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"Compare the presentation of the exploitation of women in "Memoirs of a Geisha" by Arthur Golden and "Falling Leaves" by Adeline Yen Mah.

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Introduction

"Compare the presentation of the exploitation of women in "Memoirs of a Geisha" by Arthur Golden and "Falling Leaves" by Adeline Yen Mah. 'Memoirs of a Geisha' and 'Falling Leaves' are set in the 20th century, with 'Memoirs...' taking place in 1929, just after the Japanese war, and 'Falling Leaves' in 1937 at the beginning of the Sino- Japanese war. Both books expose the painful memories of living in an era where women were easily exploited by other members of society. This was a society that did not cater for their needs or give them the support that they required and so craved. Each novel presents to us the endurance of both women, whose childhood was snatched away from them, at a very young age, forcing them to grow up to quickly and lose the innocence and naivety that a child has. In 'Memoirs...' and 'Falling Leaves' Adeline and Chiyo-chan question the ethos of society and because of this they both face a challenging future. However, each story is unique to each woman, focusing on the different aspects of the exploitation and suffering that they have endured. 'Memoirs of a Geisha', is about a young Japanese girl known formally as Chiyo-chan, who is sold off into servitude by her own father. Although Chiyo-chan is a fictional character she is very much based on a real Geisha women known as Mineko Iwasaki. This novel is presented in an autobiographical style, which moves from the present date back in time, till when it all began. Through these memories the childhood of Chiyo-chan is recalled. Unlike ' Memoirs', 'Falling Leaves' is in fact a true story Adeline- Yen Mah is a young Chinese girl, who is believed to have, unfortunately caused the death of her mother at child birth leading to rejection by her father, an action stimulated by her manipulative stepmother. The predicament of both Adeline and Chiyo-chan are similar in that both girls suffer the loss of their mothers and they do not receive the love, tenderness and nurturing that a mother gives. ...read more.

Middle

"The fact that she was half European made her something of a trophy, to be cherished and put on display". This is why Adeline's father prised his wife as a trophy instead of his children because she was seen as exotic he therefore sacrificed everything to keep her happy. His own selfishness and greed meant that he was unable to father his children therefore sacrificing their happiness. By marrying such a women he, too, shined in the admiration she received. The segregation and division of the two races became even more prominent when the family moved into the new home. Adeline, her brothers and sister and aunt Baba were delegated to live only on the second floor of the house and this was a sign of their second- citizenship compared with the rest of the family had the whole of the house to live in. The stories of Chiyo-chan and Adeline are extremely sad ones. The physical and mental abuse which occurs is more prominent in Adeline's story, as she is continually beaten by her older, insecure step- brother Edgar, "Edgar pushed me to the floor and kicked me again and again..." This painful experience makes the reader feel sad and extremely sympathetic towards Adeline as well as evoking resentment against Edgar. This is mainly due to its autobiographical nature. By telling the story through the first person narrative, it appears to be happening at this moment and so we also experience Adeline's pain, just as she does in her memories and therefore we empathise with her. "I stared at my bruised and bloody face in the mirror." This empathy induces a great deal of emotion, as her childhood appears to be riddled with ill- treatment, antipathy, bitterness, and bullying. Chiyo-chan's situation is also unfortunate; the loss of her mother marks the end of a childhood of amusement and pleasure as she is forced into a world of deceit and greed. ...read more.

Conclusion

Although today Japanese and Chinese women still work they are exploited for their labour and paid very low wages. They are also not encouraged to go further than men in education preventing them from becoming powerful and domineering. This sub-conscious message has been embedded in society for so long that it is seen as wrong for a woman to leave her home and her children and become empowered. Two of the female characters in 'Memoirs of a geisha' (Hatsumomo) and 'Falling leaves' (Niang) are powerful. Niang has power because she is from a mixed cultural background which is viewed as racially dominant and Hatsumomo because she is a beautiful seductress. Both women exercise their authority and take advantage of girls who have been taught to excel in silence and do as they are told. Ironically, these to characters appear to very much fall into the role of the dominating male species that controlled society at that time. However, both Niang and Hatsumomo, although authoritative, are still controlled by men, as their power is dependent on them. It is an advantage of the authors that they have written their novels with the benefit of time. 'Memoirs of a geisha was published in 1999 by an American male known as Author Golden who was quite removed from the situation in his novel by way of his gender, geography and culture and 'Falling leaves' was published in 1997 by a women whose childhood experience are relieved in this novel. I feel that both authors have enhanced my understanding of exploitation, through the voices of the characters, which is so easily created and exists in society. This inequality magnifies power and status as well as class. Those who are at the bottom are abused by those who are at the top. The two stories opened up my eyes to the treatment of women in the years that Adeline and Chiyo-chan lived, and I now realise that this exploitation still exists today and what I find so enthralling is that those who carried out such abuse were the loved ones of Adeline and Chiyo-chan. ...read more.

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