Comparison of the Similarities Between Robinson Crusoe and Memoirs of A Geisha

June 7, 2022 by Essay Writer

Task 1: Common Themes or Lenses

A theme explored in Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe is that of racial discrimination and how it is represented in the text. The novel portrays whites as “premium races” and says they are fair and kind people; on the contrary, African blacks and American Indians are portrayed as “lower races”, saying that they live a primitive life and have no civilized behavior, dancing awkwardly, and are cruel to eat human flesh. Blacks can be enslaved and used because they are inherently inferior. The main character Robinson has a perfect personality, a strong body, and he is smart enough to live on the deserted island.

He regarded the island as his own kingdom. For the black man, Friday, Robinson rescued, he treats him as a slave. “…and first, I made him know his Name should be Friday, which was the Day I sav’d his Life; I call’d him so for the Memory of the Time; I likewise taught him to say Master, and then let him know, that was to be my Name”(Defoe 174). Although Robinson did not actually buy Friday, he did take full control of the man. The practice of slavery often involved replacing native names with Christian ones. This kind of slavery is reflected in many places in the text, and it is actually a kind of racial discrimination against black people.

In the Memoirs of A Geisha by Arthur Golden, there is another discrimination which is gender discrimination. This text states that under the influence of patriarchal ideology, the self-consciousness awakens and resists of women. Memoirs of a Geisha portrays negative stereotypes of women by endorsing distorted aspects of geisha culture. “I couldn’t stop thinking about Mr. Tanaka. He had taken me from my mother and father, sold me into slavery, sold my sister into something even worse. I had taken him for a kind man. I had thought he was so refined, so worldly. What I stupid child I had been”(Golden 82). Because in many people’s eyes, women and children are vulnerable, so they can be sold like slaves. This tragic concept and discrimination lead to the beginning of chiyo’s tragic life as a geisha. She is sold like a slave to other men with a price.

Task 2: Annotations

“So many things in my life had changed, even the way I looked; but when I unwrapped the moth from its funeral shroud, it was the same startlingly lovely creature as on the day I had entombed it…It struck me that we—that moth and I—were two opposite extremes. My existence was as unstable as a stream, changing in every way; but the moth was like a piece of stone, changing not at all. While thinking this thought, I reached out a finger to feel the moth’s velvety surface; but when I brushed it with my fingertip, it turned all at once into a pile of ash….Now I understood the thing that had puzzled me all morning. The stale air had washed away. The past was gone. My mother and father were dead and I could do nothing to change it”(Golden 107).

This passage is the turning point of Chiyo’s life. She knew the death of her parents one year ago and at that time, she buried a small moth under the Okiya. It is more like she has buried her own pure years which had her parents, younger sister, and every stable and comfortable thing. The moth is the symbol of little Chiyo. But everything has changed after she came to Okiya. She lost her family and was forced to adapt new life in Okiya. Chiyo found that she was in spite of herself in Okiya; she learned the etiquette that needed by all the geishas, how to deal with others, and lives strongly in this humiliating environment.

However, the dead moth has no change even though buried in the ground for one year while Chiyo has lost her original self because of the changes of environment. Chiyo laments the injustice of the world, but she cannot control herself in the stream of society. Even if something has changed, there are still things, such as Chiyo’s desire for survival and the hope for the future, which has never changed. These tiny beliefs have always existed in her heart, just like the steady stones in the stream. Therefore, Chiyo realizes that a lot of things, like the death of her parents, that have changed and cannot be turned back. The past that has been blown away by the wind is irreparable, so Chiyo needs to go forward and accept a new life.

The young Chiyo was innocent and ignorant, but after this incident, the young Chiyo would no longer exist. She has learned to accept the living and death that had already occurred in her life. As an independent individual in this world, she still needs to work hard for herself. That’s why Chiyo changes her name to Sayuri and bury the young Chiyo in the past.

A lot of people trap themselves, not willing to look forward. After a long time, it has become a knot in the heart. If they cannot open this heart knot, they will live under the shadow forever. Although memories are precious and lost people or things may be valuable, but life has to continue. Thus, those who are hard to come out of the past need to learn from Chiyo, forgetting the past and then keeping going.

“I was hardly worthy of these surroundings. And then I became aware of all the magnificent silk wrapped about my body, and had the feeling I might drown in beauty. At that moment, beauty itself struck me as a kind of painful melancholy”(Golden 187).

The seemingly glamorous life of geishas, the real situation is like Chiyo’s expression in this passage. When she needs to start entertaining clients, like other geishas, she cannot be a really perfect geisha. Her thoughts are very complicated and she even feels that she is not suitable for being a geisha. Chiyo fell into self-doubt, for herself, and also for this job. The complicated clothes and fabrics that other geishers can bear are a burden to Chiyo. She thinks that she is unable to fully grasp it. In fact, all the geishas are like this at the beginning.

They put on heavy makeup, concealing their true face, then singing and dancing in front of others, all for pleasing other people. However, they live under the shadows and are afraid of exposing their true faces to others, the panic and secrets filled with their hearts. They do not have the right to live alone because everything is arranged, and they cannot even fall in love with a person. Since they are in an environment where they are unable to talk about love at all which is the most frivolous and insignificant thing at here. Chiyo just enters this whirlpool, but her future has been fixed by this environment. From the time she wore this complicated kimono, her fate is doomed to drift.

Chiyo’s inner struggles and sadness are hidden deeply. She has a sad past that no one knows that, but in the chaotic environment of okiya, these pasts are not important. Chiyo is thrust into an obvious position as a public figure. But she feels that this kind of life is not true, because she has not come out of the upset past. Then she falls into self-stretching. On the one hand, Chiyo is deeply involved in this kind of environment. On the other hand, Chiyo believes that she should not get this kind of beauty. So for chiyo, this is “a kind of painful melancholy”.

“But now I know that our world is no more permanent than a wave rising on the ocean. Whatever our struggles and triumphs, however we may suffer them, all too soon they bleed into wash, just like watery ink on paper”(Golden 428).

At the end of the book, this is said by Chiyo to the readers. It is significant because it is the last thought left to the reader. The line gives readers an illustration of Chiyo’s one thought about her life. She experienced great change and lost people and places she never thought possible. Chiyo is trying to tell us to relish in the stability people have know and know change in immanent but not the end.

On the one hand, all the lightness and happiness in life are short and people should not wallow in it. But when the pain and trouble ensue, people have to seize the time to enjoy the limited happy time. Many people tend to be unhappy and stressful with their lives because of too much worries and pressure, that also can make life boring. Therefore, when leisure time comes, such as weekends or holidays, everyone should enjoy the relaxed life. Chiyo’s geisha life is boring and frustrating, but after all the ups and downs of her life, she knows the importance of enjoying the life which still applies to people today. Certainly, the biggest worry in life is death. All life ends in death. Although this topic sounds melancholy, it also tells people that all the spindrift in the life ocean is insignificant in the face of death and will eventually be calm. Thus, each person should try their best to accept all the difficulties and achieve their goals in life without leaving regrets in their lives. Living well is the best reward for themselves.

On the other hand, everyone needs to accept changes in life, including the betrayal of friends, the departure of family members, the sudden changes of the environment, and so on. For many times, when people have no time to respond to these changes, they are forced to move on. So everybody should embrace these changes and be prepared for them at any time, even when some changes are hard to accept. Time will not be suspended because of a change in one’s life, so moving on is the most important thing. People should believe that all the things, including the world will eventually disappear or die. In this case, it is best to seize what a person has.

Task 3: Scholarly Essay

The scholarly article I selected was Memoirs of the Orient by Anne Allison. This article argues that commonly enjoyed by fans as a ‘trip to an exotic land’ that is also ‘authentic’ in its representation of Japan, but Memoir of A Geisha is widely read as a fantasy, that engages readers in a world that is enticingly other.

The apparent cyclical return of Western interest in the more gentle exoticised side of Japan is perhaps typified best by Arthur Golden’s highly successful, fictionalised story of a Gion geisha in Memoirs of a Geisha. However, Anne Allison argues persuasively that Memoirs of a Geisha is not, in fact, much of an improvement in the portrayal of Japanese women to the outside world, “I find it disturbing that this is the text, fictional and imaginary, about a behaviour so minor, antiquated, and fetishized in Japan today… the confusion between the historical authenticity… and its fantasy story is highly problematic”(Allison 397-98).

Memoirs of a Geisha gives Americans a sense that they have learned something about Japan, but it actually reinforces stereotypes of Japan where is a mysterious country. People who read the book always believe that they have already got lots of knowledge about the culture of Japan, but actually it is linking to an old-fashioned and fantasy version of Japan, which means that it is unable to help Americans to know and study about contemporary Japan.

According to the research of Allison, she compiled some reflections of American readers about Memoirs of A Geisha. She found that some people read the book as a nonfiction while some of them even believe that it is a real memoir that happened in Japan. But the impressions of readers of what they know as ‘real Japan’ are undermined by the fact that the story makes Japan and its culture seem alien to Americans. Allison found that some of the readers, especially women, realized with the main character, Chiyo (Sayuri), found similar points between her own life and their lives.

On the contrary, they described the culture in the text as “savage but erotic” and “beautiful but primitive”. This is actually a very ridiculous thing. The author, Arthur Golden, an American man, gets the factual and right information to readers, but the whole impression of the book expresses to “orientalize” Japan. But Allison also states that it is not that he wants to intentionally tamper with the history of geisha. It is more about the parts that he chooses to emphasize that can appeal to the fantasy for Western readers. This is why this book has attracted many Westerners to read.

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