In the book, “An Artist of the Floating World,” the author emphasizes the importance of memory. Ishiguro asks many fascinating questions and gives many answers on this idea. Some of the questions he asks are how do people remember the past. How do they revise it, as they go over events? Are our memories reliable? Can our memories give us an accurate picture of ourselves? All these questions and answers Ishiguro brings to our attention to show us the importance of memory.
To answer the first question, “How do people change the past in their memories? ” Let us go back to a scene on page seventy-two, where it shows Ono reminiscing on his discussion with Tortoise on leaving Takeda. Ono says, “These, of course, may not have been the precise words I used that afternoon at the Tamagawa temple, for I have had the cause to recount this particular scene many times before, and it is inevitable that with repeated telling, such accounts begin to take on a life of their own. You may have experienced this with yourself or with other people, the more a story is told, the more minor changes creep in, and after some time the story may be quite different then what it was originally. Thus, the answer to our question is people may change their memories by retelling them and slightly changing them as time goes on. The second question we have is are our memories reliable? To answer this question I want to go back to two scenes from the book.
This first one is on page fifty-four where Ono says, “I can barely recall what had taken place just a week afterward…” What Ono is basically telling us is that our memories are selective; we remember somethings yet we forget others. The second scene I remember is on page one hundred and seventy-seven. Here Ono is quoting his old teacher Mori-san as saying, “You seem to be exploring curious avenues. ” After quoting this Ono goes on to say, “It occurs to me that expression was one I myself tended to use frequently in later years and it may well be that I am remembering my own words to Kuroda on that later ccasion. ” Ono’s memories sometimes come as a blur to him, and he recalls someone else’s words as his own, or his words as someone else’s. I believe this shows that our memories can be unreliable and we shouldn’t completely trust them because we might be remembering only part of the story. The final question that we have is can our memories give an accurate picture of ourselves? On page sixty-seven Ono discusses Tortoises’s self-portrait. He says that Tortoise has given himself an “lofty, yet intellectual air” that he thinks is false.
Ono then gives a disclaimer that tells us what he believes to be the truth: “I cannot recall any colleague who could paint a self-portrait with absolute honesty; however, accurately one may fill in the surface details of one’s mirror reflection, the personality represented rarely comes near the truth as others see it. ” While Ono is saying this about Tortoise, he is also subconsciously telling us that in this “self-portrait” of a book he is narrating to us, we can expect to find that he shows himself more as he would like to be than as he really is. In conclusion, why do people remember parts of their lives differently?
Why do people deceive themselves into thinking they are bigger and better then they really are? I believe it is because we all have dreams and in those dreams we all hope that at some point in our lives we will make a difference in the world. But when we fail at achieving what we wanted to do, we cannot accept that our lives were only ordinary. Instead we look back at the high points in our lives and justify and glorify ourselves, so that we can see our lives as something worthwhile; and at the same time creating our own “floating world” of what could have beens.