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Robots, Emotions, and the Human Heart: A Literary Analysis of Klara and the Sun

Robots, Emotions, and the Human Heart: A Literary Analysis of Klara and the Sun


Through the lens of the general public, the rapid development of artificial intelligence and modern technology poses a unique threat to mankind. Since robots can perform the same tasks as ordinary people more accurately, the need for a human workforce diminishes in importance. Although robots hold many special talents, most characterize them as emotionless beings who lack the knowledge to truly understand the human experience. Kazuo Ishiguro, the author of the novel Klara and the Sun, explains the complex relationship between robots and humans in a dystopian society in which artificial friends, otherwise known as “AFs,” serve as companions to children. The futuristic setting of the book demonstrates how society eventually learned to overcome feelings of loneliness and grief by utilizing artificial friends. Unlike other AFs whose sole purpose revolves around providing support to their child, Klara, the main protagonist of Ishiguro’s novel, learns how to experience and feel genuine love by observing the world around her. Klara rejects societal and cultural hierarchical structures by challenging the notion that robots lack emotions while undermining her superiors to submit to a higher power, ultimately illustrating the impossibility of fully understanding or replicating the human heart.


Klara directly confronts societal expectations of artificial friends profoundly by learning to analyze emotions. Before being purchased by Josie and her mother, Chrissie, Klara lived out the early years of her life in a store, waiting for someone to consider her as their AF. She also willingly submitted herself to the requests of an unknown figure called the “Manager,” a character who operated the AF shop. After meeting a girl named Josie and forming an immediate bond, Klara hoped she would choose her as a potential companion. Several days passed as Klara patiently waited for her return when a different customer entered the store. Instead of obeying the instructions of the Manager to treat each patron with the same amount of respect, Klara acted extremely coldly towards the customer in order to avoid being purchased. Even though she received a lecture from the Manager, Klara demonstrated her loyalty to Josie. Ishiguro clearly displays how Klara’s desire to stay connected with Josie affected her emotionally, despite the ironic fact that robots typically cannot experience emotions. Ishiguro also demonstrates how Klara challenges societal expectations of AFs when explaining how Chrissie, Josie’s mom, envies her for supposedly having no feelings. Klara responds to this statement by saying, “I believe I have many feelings. The more I observe, the more feelings become available to me” (Ishiguro 98). Klara contradicts the common belief that robots lack emotions, eventually realizing how every individual possesses something unique within them that cannot be completely understood by artificial intelligence despite the advancements in modern technology.


Ishiguro implements the symbol of the sun to show how Klara defies the traditional hierarchical structures of society by submitting to a higher power. For example, throughout Josie’s lifetime, she always suffered from health issues resulting from being “lifted” or genetically enhanced. Most wealthy families wanted their children to acquire special abilities that came from these genetic modifications; however, they were predisposed to medical issues. Klara sought to renew Josie back to normal health and, therefore, prayed to the sun for assistance. Rather than submitting to her family’s belief that nothing holds the power to restore Josie back to full health, Klara places unrelenting hope in the capabilities of the sun. At one point, Klara learns of the mother’s plan to use her to replace Josie if she passes away from illness. Initially, Klara accepts the offer as the mother acknowledges her excellent observational and imitation skills. Nevertheless, Klara eventually recognizes the impossibility of replicating another human being when praying to the sun. Klara reevaluates her view of humanity, explaining, “There was something very special, but it wasn’t inside Josie. It was inside those who loved her” (Ishiguro 302). In this scenario, Klara rejects the social pressure from others to replace Josie and realizes the impracticality of the mother’s request, demonstrating how not even a robot holds the ability to understand the complexities of the human heart fully.


Ishiguro ironically utilizes the figure of Klara not only to show how she can observe emotions but also to showcase the complex and unique nature of the human heart. Contrary to the traditional characterization of robots, Klara demonstrates how, although one can perceive feeling, the task of replicating another human being requires a full understanding of the love an individual receives from humanity. Klara’s character develops throughout the novel as she realizes that robots like herself who possess incredible observational abilities cannot simply replace another human being due to the impossibility of understanding one’s heart.

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