The Master Puppeteer

by Katherine Paterson

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How is Okada portrayed as the master puppeteer?

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Okada can be considered the master puppeteer in two ways. The first is as an actual puppeteer, and the second is as a social bandit who deceives everyone.

First, as the senior artist of the puppet company, he led the company for many years. Since retiring from performance, he has taught other puppeteers, including Yoshida, the current master. As he is the spiritual force behind the company, his dedication inspires the others to perfect their art.

Second, Okada successfully disguises himself so that no one will suspect that he is Saburo. Evading detection, he slips through society and organizes a band to help him with his goals. They steal from the wealthy for the benefit of the poor. Because others think him blind, he is not a suspect. The irony is that it is society, especially the laws, that is blind in failing to recognize his mastery of disguise and deceit.

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In Katherine Paterson’s The Master Puppeteerthe central character of the novel Jiro is a poverty-stricken child who is hired as an apprentice at the Hananza by Yoshida, the master puppeteer in Osaka. Okada is introduced as an old blind man who is one of the reciters at the puppet shows. Then there is Saburo, a mysterious Robin Hood like figure, who steals food from rich and distributes it to the poor. During the course of events in the story, Jiro suspects Yoshida to be Saburo. He goes on to search for the truth even at the expense of his own life. He finds out that Saburo is no one else but Okada. In the end of the novel, Jiro gets to know a very powerful secret. Okada, who seems like a not-so-important character in the beginning of the novel, is actually the teacher and predecessor of the current master puppeteer Yoshida. Since Okada is the mastermind of the puppet shows and Yoshida actually works for Okada, the readers are made to wonder if Okada is actually the real master puppeteer. 

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