In Memoirs of a Geisha, how does Mameha work as a foil to Sayuri? In other words, how does the relationship between them illuminate the meaning of the work as a whole?

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teachertaylor eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Memoirs of a Geisha, Mameha may be considered a foil to Sayuri early in their relationship because Mameha is all that Sayuri hopes (and needs) to be.  Mameha agrees to take on Sayuri as her apprentice mostly because Mameha knows that her rival Hatsumomo is desperately trying to ruin Sayuri's career as a geisha.  Mameha is not as beautiful as Hatsumomo; however, she is much more elegant and revered, particularly because she is high-earning on account of her danna.  At this point, Sayuri, although she has potential, is still awkward and immature.  Mameha teaches Sayuri the nuances of being a geisha and the social reality that comes with the position.  Mameha's experience and intelligence stand in contrast to Sayuri's naivete, and in this way, Mameha serves as Sayuri's foil.  Eventually, Sayuri embodies the qualities that make Mameha successful, and Sayuri then becomes popular.  The bond between the two women has driven this success, and this is one of themes of the novel.