Memoirs of a Geisha

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Memoirs of a Geisha Chapter 18 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Now that Sayuri knows the identity of the Chairman, she begins to read every news magazine she can in hopes of learning more about him. She learns that he was born in 1890 and built his own electric company. The Chairman hired Nobu to manage the day-to-day operations of the company. The Chairman often says in interviews that he owes Nobu a great debt because Nobu steered the company though several crises.
Though we now know some facts about the Chairman – his name, date of birth, and profession – we are still in the dark about his actual personality. Was Sayuri’s first impression of him accurate, or did his handsome appearance and kind demeanor hide something more sinister? It is also telling that he is seemingly defined by his business position—he is always referred to as “the Chairman,” not by his real name.
Themes
Beauty, Artifice, and Truth  Theme Icon
Several weeks pass, and then one day Sayuri receives a note that tells her to come to Mameha’s apartment. Mameha tells her to put on a beautiful kimono that has a tear near the thigh. Mameha explains that she has a plan for making Hatsumomo stop following them, but for it to work, Sayuri must seduce two men: Nobu, and a certain doctor that she will meet today. Sayuri begins to feel sick when she hears that Mameha wants her to continue seducing Nobu, because a man will never have an intimate relationship with a geisha who has been the mistress of a close business associate or friend. Since the Chairman is Nobu’s business partner, Sayuri fears that she will never be able to be with the Chairman if she develops a relationship with Nobu.
The unwritten social code that prohibits men from having a relationship with the same geisha privileges the friendships and business partnerships between men over any possible romantic relationship with geisha. In this way, male-to-male relationships take precedence over relationships with the geisha—as if women were simple objects for the entertainment of men, ones that shouldn’t get in the way of “serious” and “important” male relationships.
Themes
Tradition, Ritual, and Gender Theme Icon
Mameha then leads Sayuri to a little room where the cook is waiting. Mameha says that the cook will make a small cut in her leg so that Sayuri has reason to meet the doctor. Though she feels like a piece of raw tuna about to be eaten, Sayuri agrees. The cook makes the cut, and when Sayuri sees the blood trickling down her leg, she faints. The next thing Sayuri remembers is being in a rickshaw outside the hospital.
Sayuri’s comparison of herself to a piece of sushi suggests that she is at some level aware of how being a geisha is not that different than being food. While people literally consume food, men consume geisha as visual objects, delighting in their beautiful appearance and company—but still objectifying them.
Themes
Sex and Love Theme Icon
Tradition, Ritual, and Gender Theme Icon
Sayuri and Mameha wait for the doctor inside an examination room. When the doctor comes in, Sayuri notices that he looks like a crab, so she gives him the nickname Dr. Crab – though she doesn’t call him that to his face. While carefully examining the cut, Dr. Crab asks how she injured herself. Sayuri says she was walking to the bathroom when she got tangled in her kimono and fell onto something sharp. The doctor responds by saying, “It’s a wonder you didn’t void your bladder.” Dr. Crab bandages the cut and tells Sayuri that it was nice meeting her.
Sayuri puts on a performance of helplessness to seduce the Doctor into finding her attractive. In this way, Sayuri tries to conform to the male fantasy that women rely totally on them for help. On a deeper level, this fantasy reveals how men want women to appear as if they lack the capacity for self-determination, which makes men feel better about upholding the customs of a society that hinders women from achieving autonomy and independence.
Themes
Beauty, Artifice, and Truth  Theme Icon
Tradition, Ritual, and Gender Theme Icon
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Back in the rickshaw, Sayuri tells Mameha that the plan didn’t work because Dr. Crab didn’t show any interest in her. Mameha disagrees, explaining that despite the room being cold, a single bead of sweat appeared on his forehead while he was touching her thigh. Mameha takes this as a sign that he is interested in her.
Sayuri again misreads the outward appearance of the people she meets. Mameha – who is experienced in detecting men’s desires – can tell from the single bead of sweat that the Doctor is interested, even though he shows no other overt signs.
Themes
Beauty, Artifice, and Truth  Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon