Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Mieko Togan

Mieko Togan, the daughter of the head priest at a temple in Shinshu and the wife of a banker. She is also a prostitute, a poet, and a teacher of poetry. She bore twins, a mentally retarded girl, Harumé, and a beloved son, Akio. When Mieko appears, her slow and grave gestures refer to another landscape that can be seen only with her metaphysical eye. The subtexts of the novel create the emotional ambience of Mieko’s character, both remote and involved at the same time. Mieko is compared to a large blossoming tree with a voice floating toward Ibuki and Mikamé and having a wordless communication and complicity in crime with Yasuko. It is difficult to plumb the depth of Mieko’s heart. There is nothing more tragic than her immobility, which compares to that of a mountain lake whose waters are rushing beneath the surface toward a waterfall. The secret workings of her mind resemble flowers in a garden at nighttime, filling the darkness with perfumes; her masklike face indicates features but does not identify her as an individual. Her language, conduct, and posture reveal uncanny sensitivity to the slightest nuances of behavior. Despite apparent physical inertia, she evinces gestures of dignity and grandeur. She is in the grip of primeval powers that direct her amorous affairs and those of others. Her delight in poetry and calligraphy, fashion, and a garden with a miniature pond, reflecting the perception of beauty, shifts to a melancholy...

(The entire section is 597 words.)

The Characters

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

It is typical of Fumiko Enchi’s treatment of women that the novel Masks focuses on the unconscious processes by means of which Mieko Togan gains control of the minds of her daughter Harume and daughter-in-law Yasuko. It is also characteristic that Enchi does not approach the material from the perspective of clinical psychology. The irony is intentional that the psychologist Mikamé is less perceptive than Ibuki, the scholar of literature, about Mieko’s motives and actions. Both men are essential, however, to the reader’s gradual acceptance of the premise on which Enchi bases her characterizations of the three women at the novel’s center. That premise is that Mieko, Yasuko, and Harume are a valid instance of the spirit possession which many of the characters study in Japanese folklore, classical poetry, and the No drama. Enchi’s handling of the material, however, has nothing of the self-consciousness of deliberate archaism. Her emphasis is resolutely feminist, in a sense, for in Harume, Yasuko, and Mieko, she portrays the efforts of women to be free of the male domination which causes them so much pain.

Enchi’s statement that Harume was beaten about the head by the feet of her brother while both were in Mieko’s womb may seem strident, but it also conveys the novelist’s conviction that Harume is a victim of her own femaleness. Her retardation is so extreme, for example, that Harume is not conscious of the significance of her...

(The entire section is 580 words.)