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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 484

Much of Masks deals with the subject of shamanism, the alleged ability of individuals to be in direct contact with the spirit world. Mieko, the central female character in the story, has just read a paper on the subject to an academic gathering, and the following quote registers the reactions of Ibuki, the literature professor who is the principal male protagonist:

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From his readings in the History of Japanese Shamanesses and elsewhere, he was familiar with the idea that the ancient Yamato tribe might have brought Ural-Altaic forms of shamanism to Japan.

In her paper, which also deals with the medieval literary work The Tale of Genji, Mieko focuses on one of the characters in Genji, the Lady Rokujo, and seems to identify with her. This is a key element in the plot of Masks, since Mieko eventually tries to recreate in herself the Lady Rokujo's spirit and behavior. Ibuki observes of Mieko:

[She] seemed a trifle overdefensive of the Rokujo lady, rather like a loyal sister.

Mieko later, through an elaborate ruse, manipulates Ibuki into unknowingly sleeping with her mentally-challenged adult daughter Harumé. Mieko's feelings as she puts this plan into action are described:

Her expression was calm and unflickering as always, but beneath the chill weight of her sagging breasts her heart raced in a mad elvish dance, while from hips to thighs a powerful tension enveloped her, anchoring her to the floor.

Harumé's nursemaid, Yu, realizing that Harume is pregnant but not yet understanding the specifics that have transpired, makes the following observation:

While certainly not a moron, Harumé was nevertheless very far from being a responsible adult, however charitably one looked upon her. A man who would force himself on someone so helpless epitomized evil in Yu's mind. To imagine Harumé bearing the child of such a monster made her quite beside herself.

Later, in...

(The entire section contains 484 words.)

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