(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Naomi is an ironic account of a seemingly proper gentleman in his mid-twenties who meets a young girl named Naomi, who is working as a waitress in a cafe. The story is told by its protagonist, Joji Kawai. Fascinated by her Western-sounding name and her sensuous beauty, which reminds him of American silent film star Mary Pickford (highly popular in Japan in the 1920’s), Joji decides that he intends to marry Naomi; soon he falls into a Pygmalion-like relationship as he attempts to tame this selfish and willful creature. Joji gives Naomi money for English and voice lessons, only to learn that she is less talented than he had first supposed. She refuses to do any work in the house, buys extravagant clothes, and manipulates Joji into borrowing money under false pretenses from his doting mother, who lives in the country.

Naomi next takes up Western dancing and forces Joji to accompany her to her lessons and to Tokyo dance halls. There he realizes that she has developed a whole coterie of younger male friends unknown to him. The young student Kumagai in particular speaks with Naomi in a fashion which suggests that they have been intimate. Joji’s illusions shatter; his work suffers, and he begins to lose control of himself.

At Naomi’s suggestion, Joji decides to rent a cottage for the summer in the resort town of Kamakura, south of Tokyo. He commutes from there to his job in Tokyo. Naomi seems happy with this arrangement, but Joji...

(The entire section is 407 words.)