Memoirs of a Geisha

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Memoirs of a Geisha Chapter 4 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
During her first days at the okiya, Chiyo feels as bad as if she had lost her arms and legs, rather than her family and home. Chiyo copes with her misery by acting obedient, hoping that Mother will send her to geisha school – where she hopes to find Satsu training to be a geisha. Chiyo thinks that if she finds Satsu, then the two of them can run away back to Yoroido. Chiyo spends her days cleaning the okiya and waiting on Mother and Granny.
Chiyo’s plan to escape the okiya shows that she is already beginning to grow up. In previous chapters, Chiyo simply fantasized about a better life whenever she came up against a problem, but now she takes active steps to change her future. In this way, Chiyo takes some control over her life, determining her own path towards happiness.
Themes
Destiny vs. Self-Determination Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
Around three weeks after her arrival at the okiya, Chiyo is cleaning Hatsumomo’s room when Hatsumomo comes in. Hatsumomo says that Chiyo shouldn’t touch the makeup containers, because they will start to smell like an ignorant girl from a fishing village. Hatsumomo then says that Chiyo’s “ugly” sister visited the okiya yesterday smelling just as bad as Chiyo. Chiyo pleads with Hatsumomo to tell her what Satsu said, but Hatsumomo responds that Chiyo must first earn the information. When Chiyo says that she’ll never bother Hatsumomo again if Hatsumomo tells her what Satsu said, Hatsumomo slaps her across the face before calmly telling to get out of her room.
Hatsumomo continues to reveal her “ugly” personality in these instances of verbal and physical abuse. Generally, we think of makeup as the foremost artifice – it hides a person’s natural appearance in order to make the person more attractive. Hatsumomo might be so defensive of her makeup because she relies on it to create the illusion of beauty—yet in trying to protect this illusion, she ultimately destroys another: the illusion of kindness. Traditionally, a geisha should be beautiful on the outside and gentle and kind on the inside – two traits Hatsumomo does not have.
Themes
Beauty, Artifice, and Truth  Theme Icon
Tradition, Ritual, and Gender Theme Icon
Stunned by the slap, Chiyo stumbles out of the room and falls to the ground. Seeing Hatsumomo slap Chiyo, Mother calls Chiyo into her room. Mother scolds Chiyo, saying that she must work harder to stay out of Hatsumomo’s way. Everyone in the okiya has to work to make Hatsumomo happy because, as the only geisha in the okiya, Hatsumomo is the only one who brings in any money. Mother says that if Chiyo wants to become a geisha, then she must not make Hatsumomo upset again.
In some ways, Mother is the ultimate ironic figure—though her name is “mother,” she is in no way motherly. Likewise, in this scene we expect Mother to scold Hatsumomo for abusing Chiyo, but in a tragic irony she instead scolds Chiyo for being abused.
Themes
Beauty, Artifice, and Truth  Theme Icon
About a month after arriving at the okiya, Chiyo begins her training as a geisha. Since Pumpkin started her training six months earlier, Pumpkin shows Chiyo the way to the school for geisha. The two girls have had little time talk over the last month because of their duties at the okiya, but on their way to school Chiyo asks Pumpkin how she ended up at the okiya. Pumpkin says she lived with her uncle, who sold her to the okiya after his business failed. Chiyo asks if she ever thought of running away. Since she has nowhere else to go, Pumpkin says that she’d rather throw herself off a cliff than give up the chance for a stable life as a geisha.
Pumpkin’s response to Chiyo reveals that Pumpkin has few ambitions in life: all she wants is stability. As Chiyo matures, she’ll see that most geisha share Pumpkin’s modest dreams. We will also soon learn most geisha are essentially slaves to the heads of their okiya, which means that they have little independence. Chiyo will ultimately come to stand apart from these women by striving for more out of life: true love and independence.
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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At school, Pumpkin takes Chiyo to the classes. Chiyo looks around for Satsu but doesn’t find her. In the first class of the day, Chiyo watches as the classroom of girls learn to play the shamisen, which is a small, three-stringed, guitar-like instrument. Chiyo notices that Pumpkin is by far the worst player in the class. Next they go to a singing class, where Pumpkin hides her inability to sing by mouthing along the words while everyone sings together. At the end of the class, Pumpkin introduces Chiyo to the singing teacher. The teacher jokes that she’ll teach Chiyo how to sing as long as Chiyo survives living with Hatsumomo long enough to learn.
The classes at geisha school focus exclusively on art forms that adorn the world with beauty. In the process of learning these skills, the girls never study math, science, or history. Thus, this education deprives the girls of ever learning about the factual, unembellished scientific and historic realities of their world. Without this education, the girls live in a world of beautiful appearances that are totally divorced from reality.
Themes
Beauty, Artifice, and Truth  Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
Tradition, Ritual, and Gender Theme Icon