhat saddened by it.
Cheng also reveals that Ono’s present role and identity converts at the end of the novel as he accepts Japan’s modernization from a singled-out narrator to one of the elderly onlookers who leave their nation in the hands of the younger and new or upcoming generations. Cheng analyzes the ending further and suggests that Ono addresses himself and his people as one or communally but refers to the younger generation separately, which displays his own indecisiveness regarding where he stands amongst his people in a developing Japan and reveals that there is an unchanging difference between the two generations, or the regretful and the optimistic. Cheng questions Ono’s narration by pointing out that Ono speaks to the audience about America’s otherness as if they are Japanese but tends to give explanations about Japanese customs as if the listener is the other; therefore, this fact as well as the language the narration is spoken or written in makes it unclear who Ono is talking to.
Cheng returns to his discussion on The Remains of the Day by restating that Steven is trapped between his feelings against Americans and his opinion on occupational faithfulness because his boss is American; therefore, Steven has to discard his former self and attachments creating instability within the narrator and an uncertainty for the reader in terms of Steven’s position or standpoint on the American other for a part of the novel. Cheng divulges that by the end of the text, Steven rejects his former identity, mindset and associations and accepts the American other by reflection on himself as the other. Cheng concludes her section on the double apostrophe by raising questions and asks what Ishiguro’s motifs are, what is he was trying to accomplish with his novels, how does he want his protagonists to be seen and how does he want his readers to react to the concept of the American other.
Cheng discusses that based on an interview with Ishiguro, it’s clear that he wrote A Pale View of Hills and An Artist of the Floating World the way he did considering the narrators are Japanese because even though they are written in English, the texts manage to maintain a distance from the language. Cheng continues that the narration isn’t in typical English and has an alien quality to it because of the way the narrators speak and the words or phrases they use; therefore, in a sense it stays true to the narrators’ Japanese nativity. Cheng points out that Japanese terms are rarely used and that they aren’t essential to the comprehension of the two novels because the words are mainly utilized to portray common aspects of Japanese customs. Cheng reiterates her previous point by arguing that the more that is explained about the Japanese traditions, the more it emphasizes that the listener or reader is the other, who is unaware of these facts because if the audience is meant to be Japanese, then references or clarifications of Japanese values are unnecessary; therefore, the fact that they are given makes it unclear who the intended audience is. Cheng declares that Ishiguro uses English in an usual manner in order to cover the oddity of Japanese, presenting it as more refined than English.
Cheng claims that both novels draw international readers due to the English text and separate themselves from the Japanese point of view such as of those exhibited by the two narrators. Cheng elaborates on an earlier argument by stating that as Ishiguro nurtures the Japanese language through English accounts, he also alters English into an old-fashion, almost foreign language, which creates a conflicting effect for the American or English other and the Japanese readers who don’t know how to interpret what Ishiguro has constructed. Cheng analyzes that even though the narrator is an Englishman, the concept of strange speech is also presented in The Remains of the Day because Steven’s manner of speaking may seem proper but even for someone who speaks the English language, his expressions are unusual. Cheng states that all three texts have a similar semantic form; therefore, it portrays that what is found unusual about Ishiguro’s depiction of Japan in English are the things Americans recognize about Japan or it’s traditions and Ishiguro’s illustration of Britain is comparable to the way he describes Japan, which makes it equally alien.
Cheng concludes that the shared ability to adapt to Japan or Japanese and Britain or English reveals how America’s otherness is an issue for both nations America has infiltrated, which also portrays the complex association between Ishiguro, his narrators, those being narrated to within the texts and the readers. Cheng continues that the concepts of otherness, identity and faithfulness are intertwined within the three novels because America as the other reveals betrayal or infidelity of the characters towards themselves and who they are, those around them or their nation. Cheng argues that the novels reveal that commitment to the other is possible, that one can feel isolated in their own homeland and that limits one creates or maintains between themselves and the other changeable. Cheng ends her article by stating that all three novels display suffering due to disagreements, how the characters swap their identities and become the other, and how the characters, including the narrators don’t know who to be faithful to, themselves, their people, their nation, or the American other.
