An Artist of the Floating World Guide

An Artist of the Floating World Guide

An Artist of the Floating World Guide

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Table of Contents

Table of contents. 2

About the Author. 3

Synopsis. 3

Relevance of the title. 4

Characters and their personalities. 5

  1. Masuji Ono. 5
  2. Ono’s wife. 10
  3. Ono’s Father. 11
  4. Noriko. 11
  5. Setsuko. 12
  6. Ichiro. 13
  7. Suichi 14
  8. Kuroda. 15
  9. Chishi Matsuda. 16
  10. Seiji Moriyama. 16
  11. Dr. Saito. 17
  12. Mrs. Kawakami 18
  13. Yasunari Nakahara. 18
  14. Shintaro. 19
  15. Enchi 20
  16. Jiro Miyake. …………..20


Themes and Key concerns (Virtues, Vices, and Values). 21

  1. Politicization of art. 21
  2. Responsibility. 21
  3. Disillusionment and Pessimism.. 22
  4. Loss and Grief. 23
  5. Betrayal 23
  6. Hope and Optimism.. 24
  7. Admiration, Satisfaction and Reassurance. 24
  8. Imperialism.. 25
  9. The Changing values in Japan and Intergenerational conflicts. 25
  10. Marriage negotiations. 26
  11. Effects of war. 27
  12. Religion. 28
  13. Change. 28
  14. identity ……………………………………………………………………………
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Language and Styles. 29

  1. Irony. 29
  2. Unreliable narrator. 29
  3. Dialogue or Conversation. 30
  4. Sarcasm.. 32
  5. Imagery. 33
  6. Rhetoric Questions. 37
  7. Allusion. 37
  8. Direct Translation. 37
  9. Flashback. 38
  10. Local Language/ Dialect. 39
  11. Foreshadow.. 39


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About the Author

Born in Nagasaki, Japan in 1954, Kazuo Ishiguro later moves to England at the age of five are returned to Japan twenty-nine years later. Ishiguro grows up under the care of a traditionally Japanese mother; hence she influences his writing when reflecting on Japan. Kazuo read a number of Japanese novels and comics that connect him to the Japanese heritage. He sees the differences between Western and Japanese society.

Ishiguro was inspired to write An Artist of the Floating World, after writing his novel A Pale View of Hills, and The Remains of the Day. Since Ishiguro moves out of his country in childhood and lacked connection to his country, he wrote in a globalized and international way, while exploring his own background and heritage. Generally, the novel reflects Ishiguro’s personal feelings of Japanese heritage, and a fictional reflection of his sense of identity, as presented through a youthful reconstruction of an imagined Japan.  Ichiro, a boy character in this novel has a cowboy obsession, which emerges from the writer’s own fascination with cowboys during his youth.


An Artist of the Floating World (1986) as a novel is authored by Kazuo Ishiguro, a British. The book was published in 1986 by Faber and Faber Publisher. Its setting revolves around post-World War II Japan. The story takes the four different times namely; October 1948, April 1949, November 1949, and June 1950.

The novel centers around the elderly Masuji Ono, is an ageing painter, who reflects on his life and how he spend it. He remembers his once great reputation that has faltered since the war and the change in the attitude towards him and his paintings.

The main conflict is the need of Ono to accept responsibility for his past actions, rendered politically suspect in the situation of post-War Japan. The novel ends with the narrator expressing good will for the young white-collar workers on the streets at lunch break. The novel too covers the role of people in a rapidly changing political situation and with the assumption and denial of guilt.

The novel is global literature and a historical fiction in whose past preludes personal experiences of the author, and it draws from historical facts An Artist of the Floating World distinctly looks at different years, with the memories of the narrator going back to his own childhood, when his father opposed his wish to become an artist.

