Memoirs of a Geisha Book and Movie Analysis

Categories: Film

I. Introduction Speaking to us with the wisdom of age and in a voice at once haunting and startlingly immediate, Nitta Sayuri tells the story of her life as a geisha. It begins in a poor fishing village in 1929, when, as a nine-year-old girl with unusual blue-gray eyes, she is taken from her home and sold into slavery to a renowned geisha house. We witness her transformation as she learns the rigorous arts of the geisha: dance and music; wearing kimono, elaborate makeup, and hair; pouring sake to reveal just a touch of inner wrist; competing with a jealous rival for men's solicitude and the money that goes with it.

In Memoirs of a Geisha, we enter a world where appearances are paramount; where a girl's virginity is auctioned to the highest bidder; where women are trained to beguile the most powerful men; and where love is scorned as illusion. It is a unique and triumphant work of fiction—at once romantic, erotic, suspenseful—and completely unforgettable.

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II. Comparison and Contrast After reading a lot of positive critique about the novel, I bought a copy and read it eagerly the moment I took hold of it. I’ve seen the movie long before I read the book. It was the movie that captured my interest and based on my experience, the books are always better than the movie, except for The DaVinci Code which I think, doesn’t have any difference with the book, that’s why I decided that it is a must to read the novel.

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The characters were vividly described. I was carried away by the emotions of the characters especially Nitta Sayuri, who was at the beginning, known as Chiyo, the girl from a poor coastal town who was sold to an okiya to be trained to become a geisha. It was focused on how a geisha is trained, about the life of a geisha. I always felt myself controlling my emotions especially on trying sequences in the novel. I was controlling my emotions just how Sayuri did, the way a geisha should.

The character of Hatsumomo, on the other hand, made me feel mixed emotions. I was angry because of her cruelty to a helpless child but I also pity her because she knows that this very young helpless girl can eat her alive if she will get proper training as a geisha. The first real kindness that she experienced from the “Chairman” touched her deeply and gave her hope, a sense of purpose which vanished totally after she failed to meet her older sister when they planned to runaway and go back to their home.

The book showed me that geishas are not prostitutes. They are well-trained, professional entertainers and although they, most of the time, manipulate men’s emotion for their own welfare, they know where their stand and that those men’s money were reciprocated by services enough that they don’t mind spending them. Communities depended greatly on Geishas, not directly but through the income they get from how the Geisha’s business operates. The book made me understand how hard it is to be a Geisha, how a woman gives her virginity to the highest bidder and how loving does not have a space in a woman’s life if she really want to succeed in her career.

The movie did not do much explaining as the book but it was good. It did not show how meticulous it is to tie an obi. I did not feel overwhelmed by the dance scene as I felt reading how it was described in the book. They also changed how Hatsumomo left. In the book, she got so angry on a client that she bit him and after that, she was kicked out of the okiya but in the movie, she burned their okiya. I think it was a major turning point and should not be changed. It was also mentioned in the book how it felt strange when Hatsumomo was not living there in their okiya anymore. It was a good chance to play at the emotions of the viewers.

But there were good things about the movie such as perfect soundtrack which carried on the mood and emphasized the emotions felt in different scenes, the casting was perfect although I would have chosen a prettier Mameha, and the colors were vivid, and some scenes made me go through the same emotions again as when I read it in the book such as the distant romance between the Chairman and Sayuri. I would also like it better if it was shown in the movie how the Chairman became Sayuri’s danna and that the two of them moved to NYC and Sayuri decided to put up her own teahouse there.

III. Reaction

The movie is a great supplement for the book. It was good by itself but reading the book will make you understand more, not only about being a Geisha but the culture in China, the complexity of the difference in economic status, the traditions that remained well-kept, and the depth of the kind of relationship that Sayuri and the Chairman had.

The characters were well presented in the books as well as the settings and scenes. I love reading and I don’t get easily bored with books but it is also rare that I feel heavy in the chest to just put a book down. “Memoirs of a Geisha” is one of my favorite novels and although the movie did not make it to my list, it is a must-see if you read the novel. It would be much better if you read the book first because the movie will just help you visualize although that would not be needed because everything was vividly described by Arthur Golden in the novel the same way Rob Marshall precisely recreated the scenes that preserved the novel’s beautiful tragedy.

Updated: Nov 01, 2022
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Memoirs of a Geisha Book and Movie Analysis. (2017, Feb 24). Retrieved from

Memoirs of a Geisha Book and Movie Analysis essay
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