Cheng focuses on Ishiguro’s first three novels because they all consist of narrators or protagonists who deal with the American presence in their counties or surroundings and view America as the other in one way or another. Cheng reveals that the concept of the American other becomes a confliction that causes change or uncertainty in the loyalties and identities of the narrators themselves and their people. Cheng’s analysis divulges that Ishiguro’s first two novels, A Pale View of Hills and An Artist of the Floating World are similar not only because they revolve around Japan after the war, but also in terms of difference of opinion between the older and younger generations. Cheng creates a closer comparison between the two texts throughout the article and then compares them separately to The Remains of the Day, which is interesting because it displays that Ishiguro uses the first two novels to highlight the viewpoints of one generation over the other and shows how similar, yet distinct the lives of the Japanese and English narrators are.
Cheng finds Ishiguro’s first two novel quite similar, but in A Pale View of Hills, Etsuko addresses the American as the other mainly due to the language barrier, even though she’s of the younger generation and even though she accepts America’s presence and influence. Cheng’s evaluations make it clear that through the narrations of both novels, Ishiguro presents America’s otherness, but also gives both perceptions and each side a stronger voice or chance to defend their argument about the American other’s positive or negative influence in Japan. Cheng reveals that Steven’s narration from The Remain of the Day is similar to Ono’s and Etsuko’s because of their manner of speech, which is also interesting because Ishiguro makes it seems as if the original narration was in Japanese and has been converted to English. Cheng’s explanations also indicate that other than the concept of the other and its effects, language and interpretation become a key connection between A Pale View of Hills and The Remains of the Day and the complexity, formality, and peculiarity of speech within their English narrations becomes a significant link between all three novels.
Cheng connections between Ishiguro’s works brings up some interesting questions throughout the article and there is one that remains unanswered. Cheng questions that if Ishiguro’s intended audience was Japanese for the first two novels, why did his narrators address the readers or listeners as if they were the uninformed other? Cheng’s observation also brings up that to the American reader who can comprehend English, the Japanese would be considered the other, but the Americans are presented as such, so how does Ishiguro want or expect his American readers to react to the concept of the other? Does he make his narrators come to terms with America’s presence in their nations and lives to satisfy the very readers that are portrayed as the other throughout all three novels? Cheng’s discussion on otherness in terms of the novels raises questions on the overall issue. For example, does the other remain the other when they are accepted or when their ways are adapted to? Is alterity ever truly resolved or abolished or does the position of the other remain unchanged regardless of acceptance due to differentiation in mindsets, languages, cultures, origins, etcetera?
Cheng’s article brings forth these questions and regardless of these unresolved matters, her analysis still helped me support my thesis further. Cheng’s argument on An Artist of the Floating World validates my own that up until a certain point in the novel, Ono carries his past identity, who he was before the war with him because he cannot accept the contemporary state of Japan and of the altered, unfaithful younger generation. Cheng confirms that Ono feels bitter about how America’s ascendency over Japan changed the moralistic and cultural views between generations, genders, and the individual characters themselves from who they were before the war; therefore, Cheng’s analysis helped me connect his struggle with his own identity with his struggle with accepting the American presence and moving forward with the younger generation. Cheng’s discussion on the novel also helped me develop my argument about how Ono suffers due to his loyalty to his past identity, action and the nation he once knew because it keeps him from coming to terms with his former self, accepting the truth, who he is in the present, and accepting the undeniable change around him and the advancement of the nation.
Cheng’s article helped me think of a point to further prove my argument which is that former Japan represents Ono’s past identity that no longer exists in the present time of the novel and the new Japan is Ono’s newfound real identity that he refuses to acknowledge and remains distant from until the end of the novel. Cheng’s argument about disloyalty in An Artist of the Floating World also made me think deeper about that concept because it is one of things that identifies Ono’s former self and a reality of his identity he hesitates to admit, even though it’s an unintentional identity, because he holds on to his belief that his past actions and self were positively influential to his country and his people. Cheng addresses these issues that I’ve already pointed out in my paper and will elaborate on further as she discusses and analyzes Ishiguro’s novels; therefore, her article connects and is significant to supporting my thesis.