In the buildup to World War II, Ono, a promising artist, breaks away from the teaching of his master, whose artistic goal was to acquire an ultimate aesthetic ideal in representations of the ‘floating world’ of night-time entertainments. Ono becomes involved in far-right politics, and begins making propagandistic art. Later, as a member of the Cultural Committee of the Interior Department and official adviser to the Committee of Unpatriotic Activities, Ono becomes a police informer, taking an active part in an ideological witch hunt against a former student, Kuroda. After the 1945 defeat and the collapse of Imperial Japan, Ono becomes a condemned figure, one of the “traitors” who “led the country astray”. In the meantime, the victims of state subjugation, including individuals Ono himself had once deplored, are restored and allowed to lead a normal life. In the whole story, Ono appears to be progressively acknowledging his past “errors”, as he declares the uncertainties in his memory of past events and a high degree of unreliability.

The novel is written in the first person perspective and pivots on the limited use of a single, unreliable narrator, articulating a viewpoint which the reader identifies as limited and fallible. Ono clearly says he is uncertain of the accuracy of his narrative, but that might either make the reader vigilant or, on prove that Ono is very honest and, hence, trustworthy.

The self-image Ono expresses in his narrative is immensely different from what the reader builds of him while reading the narrative. Ono indicates how others admire and are indebted to him. He seems to be in a state of denial so that his interests and hierarchy of values are at odds with the reader’s. Ono describes pictures by focusing on pictorial technique, mentioning the subjects with less significance, as they help bring out the propagandistic nature of Ono’s work.

Similarly, when Ono narrates an episode in which he was confronted with the results of his activities as a police informer, it is debatable whether his attempt to mitigate the brutality of the police is a retrospective fabrication devised to avoid his own responsibility, or whether he actually did disapprove of the treatment of the person he had denounced, distancing himself from his actions and refusing to recognize the abusive treatment as a direct and foreseeable consequence of those actions.


Relevance of the title

The title the Artist of the Floating world is a reference to the Japanese art of prints. It could simply be considered “a printmaker” or “an artist living in a changing world,” because of the narrow understanding of Ono and the drastic global changes that affect the first half of 20th C.

The title focuses on Ono an artist who used to be popular, but he no longer has his art standing art after taking part in the imperialist propaganda.

The title also refers to an artistic genre hence bringing out both the plot and themes. Ono’s master is especially interested in portraying scenes from the pleasure district adjacent to the villa in which he and his students live. Ono mentions the momentary nature of the floating world that could be experienced every night. His master experiments with innovative softer Western-style painting practices, eliminating the hard black outlining that was considered more traditional. He says he cannot remain an artist of the floating world. Under the influence of right-wing political ideas about tradition, Ono becomes alienated from his master and forges his own career. He is delighted when the paintings of his master lose the favor of people during a return to the use of more prehistoric bold lines in the paintings used for nationalistic posters.

Characters and their personalities

a.     Masuji Ono

Masuji Ono is the narrator and protagonist in the novel. He is an elderly artist, father and grandfather at the time he narrates the events in the novel. The story sets when his main concern is the marriage negotiations of his daughter, Noriko.

He is portrayed as a:

1.      Hardworking, Zealous and industrious

He works so hard in art until his earning enable him to buy Sugimura’s house (P. 2).

He renovates his house after the war when he notes it has been ruined. He says he had make progress in restoring its early appearance (P. 8).

He testifies before Matsuda that he had enough wealth.

He had worked hard in the villa and at Takeda’s even when they needed many paintings. He says he commanded considerable respect for his output was unchallengeable in terms of both quality and quantity (P. 76).

Even at old age, Ono has to make sure his trees and compound is clean and well-trimmed (P.122).

2.      Patronizing and a male chauvinist

He tells Ichiro he is tired to talking to women all the time and wants to talk to Ichiro (P. 10).

He tries to force Ichiro to take to his art, but fails

From what Noriko comments, Ono was tyrannical and used to order them around (P. 8).

When talking to Ichiro about the film, he insinuates that if Setsuko and Noriko watch they will be scared because they are women.

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