Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

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I think that Sayuri is strong and brave and empathic. She is the protagonist of the story. I say story here because having watched the film and read the book it seems to me now to be more of a complete story rather than a single film.

Throughout her life, she faces the plans others have for her and tries to meet their expectations while at the same time she is trying to find herself, to figure out who she is and what she wants and if what she wants may be possible and then you add to that all the chaos of war.

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Near the end of the story, she begins to gain some control over her own life, if not quite in the way she meant to.

Hatsumomo, on the other hand, seems cruel and cold. I would say that she is that main antagonist. She comes across as a bit of a malicious control freak. Whereas Pumpkin is somewhat similar to Sayuri in age and background. In the beginning, they are friends. Later she still wishes to be Sayuri’s friend and help her but Hatsumomo forbids it telling her they are rivals now.

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In the end, I think that she is jealous of Sayuri as evidenced by her betraying Sayuri by bringing the chairman. Mameha, on the other hand, comes across as a teacher. She is a mentor, firm, but with purpose. She teaches Sayuri how to be a Geisha and what it means to be a Geisha. She is there for Sayuri when she needs her, at least for the most part. She is beautiful and graceful and elegant. I think that part of the reason for this character was to show the viewer what a Geisha is meant to be.

However, Mother is dismissive of others. She comes across as controlling and money hungry. She is all about the business and seems to care nothing for the people behind it. She cares about her profits. The one who brings in the most money is her favorite. Her defining trait seems to be greed. I think that each character has a specific reason for being in the story. All these characters are complex and believable.

Near the beginning of the film when she is brought to the house (I need to learn how to spell the word for it.) Pumpkin tells her that her parents sold her. This shows that the young geisha has no choice in what their lives will be, however instead of acting like slaves they look up to the Geisha in much the same way young ballet dancers look up to professional ballerinas. (My little sister is training to be a ballerina, and this scene reminded me of her watching the older dancers a few years ago.)

Updated: Apr 02, 2022
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Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden essay
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