One beauty. Many are unable to see what


 

One
question that many ask themselves is that of what true beauty is. The novel
Memoirs of a Geisha, written by Arthur Golden, has a strong theme, which
reflects on the perception of beauty that recurs throughout the story and that
is, beauty cannot be judged fairly. This is portrayed throughout the novel
primarily because geisha typically achieve a higher status than others due to
their artificial beauty, many only acknowledge the geisha’s façade rather than whom
they truly are, as well as false beauty being the main focus of a geisha, which
creates bias.  The basis of the theme thrives from the poetic visions that
flow from the eyes of the primary character, Sayuri. Sayuri finds beauty in
everything, even the smallest things like the way a snowflake falls toward the
ground. As shown, the question of what beauty is to Sayuri is epitomized
through nature. Repetitive imagery is used to as well drive the theme of beauty
and the unfairness that originates through judgement.

 

Throughout the novel, it is
known that Geisha typically achieve a higher status than others due to their
artificial beauty and not their true beauty. Many are unable to see what is
behind the false beauty that geisha present. This is especially brought out
through the main antagonist, Hatsumomo. The portrayal of her character changes
until her eventual downfall caused by her wrath and jealousy towards Sayuri.

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However, Sayuri always perceived her as being the most beautiful person in the
world, despite how much she truly despised Hatsumomo. “A tree may look as
beautiful as ever; but when you notice the insects infesting it, and the tips
of the branches that are brown from disease, even the trunk seems to lose some
of its magnificence” (Golden, 324). This quote demonstrates how the
deterioration of Hatsumomo’s character and career was brought on by her schemes
against Sayuri, which truly displayed the internal ugliness within her. Sayuri
sees beauty epitomised through the medium of nature; however, others take its
raw beauty for granted. Many do not take the precious time they have in their
lives in order to soak in all the splendour that is the planet’s natural
beauty. Next, Sayuri uses imagery of a pistol to compare it to Hatsumomo when
an officer brings it out in front of her. Sayuri states, “An officer took out
his pistol and laid it on the straw mat to impress me. I remember being struck
by its beauty. The metal had a dull gray sheen; its curves were perfect and
smooth. The oiled wood handle was richly grained. But when I thought of its
real purpose as I listened to his stories, it ceased to be beautiful at all and
became something monstrous instead. This is exactly what happened to Hatsumomo
in my eyes after she brought my debut to a standstill” (182). A pistol looks
beautiful on the outside and is made out of rich and fine material, like a
geisha, like Hatsumomo, who looks beautiful and uses rich materials in order to
attain their beauty. The pistol looks perfect to anyone, however, it is used
for cruel intentions against others, which is what as well applies to
Hatsumomo, who is very beautiful as a geisha, but has wicked intentions towards
others she is displeased of.

 

Many do not see past the façade
of a geisha’s face to respect who they truly are. Sayuri always saw her rival,
Hatsumomo, as being the most beautiful person in the world because of her
make-up and embroidered kimonos. Sayuri felt that the only way to emulate
Hatsumomo’s beauty was to become a geisha. For instance, when she was
introduced into the geisha culture, Sayuri thought, “I had the feeling I
might drown in beauty. At that moment, beauty itself struck me as a kind of
painful melancholy” (187). On the contrary, during World War II, Sayuri
was so poor that she could not afford to wear her exquisite kimonos; she had to
settle on wearing what was considered “peasant clothes”. Sayuri felt
naked in them, as these plain clothes had no way of showing other people that
she was a geisha. “If you no longer have leaves, or bark, or roots, can
you go on calling yourself a tree? I am a peasant and not a geisha any
longer” (350). This quote uses the imagery of nature to go against the
said theme of how beauty is not just external. This is because Sayuri was so
dependent on her false identity as a geisha, she didn’t want it noticed because
she was afraid of losing all of the things that make her happy.

 

To a geisha beauty is only
about artifice and concealment rather than the truth. Geisha conceal themselves
in order to be judged with bias, because she’s a geisha and is typically highly
regarded because of their artificial elements that are considered “beautiful”
by standard. This creates bias towards normal women and geisha, as a geisha’s
top priority is their beauty due to believing that it is all people want. The
same happens with Sayuri, as beauty becomes her top priority within her time as
a geisha. “In the years since, I’ve been called beautiful more often than I can
remember. Though, of course, geisha are always called beautiful, even those who
aren’t. But when Mr. Tanaka said it to me, before I’d ever heard of such a
thing as a geisha, I could almost believe it was true”(73). At an early age,
Sayuri believed that compliments on her physical appearance were genuine,
however, after being complimented so many times on her false beauty, she ends
up making her physical appearance to others her main priority above anything
else about her. This leads to Sayuri’s demise, as she starts to believe that
nobody would truly love her for who she is behind her disguise until she meets
the chairmain, who sees beyond her false beauty. Next, Nobu, hen Nobu is
parting from Sayuri, he states that she will remind him that beauty is not the
only thing that defines one. Nobu states, “I don’t know when we will see each
other again or what the world will be like when we do. We may both have seen
many horrible things. But I will think of you every time I need to be reminded
that there is beauty and goodness in the world” (348). Thanks to Sayuri, Nobu
is one of the few that are able to see the good and bad of a geisha rather than
just the shell that is defined by their beauty. Sayuri was able to break the
stereotype and demonstrate that a geisha (or anyone) cannot be judged fairly
based on looks and stereotypes, as they can be someone truly unique on the
inside. Sayuri concludes that people can be considered attractive to others
even if they aren’t in her eyes. “It struck me as odd that even though no one
could have called her a beauty, Mr. Tanaka’s eyes were fixed on her like a rag
on a hook” (78). Sayuri realizes that to her, some geisha aren’t pretty.

They’re simply pretty because of all the makeup, which shows that the allure of
the geisha is in the general mystique, not necessarily in the individual
attractiveness of the geisha.

Near the story’s conclusion,
Sayuri realises that all her success as a geisha was thanks to the Chairman, as
was a man who saw how beautiful a woman Sayuri was even when she was a worn
maid working for Hatsumomo. The message portrayed through this realisation
granted Sayuri to truly grasp at the theme of how beauty can be seen beneath
the front one could make for them.

 

Imagery used in Memoirs of a
Geisha captures the raw essence of true beauty that is seen in the nature of
the world. It is used to relate to the fact that beauty cannot be judged
fairly. Throughout the novel, geisha are typically favoured for their artificial
beauty, geisha as well, use façades on their faces which causes many to view
them based on their false looks rather than who they truly are and a geisha’s
mindset primary focus on false beauty and concealment rather than who they
truly are. The imagery used coincides with what the author and Sayuri interpret
as what true beauty is. The novel proves that the moving splendor of nature is
capable of rousing the internal consideration within the reader as to how they
should appreciate the truth and real beauty, and should not take any of these
for granted.

 

 

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