Kitchen

by

Banana Yoshimoto

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Dark Symbol Icon

While light symbolizes joy in the novella, dark represents pain or suffering. Throughout the story, the protagonist, Mikage Sakurai, battles to connect with joy while grieving, and worries that life is really just about enduring pain, or dwelling in darkness. Yoshimoto establishes that darkness stands for pain by consistently describing Mikage’s most painful moments as shrouded in darkness. For example, when Mikago and Yuichi are grieving Eriko’s death, Mikage describes their pain as a sensation of floating in “cosmic darkness.” Similarly, Mikago reflects on the “blackness of the cosmos” when she is in despair about her grandmother’s death. In addition, when Mikage is suffering, the sky or the atmosphere in a room is often described as “dark.” When Mikage tracks down her love interest, Yuichi Tanabe, down at the inn and is scared by the depths of his grief, she feels like the atmosphere in the room is dark and tomblike. Combining the two symbols of light for joy and dark for pain, Yoshimoto imparts her philosophy about the necessary balance of both in life. Yoshimoto believes that no person can eliminate suffering in the world, but only those who experience pain and can accept it are able to truly appreciate joy. The balance of joy and pain, or light and dark, thus, is represented by dark spaces that are dotted with light. For example, after feeling the tomblike atmosphere of the inn where she finds Yuichi, Mikage realizes that she can feel the pain of loss, but also the joy of happy memories, which Yoshimoto describes as a “glittering crystal” that lights up the darkness of Mikage’s mind.

Get the entire Kitchen LitChart as a printable PDF.
Kitchen PDF

Dark Symbol Timeline in Kitchen

The timeline below shows where the symbol Dark appears in Kitchen. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1: Kitchen
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...which took Mikage by surprise. The idea that she’s now alone in the world feels dark and unreal, like the “blackness of the cosmos.” When it happened, she couldn’t sleep. After... (full context)
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...thinks about how she has no blood ties to anybody in this world, as the dark night stretches into the “unbounded loneliness” of the infinite cosmos beyond the window around her.... (full context)
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...with gratitude. Mikage thinks to herself that she, like Yuichi, knows how life can be “dark and solitary” when you grow up with only one family member because you’re aware early... (full context)
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...for finding herself in such a warm and happy place after being in such a dark one. One day, Mikage goes back to her old apartment to finish cleaning it out.... (full context)
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...things. Looking up, Mikage notices steam and light pouring out of a window in the dark, and hears voices, soup boiling, and pans clanking. It’s a kitchen. Puzzled that she’s able... (full context)
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...ramen. As they sit under the kitchen light in the little room suspended in the dark night, Mikage suddenly thinks: “ramen! What a coincidence!” She playfully mentions that Yuichi also wanted... (full context)
Part 2: Full Moon
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...way. She feels powerless as energy rushes out of her body and dissipates into the dark night. Even though she lost her parents and grandmother, Mikage has never felt more alone... (full context)
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...explains that he felt functional for the first time today. When Eriko died, everything went dark and he went blank. Eriko was everything to him—“She was my mother, my father.” The... (full context)
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...face radiates a “dim glow.” Outside the window, tiny points of light flicker through the dark. Yuichi reflects that he’s an orphan now, as tears stream down his face. Yuichi says... (full context)
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...fog outside. Mikage misses the “light” that Eriko emitted, which has been replaced with a dark “heavy shadow of despair.” (full context)
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...her eyes, and her heart twists. Mikage starts cleaning the kitchen, which is dirty and dark. As Mikage scrubs every surface, she starts to calm down, and she wonders why she... (full context)
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...that she will die, which makes her feel truly alive. Inching her way through the dark at the brink of despair, the moon’s light appears and a special kind of beauty... (full context)
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...cries and cries as she does the dishes, feeling lonely and left behind in the dark. (full context)
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...feels like they are two streams of light floating towards a “critical juncture” in the dark. As they walk toward the station in the cold, Mikage buries her face into Yuichi’s... (full context)
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...just as Mikage’s pork is ready. Suddenly, she feels exhausted and utterly lonely as the dark night falls hard and fast. Mikage feels something is ending and she wants to fight... (full context)
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...a distant look and Mikage is afraid. He seems different. The atmosphere is like a dark tomb and she wants to leave, afraid of being dragged into his pain and being... (full context)
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...Mikage walks in the icy town toward the beach. She’s freezing as she watches the dark, “jet black” waves glittering with dots of light from the lighthouse far away, which forms... (full context)