Underneath It All

Essay by EssaySwap ContributorHigh School, 11th grade February 2008

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A wise person once said that love and stars are similar, in that they both keep one looking up at the skies every night for hope. After she is sold into a slavery, Chiyo loses everyone and everything she loves and no longer looks up into the skies. Desperate for any form of love, the Chairman, although superficially, becomes the link between little Chiyo and hope, and she begins to lift her head. It can be agreed that the Chairman helps Sayuri accomplish great things, but why would a person, despite his great kindness, do such things for a complete stranger? One can argue that it is simply because of his kind nature, and others, who analyze deeper, can argue that the Chairman is a hypocritical and selfish individual, who helps Chiyo only through hopes that she would one day become his mistress.

Through the eyes of Chiyo, "[the Chairman] looked at [her] a long while" (Golden 112) and he then "wiped away the grit and tears from [her] face [and] he tipped [her] head up" (Golden 112).

Back in mid twentieth century Japan, any adult man who cared about a child's little, unfortunate accident would have been viewed as more then kind. Take that a step further. Why would anyone, despite his wealth, pay for the great expenses of a stranger unless there was something beneficial in the outcome? It is not until the end of the story, when it is revealed that this innocent act of tear wiping and ice cream buying was all because the forty year old Chairman was in love with the twelve year old. The Chairman was not being "nice" because he thought that there was not enough "kindness" in the world. He hoped from the beginning that this girl with unusually, beautiful eyes would one day become his mistress.

Although his intentions were purely based on self interest, they were not selfish in the eyes of Chiyo. From her first meeting with the Chairman, Chiyo and latter Sayuri, lives with superficial love for the Chairman, which ultimately leads her to her success. Towards the end of the novel, Sayuri tells the Chairman that "Every step [she had] taken in [her] life since [she] was a child in Gion, [she had] taken in the hope of bringing [herself] closer to [him]" (Golden 416). Her shallowness and naiveté about love alters the course of the novel, from Chiyo dying as a maid and from Chiyo dying as Sayuri. There is no kindness in the Chairman. The selfish nature of the Chairman is evident in many parts of the story. For example, towards the end of the novel, after Sayuri seduces the Minister, the Chairman does not necessarily have to tell Nobu about the incident. When the Chairman tells Nobu what has happened, the Chairman deliberately punctures a nail into Nobu's heart. The Chairman well knew that Nobu has never loved any woman but Sayuri, and the Chairman also knows that "Life has been cruel to him…[and] he's had too little kindness" (Golden 415). Despite this knowledge, the Chairman takes advantage of the incident and uses it as a loophole to get Sayuri for himself.

The Chairman had "made up [his] mind, the moment [he] became aware of [Nobu's] affection for [Sayuri], that [he] would keep [his] interest in [Sayuri] hidden" (Golden 415). He only did this, because without Nobu's intelligence, the Chairman would never become prosperous, even after the war. The foundation of Iwamura Electric company was built on Nobu's ability to reason and negotiate, and his tactics rest until the very end of the novel with the Minister. The Chairman exploits Nobu and Nobu is the only thing standing in the Chairman's way path Sayuri.

The Chairman's idea of gratitude for Nobu's dedication to the company is making Sayuri his mistress. He is also "kind" about this. By making Sayuri quit her job as a geisha and then moving her to New York, she and Nobu would no longer have reason to see each other. Of course, it's all for Nobu's good, right? It can be agreed that the Chairman did this not because he wanted to be "kind" towards Nobu, but because he was selfish. He wanted Sayuri hidden, where only he would have the pleasure of her company.

An aficionado of fantasies, fate, and love would agree that the novel is most delicious in every form. But a critic would agree that the novel is full of secrets, lies, and betrayals. The Chairman became a symbol of love for Sayuri, who was desperate for anything that would resemble love. Sayuri began to look for hope in the skies and became a star herself, a geisha. But her idea of love was born out of desperation and naiveté, as, although she does not realize, the Chairman's love for her was so shallow the entire time. She had no love and she no longer had hope of finding true love. She no longer looked to the skies for those stars of love, because her only lover's soul, the Chairman, did not rise to the skies, but sunk down with all that was bad in him; selfishness, hypocrisy, and exploitation.