Memoirs of a Geisha

 

                 In this book any identity conflict is subtle enough that it is perceived quite insignificant. Most of the time it is quietly shadowed by a more potent theme, such as suffering can lead to the greatest things of all and such things as that.

            When first beginning this hybrid novel, I noted that the fist identity issue wasn’t even the protagonist’s experience but in fact the authors (Arthur Golden). The book makes a restrained introduction where the authors race, language, and ethnicity proves to be a barrier in the real version of his stories setting. While attending a the Japanese dance given by Gion’s prized geisha, the author, just a boy at the time, notes with a good deal of curiosity that he and his father are the only westerners at hand.
He spoke English, they speak Japanese. His skin was pale, theirs bronzed. He American, they Japanese. These differences acted as a blockade for him and his father, it made him notice how foreign he was in that place. No one necessarily called him out on his oddness among the others there, but he feels it. He begins to question the differences and that questioning plays into his novel.                                                                                                         The protagonist, Sayuri, confronts similar issues though out her story. As a child she is a lowly fishermen’s daughter, identifying herself as such. However, though out her transformation into a celebrated Geisha she is constantly baffled by her abrupt change in social standing. From lowly child, to condemned maid, to renowned Geisha. She changes both in appearance and mind. She questions who she is; is she more a seaside child from a tipsy house or a devastatingly beautiful member of privileged society, mingling with the most influential of the elite. In truth she never really decides whether she is who she was born as or if she is who she has become through her struggles in life. She knows no one would accept her as her, so she disguises her accent, hides her ethnicity, and accepts that she isn’t the timid child bowing to the fish company’s manager.                                                                                                                                  Much later on in the story, Sayuri observes differences between her people and the American soldiers invading Japan in World War II. She knows them by their skin, their voices, and their clothes. It makes her wonder if she had been told right about them, which causes a silent conflict to begin within her subconscious. These soldiers didn’t seem so terrible, not at all. It makes her question.