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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

Early on in the novel, Joji admits to looking down on Mark Antony for being manipulated by a woman. When he was young and learned of Antony’s subservient relationship with Cleopatra, he could not fathom how a strong man could be brought low in this way. However, after beginning his relationship with Naomi, he says:

I believe that when Antony was conquered by Cleopatra, it happened this way: little by little he was stripped of his resistance and became ensnared. It’s fine to give confidence to the woman you love, but as a result you lose confidence in yourself.

Joji says that he was "cheerfully ready to be deceived" by Naomi, and she seems to respond to this readiness. He encourages her to become confident, prideful even, and she does. He enables her to become an entitled, Western brat by being so obsessed with her that he rarely tells her no. Indeed, his actions are in part to blame, such as when he allows her to win while purposely losing games and spoils her with more and more Western goods: a home, furniture, clothing, schooling, lessons, and so on. Though he once judged Mark Antony for being taken in by Cleopatra, Joji begins to sympathize with him once he realizes how easy it is to be manipulated and deceived by a beautiful and confident woman.

At another time, Joji does not seem to realize just how his responses to the West and to Westerners might impact Naomi. He asks:

Why did I, a clumsy oaf totally unsuited to the gay atmosphere of social dancing, go on with the lessons for a month, then two months, without losing interest? It wasn't just for Naomi’s sake. It was—I confess—because of Madame Shlemskaya. To dance in her embrace for that brief hour every Monday and Friday afternoon came to be my greatest pleasure.

Joji never seems to recognize the true extent to which Western influences are to blame for corrupting Naomi, and he certainly does not realize how much his own obsession with the West hurts him (and her). Of course, his puppyish behavior toward her dance teacher would make an impression on Naomi. Why is it that Joji becomes inarticulate or cannot lift his eyes when speaking to a Western woman? He seems to be in awe of them, and Naomi ingests this along with her restaurant carry-out meals. Joji is as obsessed with the West as Naomi is, and it is potentially even his obsession that prompts and enables hers to grow. When she eventually returns to him at the end of the text, she looks completely Western in his eyes, and she obviously knew that this would be the quickest way to ensnare him and get everything she wants.

When Joji has the chance to observe Naomi in social settings, after the dance lessons begin, he is not pleased with the effect on her. He says:

Naomi exceeded the bounds of mere liveliness; she was too rough in everything she did. Her speech, supercilious and lacking in feminine gentleness, was often vulgar. In short, she was a wild animal.

Joji is constantly comparing Naomi to animals and objects through simile and metaphor, as he does here. These choices make it seem as though he never does see her as a real person. At first, she is something to save, like a “vivacious little bird” or a “mouse.” Later, as she begins to grow in stature and confidence, he calls her his “treasure . . . a diamond” and a “beautiful large blossom in a vase.” She becomes his “rare, precious doll and an ornament.” Soon, as in the quotation above, she becomes a “wild animal” when he can no longer completely control her. Further on, she becomes a treasure which has lost value “by more than half,” and she is also likened to a piece of “fruit” that has been sampled by someone else. In only ever thinking of Naomi as a thing to be manipulated, Joji teaches her how to manipulate others. She begins to see others as things or, at the very least, only in terms of what things she can get from them.

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