Memoirs of a Geisha

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Memoirs of a Geisha Chapter 2 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The next morning Chiyo goes swimming in the pond near her house to take her mind off her troubles. Returning home from the swim, she sees the “Sugi boy” fondling Satsu against a tree on the path to the house. Unsure of what they’re doing, Chiyo inquisitively watches them from behind a tree until suddenly Mr. Tanaka appears behind her. When he asks why she’s hiding behind a tree, Chiyo points to her sister and the Sugi boy, saying that she’s waiting for them to leave before she can head home. Mr. Tanaka yells at the two and they run off.
Chiyo witnesses her sister having the normal sexual experiences that Chiyo herself will never have because, as a geisha, Chiyo won’t be free to pursue relationships and come into sexual maturity on her own terms. Instead of having the freedom to experiment and explore her sexuality—like Satsu does here—Chiyo will be forced to sleep with older men for pay.
Themes
Growing Up Theme Icon
Sex and Love Theme Icon
Tradition, Ritual, and Gender Theme Icon
Mr. Tanaka gives Chiyo medicinal herbs that he was going to her house to drop off. He says that she should give them to her older sister so that she can make a tea for their mother. Chiyo responds that since Satsu isn’t very good at making tea, Chiyo will make the tea herself. Mr. Tanaka asks who takes care of Chiyo with her mother sick, her father so old, and her sister unable to even make tea. When Chiyo says she mostly takes care of herself, Mr. Tanaka responds that she is like an orphan. Mr. Tanaka says that he too was an orphan at her age, but that he was adopted into the wealthy Tanaka family. He took their name and started running their fishing company when he came of age. He says that maybe something like that will happen to Chiyo too, and then he leaves.
Chiyo’s ability to take care of herself shows that she is an independent person capable of making her own decisions. While most children rely completely on their parents or guardians, the young Chiyo has the freedom to control her life without overt external forces like an intrusive mother or father determining her life for her. But when Chiyo becomes a geisha, she will lose this freedom. Thus, one of the major conflicts of this novel centers on Chiyo’s ability to regain the freedom of self-determination that she – paradoxically – had as a child.
Themes
Destiny vs. Self-Determination Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
Tradition, Ritual, and Gender Theme Icon
After her encounter with Mr. Tanaka, Chiyo begins to find comfort in fantasizing that he will adopt her. Whenever her mother groans in pain that week following the encounter, Chiyo wishes she could escape the house and live with the kind Mr. Tanaka. At the end of the week, Chiyo comes home to find Mr. Tanaka sitting across from her father. Mr. Tanaka tells Chiyo that he and her father had just been talking about her. Mr. Tanaka says that Chiyo and Satsu should come to his house the following day for dinner and to meet his daughter, who is Chiyo’s same age. Chiyo thanks him politely, concealing the explosion of feelings inside her. She feels excited that her fantasy of living with Mr. Tanaka might be coming true, but also ashamed of leaving her dying mother and elderly father.
Chiyo’s fantasies are another example of her attempts at coping with her grief. Unable to cure her mother’s illness, Chiyo psychologically distances herself from her mother’s pain through her fantasies of living elsewhere. As Chiyo matures, she will learn to address the grim realities of her circumstances instead of simply fleeing from them into her own imagination. Chiyo’s emotional response to Tanaka’s offer also marks the first time she must conceal her emotions – something she will have to do almost everyday of her adult life as a geisha.
Themes
Destiny vs. Self-Determination Theme Icon
Beauty, Artifice, and Truth  Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
Tradition, Ritual, and Gender Theme Icon
The next day, Satsu and Chiyo meet Mr. Tanaka at the center of the village and climb into his wagon. Mr. Tanaka brings them to his office at the company’s headquarters in the nearby town. Inside his office, an old woman is waiting for them. Chiyo notices that the woman can’t sit still, so Chiyo gives her the (private) nickname Ms. Fidget. Ms. Fidget gives Mr. Tanaka a look and he leaves the room at once. Ms. Fidget examines Satsu’s face before untying her shit and examining her breasts. Shocked, Chiyo feels that the way the woman handles Satsu’s naked body is more indecent than the way the Sugi boy had touched her.
