The Analysis of Moral Values in Arthur Golden’s Memoirs of a Geisha

The Analysis of Moral Values in Arthur Golden’s Memoirs of a Geisha


Abstract. Memoirs of a Geisha is a best seller and very phenomenon novel because the content is about moral values and education. The researcher would like to analyze the moral values in this novel. The research methodology used is descriptive qualitative. There are moral values as very prominent in society living such motivating, inspiring, strengthens, loyalty, successful, sadness, happiness, love and so on. Hard of life and poverty are not weak her spirit to raise living up standard and works as a geisha, although in her deepest heart becomes a geisha is a choice.

Keywords: moral values, prominent, society

Analyzing a novel from moral point of view often means analyzing a character since moral has a close relationship with character, because moral is reflected by character. By analyzing this thing, the writer can also learn about the author’s feeling and the goals in the story as well as the readers which are involved indirectly through their emotional side while understanding moral values that come from the character in this novel. In this analysis, the writer will try to identify the explanation of moral values in Memoirs of a Geisha novel written by Arthur Golden through psychological approach, focuses on personality approach.

Edwards (1967: 150) stated that a morality contains (1) beliefs about the nature of the man, (2) belief about ideals, about what is good or desirable or worthy or pursuit for its own sake, (3) rules laying down what ought to be done and (4) motives that incline us to choose the right or the wrong course. It means morals arise from human consciousness to develop personal self and society, develop means to correct errors and improve what has been good. Moral rules are not rules for achieving ideal ends, dependent for their validity for their success or failure in bringing about these ends, but are worthy of obedience in their own right, and a moral system which some of rules are regarded as depend on other.

Waluyo (2007: 28) moral values are standards or principles in judging conducts or behavior. Borrowing Stanton’s opinion, it says that moral values are the same in every society since the moral values are influenced by the culture of group of society. Moral value appears by the long process through the appearance of any society in running social activities. The people interact one to another which creates norm and value of the society then from the norm and value, the moral value based on their agreement will appear by itself.

Bertens (1997: 144), there are four characteristics of moral values. They are (1) moral value related with responsibility, (2) moral value is related to conscience, (3) obligation, (4) formality

Webster (1981) classified moral value into Bravery, enthusiasm, kindhearted, honesty, affection, loyalty, peace-loving, perseverance, sacrifice, self-confidence, sincerity, strong belief.

The story told in the novel is about the hard living of a Geisha girl in Japan, that is considered in some way similar to prostitution, yet seen from another perspective, is very prestigious. Although living as a Geisha is not a choice for the main character because poverty forces her, to be a renowned Geisha, the main character needs hard work, since Geisha does not depend only on beautiful face but also clever mind and multi talented skills. The first approach that the writer is going to use in analyzing this research is objective or formalistic approach.

Moral value is the principles of right and wrong that are accepted by an individual and social group in which have three basic components of morality. What are the components? And those moral values are found in Memoirs of a Geisha.

“I climbed down onto it and stopped a moment to look for a path to the street; but despite the moon light, I could see only a sheet of blackness. The roof was much too high and steep for me to consider sliding down it on a gamble.”( Memoirs of a Geisha, Chapter 8).

The statement above is the first type of moral value which shows bravery in this novel, when Sayuri intends to run away from the Okiya. Sayuri bears a cross from Hatsumomo’s treatment. She meets a Chairman who gives her enthusiasm increases her spirit.

“In that brief encounter with the Chairman, I had changed from a lost girl facing a lifetime of emptiness to a girl with purpose in her life. Perhaps it seems odd that a casual meeting on the street could have brought about such change.”(Memoirs of a Geisha, Chapter 9).

Here is the type of moral value which shows that there is a man who takes care and is kindhearted with Sayuri’s condition. The Chairman is kindhearted person. He takes care of her when he sees Sayuri crying in the edge of Kamo river while no one else pays attention.

“Why, it’s too pretty a day to be so unhappy.”

Yet not only had this man bothered to speak to me, he’d actually spoken kindly.

“Now, Izuko –san, surely at sometime you yourself have been in the same state this little girl is in. You can’t pretend the life of a geisha is always simple. I should think you of all people”.(Memoirs of a Geisha, Chapter 9).

After Sayuri comes back to the Okiya with unsuccessful run away, she sees Hatsumomo and his boyfriend in the maid room. Hatsumomo is angry and makes a false accusation to Sayuri but Sayuri is an honest girl. She doesn’t steal anything from Hatsumomo.

“Mother, it isn’t true,…Hatsumomo was in the maids’ room with her boyfriend. She’s angry about something, and she’s taking out on me. I didn’t take anything from her!”.(Memoirs of a Geisha, Chapter 7).

Mameha-San is interested to make Sayuri her younger sister because she is asked by a Chairman who loves and feels affection for Sayuri although she doesn’t know about it. The Chairman falls in love with Sayuri since the first sight at Kamo river.

“Sayuri, I am the one who asked Mameha to take you under her care. I told her about a beautiful young girl I’d met, with startling gray eyes, and asked that she help you if she ever came upon you in Gion.”(Memoirs of a Geisha, Chapter 33).

