Taeko rebels against the standards of her society. She “would do what she wanted regardless of the trouble it might cause and the rumors it might start” (279). Taeko’s doll making began as a hobby, then progressed into dress-making (128). Sachiko disapproved of this rebellion against Taeko’s position in society; she is a Makioka, not a common tailor. The novel states,
“What were Taeko’s real motives for setting out to become a working woman?…Married to so worthless a person, she should be prepared to support him [Okubata]… The excuse was not enough to justify a course in sewing and a trip to Europe. Taeko ought rather to be planning for a home with the man she loved” (264).
The standard of the system for a rich woman is to keep home and “…become a good wife and mother…Dressmaking is quite out of the question” (260). Taeko attempts to rebel against this system by sewing, and is sent to Tokyo to be watched by Tsuruko (258). Taeko fails, and the system prevails.
By tradition, the sisters are to marry from eldest to youngest. Taeko is supposed to wait until Yukiko marries, before she can herself. Even so, Taeko still has relations with Okubata, Itakura and Miyoshi against her family’s and societies wishes. The “Newspaper Incident” caused by her relation with Okubata tainted the family name. She continues to use his money and wealth throughout the novel, while dating others at the same time (446-453). As a consequence of her misconduct, her family disowns her. Taeko ‘looses’ against the established system of marriage. Taeko’s affair with Itakura ends in a marriage proposal that Sachiko was against. In the end, Itakura dies, to the relief of the other Makiokas. Taeko is left victim once again to the system.
The Miyoshi affair results in her pregnancy, while she is still seeing Okubata. She is sent away to Arima Springs, and there is a future of her breaking with Okubata and marring Miyoshi. This rebellious activity is crushed with the death of Taeko’s child. Throughout all of her troubles, the family is more concerned with preserving the Makioka name, rather than with Taeko’s health or happiness.
Every time Taeko tries to fight the system, she ends in failure. Her affairs with Okubata, Itakura and Miyoshi all end in death, which is a form of punishment for trying to change the way things are. Her attempt at becoming economically independent from the family by sewing ends with her funding being taken away and her disownment, also due to her supporting Okubata. Galeano’s idea of a ‘survival of the fittest’ system applies to Taeko; she leaves Sachiko and has to fare for herself in the world, ending in pregnancy and bankruptcy. The idea of “...be the screwer or the screwed…” (Galeano 180) and looking out for one’s self is also applied to Taeko. She is a selfish hedonist, and “did what she wanted to do regardless…” (279). Taeko is an example of a revolutionary woman of her time, who initiates change in an age-old society, chained down by tradition and standards.
Galeano, Eduardo. The Book of Embraces. Trans. Cedric Belfrage. New York: W. W. Norton, 1991.
Tanizaki, Junichiro. The Makioka Sisters. Trans. Michael R. Katz. New York: Prentice Hall, 1992.