Memoirs of a Geisha

Pdf fan Tap here to download this LitChart! (PDF)

The Chairman’s Handkerchief Symbol Analysis

The Chairman’s Handkerchief Symbol Icon
The Chairman gives Sayuri a handkerchief (wrapped around a coin) when Sayuri is crying by the stream, and this act of kindness is a great comfort to her. In the following years, this handkerchief comes to represent the possibility of love in a world where sex is a commodity to be exchanged and love seems like an unattainable fantasy. In the novel, young geisha apprentices lose their virginity to the highest bidder, while experienced geisha have sex with patrons in exchange for lavish gifts. Likewise, most geisha trade in the illusion of love, making their living by flirting and fawning over men without ever experiencing actual love for them. Even though most geisha are cynical when it comes to finding love, Sayuri keeps the Chairman’s handkerchief in the sleeve of her kimono every day as a reminder of his kindness and the possibility of love. Since the Chairman and Sayuri come together as lovers at the end of the novel, the handkerchief also comes to symbolize actual love in a world where it seems like only an illusion.
Get the entire Memoirs of a Geisha LitChart as a printable PDF.
Memoirs of a geisha.pdf.medium

The Chairman’s Handkerchief Symbol Timeline in Memoirs of a Geisha

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Chairman’s Handkerchief appears in Memoirs of a Geisha. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 9
Destiny vs. Self-Determination Theme Icon
Beauty, Artifice, and Truth  Theme Icon
Sex and Love Theme Icon
...looking right through her. The Chairman takes out a coin and wraps it in a handkerchief, telling her to buy herself a shaved ice with syrup from the nearby vendor. Chiyo... (full context)
Destiny vs. Self-Determination Theme Icon
Sex and Love Theme Icon
Tradition, Ritual, and Gender Theme Icon
...attract the notice of a man like the Chairman. After praying, she tucks the Chairman’s handkerchief into her sleeve and goes back to the okiya. (full context)
Chapter 17
Destiny vs. Self-Determination Theme Icon
Sex and Love Theme Icon
...Chairman for the briefest moment years ago, but she had spent many evenings holding his handkerchief to her cheek and imagining his face, so she feels confident that it is him.... (full context)
Chapter 22
Sex and Love Theme Icon
Over the last few years, Sayuri has developed the habit of tying the Chairman’s handkerchief to the inside of her kimono before going out to entertain men. Now, as she... (full context)
Sex and Love Theme Icon
...later, the Baron leaves the room without her realizing. She quickly gathers up the Chairman’s handkerchief and puts on her kimono. (full context)
Sex and Love Theme Icon
The Baron soon returns with a handkerchief – bearing his monogrammed initials – for her tears. He instructs her to keep it,... (full context)
Chapter 23
Sex and Love Theme Icon
Tradition, Ritual, and Gender Theme Icon
On the night of the performance, Sayuri tucks the Chairman’s handkerchief into her sleeve as she puts on her costume. Sayuri is playing a maiden who... (full context)
Chapter 34
Destiny vs. Self-Determination Theme Icon
Beauty, Artifice, and Truth  Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
Sex and Love Theme Icon
...by the Shirakawa Stream. Before the Chairman can say any more, Sayuri removes the Chairman’s handkerchief from her sleeve and places it on the table. (full context)
Destiny vs. Self-Determination Theme Icon
Beauty, Artifice, and Truth  Theme Icon
Sex and Love Theme Icon
Recognizing the handkerchief, the Chairman asks if she remembers that day as well. Sayuri says that all these... (full context)