Someday, because Sayuri is despaired on how to make the Chairman interested and willing to become her danna also how he knows about her love and affection to him. She makes a serious mistake.  She makes an affair with the minister to make Nobu-San hate her. But, unfortunately the Chairman sees it.

“What I did on Amami, I did because of my feelings for you, chairman. Every step I have taken in my life since I was a child in Gion, I have taken in the hope of bringing myself closer to you”. (Memoirs of a Geisha, Chapter 33).

Sayuri, who loves his older sister Satsu, affords to look for her whatever the way. It shows that she is loyal to her sibling and promises to meet her and runs away together.

“Yes, ma’am,” I said.” I had a sister. We’d been separated but we managed to find each other. We were supposed to meet on a certain night to run away together… but then I fell off the roof and broke my arm.”(Memoirs of a Geisha, Chapter 10).

Auntie is the one who takes care of Sayuri in Okiya and gives advice to her in order to keep attitude and peace loving with other people including Hatsumomo.

“I don’t want to hear that you’ve upset Hatsumomo again. The other little girl manages to stay out of her way; you can do it too.”(Memoirs of a Geisha, Chapter 4).

Since she meets the Chairman in Kamo River, Sayuri can afford to be a geisha and follow training with perseverance.

“I prayed that they permit me to become a geisha somehow. I would suffer through any training, bear up under any hardship, for a chance to attract the notice of a man like the Chairman again.”(Memoirs of a Geisha, Chapter 9).

Every culture and custom of country is different. The tradition of Shinto religion in Japan believes that sacrificing one’s self for others is a form of loving and sacrificing to Gods.

“Because in shinto, death is the most impure of all the things that can happen but with preparing the house by setting out candles, trays with meal offerings, lanterns at the entrance, tea stands, trays for money that visitor’s brought, and so on.”(Memoirs of a Geisha, Chapter 10).

As long as they live in the Okiya, Sayuri and Hatsumomo hostile each other like an enemy. Hatsumomo has more over self confidence because she feels that she is the most beautiful girl.

“Because I’m more beautiful. Does she need a better reason? She wants to humiliate me by telling everyone, ‘Oh, please meet my new younger sister. She lives in the same okiya as Hatsumomo, but she’s such a jewel they’ve entrusted her to me for training instead.”(Memoirs of a Geisha, Chapter 11).

Finally Sayuri becomes a renowned geisha. There is a person, Nobu-San who loves and has affection to Sayuri, and wants to be her danna. He is sincerely fond of Sayuri although Sayuri considers him as a friend, nothing more.

“I felt a fondness welling up in me that I’ve known for very few men in my life.

You may as well have made an alliance with a beggar! Really, I was once very fond of you, but—“ (Memoirs of a Geisha, Chapter 26).

In every action, Sayuri has strong belief in the forecast of her alamanac. It influences her in determining about fortunate day or unfortunate day to do something, like to do a travel.

“When I returned to the Okiya that afternoon, I hid myself upstairs to look through my almanac. A variety of days in the next two weeks stood out. One was the coming Wednesday, which was a favorable day for traveling westward.”( Memoirs of a Geisha, Chapter 16).

Sayuri is the daughter of a fisherman who lives poorly and has hard life. She lives with her family in the little tipsy house. She never imagines that her life changes after meeting Mr.Tanaka. Her life was getting worse but as the same time, changing to be the best thing. She struggles to move on the long way to be a renowned geisha through misery, sadness, and hard work. This is contrary to what the people think, that she comes from geisha family, without understanding her fight to be renowned geisha in Gion.

“I wasn’t born and raised to be a Kyoto geisha. I wasn’t even born in Kyoto. I’m a fisherman’s daughter from a little town called Yoroido on the Sea of Japan. In all my life I’ve never told more than a handful of people anything at all about Yoroido, or about the house in which I grew up, or about my mother and father, or my older sister-and certainly not about how I became a geisha, or what it was like to be one.Most people would much rather carry on with their fantasies that my mother and grandmother were geisha, and that I began my training in dance when I was weaned from the breast, and so on.”(Memoirs of a Geisha, Chapter 1).

The novel Memoirs of a Geisha, whose title shows the content of the whole story, contains many types of moral value. After the writer analyzes this story, the writer concludes that the novel has some moral values that are conveyed by the author to the reader. All chapters in that story convey about moral values in life such as: bravery, enthusiasm, kindheartedness, honesty, love and affection, loyalty, peace-loving, perseverance, sacrificing for others, self confidence, sincerity, and strong belief. Good and bad moral values are drawn clearly through the events that happen in this novel.

The author gives emphasis about the main character ‘Sayuri’ in this novel. Then, the writer tries to analyze about the relationship between moral values and the personality of Sayuri. As the result, the writer finds many kinds of moral value through the personal description of Sayuri, especially seen from: others opinion on Sayuri’spersonality, her speech, her past life, conversation of others about Sayuri, reaction of Sayuri in facing her problem, thoughts which Sayuri has in her lifetime, and her mannerism in every action.

Finally, based on the characteristic of the novel itself, the writer concludes that the novel is also the picture and the representative of human’s real life, because it seems that the events which are found from the novel then are analyzed, are not very different from the reality. It can be a lesson for the readers to know what to do, how to behave, and how to make the correct decision, when they encounter similar problems in their lives.

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