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...
(The entire section is 618 words.)
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This play is set during the Allied Occupation of Japan following World War II During that period, from 1945 to 1952, the United States instituted a policy of democratization, according to which the military was to oversee the establishment of some form of democratic or representational government. In the play, Captain Fisby is sent to the tiny village of Tobiki, on Okinawa Island, to carry out the process of democratization In his opening monologue, the character of Sakini, an Okinawan interpreter for the U S. military, explains,"We tell little story to demonstrate splendid example of benevolent assimilation of democracy by Okinawa.'' Colonel Purdy explains to Fisby that"my job is to teach these natives the meaning of democracy, and they're going to learn democracy if I have to shoot every one of them."
Among other things, Purdy instructs Fisby that "your first job when you get there will be to establish a municipal government." Purdy also instructs Fisby to "organize a Ladies' League for Democratic Action." Upon arrival in Tobiki, Fisby informs SaMni that "Plan B," which provides instructions for the process of democratization,"calls for a lecture on the ABC s of democracy.'' He asks Sakini to explain to the villagers "that we intend to lift the yoke of oppression from their shoulders " When asked by the villagers to explain democracy, Fisby stammers, "Well, it's a system of self-determination. It's—it's the right to make...
(The entire section is 722 words.)