The Teahouse of the August Moon

by John Patrick

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Characters Discussed

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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 772


Sakini, a middle-aged Okinawan interpreter for U.S. occupation forces following World War II. His skillful use of native Okinawan customs, Japanese folk wisdom, parody of Western ways, and naïveté reveal his perceptions of Americans and America. Sakini effectively bridges cross-cultural barriers.

Colonel Purdy

Colonel Purdy, a stout U.S. Army officer assigned to democratize Okinawa following World War II. He is a single-minded individual who follows orders without question. He has rules and signs for the most trivial of situations; when alone, however, Purdy reads Adventure Magazine on work time. Outwardly, he guards his reputation, especially because of what his wife might say, but he is not above reversing orders to suit the whims of his superiors.

Captain Fisby

Captain Fisby, a U.S. Army officer in his late twenties, assigned as aide to Colonel Purdy. He had been an associate professor of humanities and is regarded as a misfit in military matters. Sakini constantly manipulates him into making all sorts of compromises and changes. Gradually, Fisby becomes so acculturated that he disobeys virtually every order that he is given, but in so doing he succeeds in making Tobiki a model village. His role demonstrates that a system is only a framework, within which ideal and reality may differ.

Lotus Blossom

Lotus Blossom, a beautiful, petite Okinawan geisha girl. She has difficulty performing her duties as a geisha because Captain Fisby, to whom she has been given, is ignorant of the true role of the well-trained geisha and assumes her to be a prostitute.

Captain McLean

Captain McLean, a psychiatrist in the U.S. Army. He is short and rather fat. His assignment is to make a psychological report on Captain Fisby, whose assimilation of the native ways is interpreted as a sign of mental imbalance. While he is working with Fisby, he is won over by Fisby and his cultural insights.

Sergeant Gregovich

Sergeant Gregovich, a U.S. Army enlisted man, aide to Colonel Purdy. He goes through the motions of appearing to be efficient.

Old Woman

Old Woman, an Okinawan villager and grandmother of Tobiki’s mayor, who rides, over protest, atop a loaded wagon that conveys Captain Fisby to his Tobiki assignment. Not to allow her to ride would make the mayor lose face; thus, she outmaneuvers those in command.

Old Woman’s daughter

Old Woman’s daughter, an Okinawan villager who, along with her three children, rides on the wagon to Tobiki.

Mr. Hokaida

Mr. Hokaida, a villager of Tobiki. A stout man in tattered peasant clothes, he presents Captain Fisby with a cricket cage when he arrives in Tobiki.

Mr. Omura

Mr. Omura, a villager of Tobiki. He welcomes Captain Fisby to Tobiki with chopsticks. He wears a white coat to distinguish himself from the rest of the villagers.

Mr. Sumata

Mr. Sumata, a skilled carpenter in Tobiki. He brings Captain Fisby a geisha girl as a gift, providing a chance to see how cross-cultural misunderstanding can strain relationships.

Mr. Sumata’s father

Mr. Sumata’s father, a skilled Tobikian carpenter. He helps to build the five-sided school/teahouse, highlighting the Japanese custom of passing on skills from one generation to the next.

Mr. Seiko

Mr. Seiko, a Tobiki villager. He gives Captain Fisby geta, a kind of wooden sandals, when the officer arrives in Tobiki.

Miss Higa Jiga

Miss Higa Jiga, an Okinawan villager chosen to be the president of a Ladies’ League for Democratic Action. A chunky, flat-faced, unmarried young woman who wears heavy glasses, she makes amusing demands of Fisby in the name of democracy. Thus the Americans see how democracy is perceived by foreigners unaccustomed to the system.

Mr. Keora

(This entire section contains 772 words.)

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Mr. Keora

Mr. Keora, an Okinawan villager. He is one of several who are dejected when they cannot sell Okinawan crafts to the U.S. Army personnel because they regard the handcrafted items as inferior to what American technology could produce at lower cost, even though the American goods are of lower quality.

Mr. Oshira

Mr. Oshira, an Okinawan villager. This skilled artisan cannot sell his lacquer cups to soldiers who do not appreciate the time and skill that have gone into making them. He feels that the August moon at the end of summer—the peak between spring, the growing season, and fall, when nature sheds its foliage—symbolizes the maturity and wisdom that the two cultures have attained.

Major McEvoy

Major McEvoy, a U.S. Army officer. He is to be Captain Fisby’s replacement.

