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Cleaning in The Kitchen: Analyzing the Development of a Coping Mechanism

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Colin J. Wick Candidate #000844-xxx World Literature Two Option C: Detailed Study June 21, 2009 Cleaning in The Kitchen: Analyzing the Development of a Coping Mechanism Word Count: 1,181 When confronted with extreme tragedy and loneliness, individuals tend to find solace in the most simple, yet familiar of activities. In The Kitchen, by Banana Yoshimoto, the author develops the act of cleaning as a coping mechanism for Mikage. In Part One of the novel, cleaning gives Mikage a sense of nostalgia, which helps her cope with the death of her grandmother and quell the pain of her resulting isolation. But, in Part Two, cleaning begins to be connected more with new beginnings for Mikage rather than past memories. Nevertheless, cleaning throughout the entire novel, whether it is associated with the past or future, gives Mikage a sense of comfort and stability. In Part One of The Kitchen, Yoshimoto develops the motif of cleaning as a coping device for Mikage by linking it with memories of her old apartment. When Mikage's grandmother dies in the beginning of the novel, she was "taken by surprise" and left "all alone" without family to support her. ...read more.


Unlike the dream scenes in the first part of the novel that were centered on her past, here, cleaning is associated with Mikage's future. By cleaning the kitchen, Mikage is cleaning out the misery from her life, allowing her to start fresh. This represents a shift in her mindset from dwelling on the past in order to deal with the tragedy in her life, to accepting her misfortune and moving on to create a new beginning for herself. Mikage not only refers to the change in her outlook on life literally, but also figuratively. Again at the Tanabe's residence, Mikage "washed an enormous pile of dishes", declaring that, "it wasn't over having to wash all those dishes" (67). Not only is Mikage concerned with the task at hand, but she is also referring to her life in general. She laments that although she may be able to overcome some of her misery, her grief will always be with her, like the "enormous pile of dishes". But, instead of dwelling on her grief, Mikage accepts it and moves her life forward. ...read more.


The solace and serenity that cleaning affords Mikage is also continued in Part Two. At the end of the novel, Mikage entered a restaurant that "smelled of clean, white wood" giving it a "good atmosphere" (89). The cleanliness of the restaurant created a congenial environment for Mikage. Furthermore, Yoshimoto continues to explore the numerous styles sensory imagery by describing the clean fragrance of the wood. Therefore, despite some changes in the way cleaning helped Mikage cope with despair, Yoshimoto continued both the stability and relief cleaning gave Mikage throughout the whole novel. In conclusion, Yoshimoto develops cleaning as a coping mechanism for Mikage by associating it with nostalgic feelings in the first section of the novel and with a desire to renew her life in the second section. Furthermore, she emphasizes a sense of comfort and stability, connected with cleaning, by using visual, auditory, and olfactory imagery throughout the whole novel. Therefore, Yoshimoto is able to successfully illustrate Mikage's cleaning throughout the novel as an adaptive coping mechanism resulting from the absence of close family. She develops this simple coping mechanism in an extreme situation in order to reflect the activities many individuals pursue in order to manage everyday adversity. ...read more.

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