The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro
Kazuo Ishiguro’s book The Buried Giant presents an interesting story of an elderly Briton couple that searches for their lost son. The protagonists in the book are Axl and Beatrice, who tirelessly search for their child in a distant village. Although Beatrice has a poor health status and advanced age, she is incredibly determined to see her son, to the extent that she is willing to risk her life just to satisfy her quest. Therefore, this book presents a story of a woman suffering from acute stress and depression which makes her make irrational decisions that lead to her untimely death.
Although Beatrice is losing her memory, she is still willing to search for her son. This mission is frustrated by the fact that she can barely remember his appearance. When speaking with Axl, she says, “But Axl, we can’t even remember those days or any of the years between. We don’t remember our fierce quarrels or the small moments we enjoyed and treasured. We don’t remember our son or why he’s away from us” (Ishiguro 45). Therefore, Beatrice’s search for her son is partly motivated by the desire to find him before she entirely forgets his appearance. She is convinced that unification with her son will ease her stress and pain. While that is a good strategy, in reality, it exposes her to the grave danger of getting lost. Additionally, the couple could have used more efficient and cheaper methods, such as a messenger, which would have enabled them to avoid the risk of getting lost.
Beatrice’s state of losing her son, facing loneliness, and suffering from memory loss expose her to dangers of psychological ailments such as depression. An analytical view of her life reveals that she is separated from modernity, lonely, and sick, which are conditions that can lead to stress and subsequent loss of memory. For example, Beatrice and her husband live on the outskirts of their village and away from the fire that keeps other residents warm. Similarly, the loss of her only child makes her lonely, and she longs for his company. In her anguish, Beatrice remarks, “Axl. Can it be our own son left us in anger one day and we closed our door to him, telling him never to return” (27). Furthermore, a wise man named Jonus diagnoses Beatrice with a terminal disease, which has been ailing her for a long time (154). The combination of these tragedies naturally stress her and impair her judgment. Although Beatrice’s decision to search for her son was a suicide mission, it is important to sympathize with her and understand that she was severely depressed. In this regard, her search for her son aims at filling the void with her, which she believes will heal her pain.
Beatrice’s desire to unify her family is what ultimately leads to her death. Her desire is so extreme that it makes her take the risk of departing to the island alone in the search for her son. It is surprising how concerned she is with rejoining the members of the family despite the fact that they are dead. When expressing her opinion on the need for unifying the family, she says, “He’s our Son. So I can feel things about him, even if I don’t remember clearly. And I know he longs for us to leave this place and be living with him under his protection. He’s our flesh and blood, so why would he not want us to join him” (25). This statement shows her overarching desire to unite her family. Additionally, Beatrice is motivated to search for her son when she recalls the place where he lives. She remarks, “How did we ever forget? Our son lives on an Island. An island seen from a sheltered cove, and surely near us now” (303). Accordingly, she departs to this island to satisfy her quest of having a physical connection with her son. Since she is believes that her son can protect Axl and her, she thinks ones she has a physical connection with him she will never experience any of her current pain.
Besides undergoing a physical connection, Beatrice is interested in restoring a psychological relationship with her son. Her fast-fading memory risks wiping out any traces that might enable her to identify to her son. In particular, she notes, “But Axl, we cant even remember those days or any of the years between. We don’t remember our fierce quarrels or the small moments we enjoyed and treasured. We don’t remember our son or why he’s away from us” (45). This part shows that Beatrice will soon lose the few memories she has of her family members. Therefore, the pursuit for her son is aimed at establishing relationship with all members of her family while she still can. Noteworthy, when Beatrice has to cross the island alone, she is concerned that Axl might also forget her; therefore, she repeatedly requests him to remember her. She begs him, “Don’t forget me, Axl” (229). From this dialogue, it is clear that Beatrice is also interested in ensuring that all members of her family are concerned about each other. Interestingly, she discloses that although her son has been away for a very long time, she still has vague memories of him, and she would love to rekindle their liking for each other. She notes, “He’s our Son. So I can feel things about him, even if I don’t remember clearly” (25). Therefore, her search for her son is an expression of her love and a way of healing her psychological pain of losing a child.
Beatrice does not lead herself to the grave when departing to the island; rather, her love for her family and her psychological conditions are what result in her taking the journey. In particular, she is stressed and lonely because she has not been with her son for a long time. Therefore, the trip to the island gives her an opportunity to interact with him. Moreover, Beatrice is interested in unifying her family by creating both psychological and social relationships. Although her death is shocking, on her part it creates a form of relief and escape from her stressful life and enables her to achieve the goal of getting rid of her pain.
Ishiguro, Kazuo. The Buried Giant. Vintage, 2016.