Chiyo’s reaction to Ms. Fidget fondling Satsu’s breasts suggests that, even at a young age, Chiyo can tell the difference between how the Sugi boy fondled Satsu with affection and how Ms. Fidget touches Satsu as if her body were a piece of meat to be sold—a commodity. We will later learn that Satsu loves the Sugi boy, implying that she consented to his caresses, while she has no say in how Ms. Fidget treats her. Thus Ms. Fidget denies Satsu’s right to self-determination by refusing to acknowledge Satsu’s authority over her own body.
Themes
Destiny vs. Self-Determination Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
Sex and Love Theme Icon
Tradition, Ritual, and Gender Theme Icon
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Ms. Fidget then tells a confused but obedient Satsu to undress completely. Ms. Fidget tries to put her hand between Satsu’s legs. Satsu resists, but the old woman gives a shout and slaps her hard across the leg. Satsu cries as the woman examines her. Ms. Fidget then turns to Chiyo and tells her to get undressed. Seeing Chiyo’s eyes, she says that Chiyo must have a lot of water in her personality. When the old woman tells her to spread her legs, Chiyo resists like her sister until Ms. Fidget slaps her legs as well. Terribly frightened of what the woman would do, Chiyo feels the woman’s fingers give her a pinch between her legs.
Without first getting their consent, Ms. Fidget performs the first of many sexual assaults in this novel. It is in this moment that Chiyo and Satsu begin to learn the disturbing lesson that women in their society have little control over their own bodies. Chiyo’s experiences as a geisha will enforce the belief that a woman’s body belongs to other people, both men and women—it is essentially a commodity to be used and sold, not a rightful part of her self.
Themes
Destiny vs. Self-Determination Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
Sex and Love Theme Icon
Tradition, Ritual, and Gender Theme Icon
Ms. Fidget tells the girls to dress as she calls in Mr. Tanaka. Though Chiyo feels her tears welling up, she doesn’t cry so that she won’t look bad in front of Mr. Tanaka. The woman tells Mr. Tanaka that the girls are healthy, suitable, and “intact.” Chiyo thinks that Ms. Fidget must be a fortuneteller whom Mr. Tanaka has hired to tell the girls’ fortunes so that he would know more about them before adopting them. Mr. Tanaka thanks Ms. Fidget and takes the girls back to the wagon.
Ms. Fidget’s comments suggest that the girls have “intact” hymens, which means that the girls have yet to have vaginal sex. Mr. Tanaka will be able to sell these girls for a higher price if they are virgins. In this way, Tanaka and Ms. Fidget treat sex, a girl’s virginity, and a woman’s body as a commodities—objects that have monetary value.
Themes
Sex and Love Theme Icon
Tradition, Ritual, and Gender Theme Icon
At Mr. Tanaka’s large house, Chiyo plays with his friendly daughter Kuniko Tanaka on their expansive property. The girls get along well, and Chiyo feels excited to have Kuniko as a sister. At dinner, Chiyo marvels at how much food Mr. Tanaka’s family eats in one meal. After dinner, Mr. Tanaka leaves the house. While Satsu and Kuniko’s mother wash the dishes and talk, Kuniko tells Chiyo to come with her. Kuniko says that every night she secretly follows her father when he leaves after dinner. The girls follow him to a teahouse where they peer inside through a hole in the wall. Chiyo sees Mr. Tanaka and four other men laughing and being served by a woman wearing a green kimono, an elaborate hairstyle, and white makeup. Though the woman isn’t particularly attractive, Chiyo is impressed by her glamorousness. Kuniko tells Chiyo that she is a geisha.
The naïve and inexperienced Chiyo holds onto the fantasy that Mr. Tanaka is going to adopt her even after Ms. Fidget’s examination. The strength of Chiyo’s conviction shows just how powerful a fantasy can be for a person who wants to escape reality. As a geisha, Chiyo will be responsible for crafting these fantasies for men—who want to believe that the beautiful geisha truly admire and adore them. Chiyo will perhaps be so successful at crafting these illusions because she herself knows the power of fantasy and escapism.
Themes
Beauty, Artifice, and Truth  Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
Sex and Love Theme Icon
They quickly return to Mr. Tanaka’s home and get into side-by-side futon beds. Kuniko falls asleep but Chiyo stays awake, trying to understand everything that happened to her during the day. Chiyo whispers to the sleeping Kuniko that soon Chiyo will come to live with her.
Still so young, Chiyo has trouble understanding the true nature of the day’s events. Because she is too inexperienced to see the truth, she continues to maintain her fantasy.
Themes
Beauty, Artifice, and Truth  Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon