John Bell is Darius Wheeler’s assistant. Bell is an intellectual who proclaims to love his job and his boss. He is driven and intelligent. Bell speaks most Asian languages and is very capable of identifying and working with ancient works of priceless art. His boss, a dealer of Asian arts and antiquities, relies heavily on Bell’s expertise. Despite this, Bell is driven by a story he has fabricated about an eleventhcentury woman from Heian era Japan. He concocts an ancient pillow book, supposedly written by her. For a reason he cannot pinpoint, Bell is compelled to tell Wheeler that he has stumbled upon this ancient manuscript that is both beautiful and invaluable. As if coerced by an outside force, Bell enters into cahoots with Claire Tsong, a restorer of Asian artifacts, to create the ‘‘original’’ pillow book. Bell is ravaged with guilt, but cannot stop himself from playing out the scenario. He is assisted greatly by Tsong’s constant prodding. Eventually, after the forgery is discovered, Bell writes a piece of fiction from the point of view of an eleventh-century Heian era Japanese woman. His book is a smash success, but he still cannot seem to understand where the muse came from to motivate him to create such an elaborate tale. He even considers the possibility of a past life.
Setsuko Hearn is an assistant professor of Asian arts and antiquities. Hearn is well-educated and intelligent. She is highly regarded by her colleagues, including Owen Matthiassen. Hearn is an attractive woman of Asian descent. It is apparent from the earliest scenes of the play that Darius Wheeler is romantically interested in her. Hearn is also a skeptical woman, thus she is apprehensive of Wheeler’s advances. Eventually, the two begin a relationship. Oddly enough, Hearn’s skepticism gets the best of her in the end as she is convinced that Wheeler planned to seduce her only to get her to authenticate a fabricated pillow book created by Claire Tsong and John Bell. Unfortunately for their budding romance, the rift caused by Hearn’s conclusion that Wheeler has used her for his own gain, renders a permanent end to their relationship. The couple parts ways. Although she is drawn to ancient Japanese culture (her expertise is in writing from the eleventh century Heian era), Hearn is actually a Chinese orphan. Her parents adopted her from an orphanage in Hangzhou. Her mother is Japanese and her father is of mixed European descent. Hearn was raised in Fairfield, Iowa, as an only child. She was married once when she was young, but it did not last because she was more interested in her work than her spouse.
Owen Matthiassen is the chairman...
(The entire section is 1114 words.)