Lady Astor

Lady Astor, Miss Higa Jiga’s goat. If the goat can drink homemade sweet potato brandy without harm, the men will drink it.


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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 820

Captain Fisby Captain Fisby is the young officer assigned to implement "Plan B" in the Americanization process of the tiny Okmawan village of Tobiki. Fisby is described as,' 'in his late twenties, nice-looking and rather on the earnest side," and is "nervous and eager to make a good impression" on his senior officer. From his office in Tobiki, Fisby is assigned to establish a local democratic government, institute a capitalist economy, and build a schoolhouse. He is at first frustrated in all of these efforts Instead, he soon agrees to the building of a local teahouse and successfully markets the locally made sweet potato brandy to the nearby military bases. In the process, he quickly becomes accommodated to the local culture, wearing his bathrobe as a makeshift kimono and munching on the local snack foods. His senior officer, Purdy, arrives at the newly built teahouse just as Fisby, in his bathrobe, is leading the locals in a celebratory song. Purdy reprimands him for misusing army materials to build the teahouse and for marketing alcohol However, Purdy then learns that the village is to be presented as an example of successful democratization by Occupation Forces.

Lotus Blossom Lotus Blossom, a young geisha, is given to Fisby by her father, Mr. Sumata She is described as ' 'a petite and lovely geisha girl in traditional costume." Fisby at first mistakes her for a prostitute and disapproves of her, until Sakim explains that a geisha serves a traditional role in Japanese culture much different from that of a prostitute in Western culture Her presence in the village inspires the other women to want to become geishas, and the men to want a teahouse in which she can serve them. Before Fisby leaves, at the end of the play, Lotus Blossom asks his approval to marry a local man. Although the geisha is a real figure in Japanese culture and history, the character of Lotus Blossom represents one of the most common, and most offensive, stereotypes of Asian women found in Western culture.

Captain McLean Captain McLean is the army psychiatrist sent by Colonel Purdy to secretly evaluate Fisby. He is described as "an intense, rather wild-eyed man in his middle forties." Once in Tobiki, however, McLean, who harbors a passion for horticulture, is quickly inspired to head the planting of crops in the village By the time the teahouse is built, McLean, like Fisby, has accommodated himself to the local dress and customs. When Purdy arrives unexpectedly at the teahouse, McLean and Fisby lead the local villagers in singing "Deep in the Heart of Texas." McLean is reprimanded by Purdy and sent away.

Colonel Wainwright Purdy Colonel Wainwright Purdy is in charge of the military base m which act 1 is set. He is described as "a man of proportions," on whose shoulders "the worries of the world in general and the Army of Occupation in particular weigh heavily." Purdy assigns Fisby to carry out "Plan B" in the remote village of Tobiki. He also assigns Sakim to accompany Fisby as his interpreter. Purdy occasionally calls Fisby's office in Tobiki to get a progress report and quickly becomes suspicious of Fisby's inexplicable answers to his questions. He sends an army psychiatrist, Captain McLean, to secretly evaluate Fisby. When he suspects the marketing of brandy from Tobiki to local military bases, Purdy goes there to find out what Fisby is up to. He walks into the newly built teahouse just as Fisby and MacLean, dressed in their bathrobes, are leading the local villagers in a celebratory song. Purdy reprimands both of the officers and orders that the teahouse be torn down and the brandy distilleries destroyed. He is secretly foiled, however, by the villagers, who cleverly hide both the teahouse and the distilleries, only pretending to have destroyed them. This proves beneficial to Purdy when he learns that the village is to be presented as an example of successful democratization by Occupation Forces.

Sakini Sakini is the Okinawan interpreter for the American military. Sakini serves as a sort of narrator of the play, periodically addressing the audience directly, explaining the historical and cultural circumstances of the setting. In the stage directions, his costume and looks are described in great detail: "He wears a pair of tattered shorts and a native shirt. His shoes, the gift of a G.I., are several sizes too large. His socks are also too large and hang in wrinkles over his ankles. He is an Okinawan who might be any age between thirty and sixty In repose his face betrays age, but the illusion is shattered quickly by his smile of childlike candor.'' The character of Sakini represents a common stereotype of Asians, in fact of all non-Western peoples, in Western culture1 he is described as "childlike," although he is anywhere from thirty to sixty years old. His character is represented as clever but simpleminded, another common stereotype.




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