What are the power relations in the Makioka family? Who has power over whom?

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teachsuccess eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Hello! The Makioka Sisters is about a wealthy family in Osaka. There are four sisters in the Makioka family: Tsuruko is the eldest sister and mistress of the main house, Sachiko is the second-oldest sister and mistress of the branch house, Yukiko is thirty and still unmarried, and the youngest is Taeko, who cannot marry until Yukiko marries.

The Makiokas are a formerly very influential and wealthy family, but their fortunes have since taken a turn for the worse because of their extravagance and unwise management of the family business. The story centers on getting Yukiko married off to a man from a good background; although this proves difficult because of the reversal in the family's fortunes, the family is still extremely fastidious as to who they will accept as Yukiko's husband. Taeko (the wayward sister) is a creator of wonderful dolls that are sold in department stores, but she soon announces her plan to study fashion design in France. When the plan falls apart, she decides that she wants to open a Western-style dress shop instead. She falls for the photographer Itakura, but cannot continue her relationship with him because he dies from complications of surgery after being hospitalized for an inner ear infection. The two older sisters breathe a collective sigh of relief as they consider Itakura beneath their station in life. So, you can see that the two oldest sisters exert a great influence and control over the lives of the other two sisters, Yukiko and Taeko.

Tsuruko is clearly the default "leader" of the sisters; both Yukiko and Taeko have a better relationship with Sachiko, the second-oldest sister. When Taeko is caught with Okubata, son of a merchant family (whom she previously tried to elope with), Sachiko's husband, Teinosuke informs Tsuruko, the eldest sister. She demands Taeko go to Tokyo to atone for this embarrassment to the Makioka name, but Taeko refuses, and is promptly disinherited. Taeko soon takes up with a bar tender named Miyoshi, becoming pregnant with his child even as she depends on Okubata for her livelihood after being disinherited.

Both the eldest sisters are now desperate for Taeko to settle down and marry Okubata, even though they had previously considered him unfit to be Taeko's husband. They reason that Okubata, although tainted by the scandal of his elopement with Taeko, is by far preferable to the bartender, Miyoshi. They now press Taeko to go with Okubata to Manchuria, but Taeko is pretty fed-up with all this micro-management and she refuses, eventually moving in with Miyoshi, the bartender. Both Tsuruko and Sachiko finally accept Mimaki as Yukiko's suitor in the end, even though he is the illegitimate son of a viscount. Yukiko, desperate for the meddling to be over with and naturally a shy and retiring character, reluctantly accepts Mimaki, although she is not thrilled with him. Taeko, less willing to knuckle under the pressure of the two eldest sisters, decides to live her own life as she sees fit.

Read the study guide:
The Makioka Sisters

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