Memoirs of a Geisha: an Archetypal Analysis

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Memoirs of a Geisha: An Archetypal Analysis “It is not for Geisha to want. It is not for Geisha to feel. Geisha is an artist of the floating world. She dances. She sings. She entertains you. Whatever you want. The rest is shadows. The rest is secret” (Memoirs of a Geisha Spielberg). These are lines of the 2005 movie adaptation of the novel Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden. From these short sentences one can easily deduce that the life of a Geisha is as difficult as it is mysterious. Learning to sacrifice all of one’s personal desires, as well as one’s personal feelings are necessary teachings while becoming a successful Geisha. Nevertheless, Memoirs of a Geisha is an inspiring novel about a girl named Sayuri, who perseveres against the unspoken etiquette of being a Gion Geisha to attract the attention of her true love, the Chairman. Since Arthur’s life has no relatable similarities with Sayuri, it can be inferred that he wrote this romantic novel due to his interest in the artistic aspects of Asian culture. He spent years of his life studying Japanese art and history at both Columbia and Harvard University (Golden “Memoirs of a Geisha”). Due to a combination of Arthur’s passion about art and Asia, it is easy for him to manipulate a trite fairy tale like story into a beautiful composition about the difficult and secretive life of Geisha. In the novel Memoirs of a Geisha, Arthur Golden uses these fairy tale archetypes such as a Rags to Riches plot and characters such as a Prince Charming, a Fairy God Mother, and a Wicked Step Sister to develop a theme of perseverance. Chiyo goes through an archetypal Rags to Riches plot line which cultivates the theme of perseverance in a positive connotation. Chiyo transforms from a small fisherman’s village peasant into an exquisite Gion Geisha. It all begins when Chiyo is sold by Mr. Tanaka to an okiya or a geisha house.

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