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Mahoko Yoshimoto's Kitchen (1988) is the story of Mikage Sakurai, a young Japanese girl who is coping with the death of her grandmother, her meeting with Yuichi and his mother Eriko, her helping out Yuichi after Eriko's death and how Mikage and Yuichi fall in love with each other. The kitchen and food provide links at various junctions of the story and help move the story forward; an example is how comfortable Mikage feels in Yuichi's apartment due to their kitchen or how Yuichi and Mikage both have the same dream about ramen noodles.
Yoshimoto has intelligently used imagery to support the characters and the situations.
Mikage's internal feelings of emptiness and loneliness are portrayed by the imagery of the cosmos ("The blackness of the cosmos" pg. 4). Yuichi's feelings have been expressed by the imagery of night ("dim glow," "dead of night," pg. 50). The characters' internal feelings have also been contrasted (against those of other people) by comparison of darkness and light ("dim glow" and "dead of night" against "tiny points of brightness" and "phosphorescent river," pg. 50). Mikage's impression of Yuichi and Eriko has also been detailed using patterns of imagery. While Yuichi "seemed to glow with white light" (white signifies purity and light is a sign of hopefulness), Eriko is portrayed as "warm light" (indicating comfort and warmth, as of a parent); both of these are positive signs and indicative of potential long-term relationships and support. Eriko has also been depicted as "dazzling sun that lit the place"; sun is indicative of infinite warmth and life, and her light is a reference to a positive change and new courage, something that Mikage desperately needs to fill the void in her life. Mikage and Yuichi's relationship is portrayed with a "glowing telephone" or "phone booth that is lit up" on a "dark street," suggesting a connection against all odds.
The intelligently used imagery provides a better understanding of the lives and thoughts of the chief characters and moves the story forward. Overall, the "darkness" at the beginning of the novel is replaced by "light" or "brightness" towards the end of the story, indicating how Yuichi and Mikage overcome their grief, gain comfort in each other's company and move on with life.
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