Themes and Meanings (Masterplots II: Drama, Revised Edition)
The title The Teahouse of the August Moon suggests the central theme of this play. When Fisby asks, “Why an August moon?” Sakini answers that “all moons good but August moon little older—little wiser,” a way of saying that, in spite of an initial lack of cross-cultural understanding, it is possible for East and West to learn from each other, given enough time and the willingness to learn.
On the Okinawan side, several important cultural concepts, cloaked in satire and irony, are addressed. Saying one thing and meaning another (honne and tatamae) is crucial to understanding the Okinawan mind. Thus, when Sakini calls Colonel Purdy a “very wise man” because he can predict the weather, the audience understands that Sakini is, in fact, making fun of Purdy’s ignorance of the weather patterns on the island. Language differences that influence ways of thinking are also addressed. Unlike English, the Luchuan dialect has no future tense; thus, when Sakini answers Fisby’s question about how long the ride to Tobiki will take by saying, “Oh—not know until we arrive, boss,” he is not merely being funny; he is reflecting a cultural difference.
Beneath the humor, the perception of Americans as wasteful is conveyed in a scene in which the jeep that is to take Fisby to Tobiki ends up carrying an old lady, her daughter, her grandchildren, some goats, much baggage, and an old man. To the villagers, it is a wasteful luxury to use the jeep only for Fisby and...
(The entire section is 618 words.)
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