Memoirs of a Geisha

by Arthur Golden

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What is the tone of Memoirs of a Geisha?

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The tone of Memoirs of a Geisha reflect the fear and horror of being kidnapped and forced into slavery for the entertainment of men. Young Chiyo is sold by her cruel father to an okiya, where she is forced to live and train as a geisha. Chiyo is initially incredibly homesick and saddened by her condition. The tone is one of despair and hopelessness. Chiyo attempts to escape from her bondage and is punished for this attempt by being forced to be a maid for the next two years. The tone of the novel becomes more and more despondent until Chiyo becomes determined to continue her geisha training as she recognizes that she may have more social standing and some semblance of respect in her world if she becomes a geisha. The tone becomes more dissociative from the realities of her slavery as she grow older and more resigned to her fate.

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Memoirs of a Geisha is written in the first person point of view from the perspective of a young girl who grows up as a Geisha in Kyoto, Japan.  As the girl ages, the tone changes.  When she is a child, first snatched from her village, the tone is one of childish confusion and fear.  As the narrator grows, the tone becomes more knowing and even resigned in nature.  When the narrator meets the chairman as a grown woman, the tone wavers a bit from the detached woman to a hopeful and delighted tone, but this is toward the end of the novel.  The purpose of the detached tone is to show how the women forced into servitude attempted to separate their inner selves from their outer selves, to accept their actions but not allow those actions to become who they are.  This was their way of clinging to sanity and even hope.

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