Bronteana: Bronte Studies Blog Archives

December 23, 2005


Filed under: Bronteana,Uncategorized — by bronteana @ 4:48 am

Memoirs of a Geisha… and Jane Eyre?

Not an obvious comparison in my mind, but one which I have seen come up twice this week, and therefore, deserving of coverage here on Brontëana. Memoirs of a Geisha written by Arthur Golden is the basis for the film currently in theatres.


Based upon the beloved novel by Arthur Golden, director Rob Marshall's Memoirs of a Geisha is in theaters now. Ziyi Zhang plays Chiyo, a girl torn from her destitute family who seems fated to live the life of a lowly servant. In spite of her station, Chiyo's great beauty threatens the treacherous, jealous Hatsumomo (Li Gong); it's all the reason she needs to treat her cruelly. Chiyo is aided, however, by Mameha (Michelle Yeoh), who teaches her in the art of being a geisha. Under Mameha's tutelage, Chiyo is transformed into the beautiful geisha Sayuri. Sayuri is desired by countless men but her heart is pledged to "The Chairman" (Ken Watanabe), a man whom she cannot have.

Ziyi Zhang compares her character's story to several sweeping tales of women making their way in the world, including Jane Eyre:

The adult Sayuri is played by Ziyi Zhang. She is eventually sponsored by the famed geisha Mameha, played by Michelle Yeoh. The end of World War II brings the Americans to Japan and eventually the end of geisha as an art form. Zhang compares the story to "Jane Eyre" (poverty to respectability), "Gone With the Wind" (the destruction of one society after defeat in war), "Cinderella" and "Pygmalion" (rags-to-riches fantasies).

The full review of the film, including this reference to Jane Eyre can be found here.



  1. I have heard about this as well, which pretty much sells me to watch it. 😉 I’ve never read the book though (which I plan to do soon) and I wonder if the book can be said to be like ‘Jane Eyre’.

    Comment by ThisbeCiel — December 23, 2005 @ 12:01 pm |Reply

  2. I was intrigued myself but then I read more reviews and I really can’t see there being more than a similarity in story type. I am not even sure that ‘poverty to respectability’ is what’s at stake in Jane Eyre either. Jane makes a point of defending the ‘respectability’ of those who are poor- even criticising herself for falling into the trap of seeing poverty as ‘synonymous with degradation’.

    Comment by Brontëana — December 23, 2005 @ 12:23 pm |Reply

  3. Perhaps the relationship with Sayuri and the Chairman can be said to be Janian? I have no idea but that was the first thought I had when I read the synopsis. I guess I’ll report back when I see the movie. ^^

    Comment by ThisbeCiel — December 23, 2005 @ 1:18 pm |Reply

  4. I thought so as well, but it appears that he is partly responsible for auctioning off her virginity, which doesn’t seem like something C.B. would have approved of. 😉 But, yes, we shall see!

    Comment by Brontëana — December 23, 2005 @ 1:21 pm |Reply

  5. Hi!
    I’ve read “Memoirs of a Geisha” and really liked the book…( usually I prefer stories that have “marginalized” female characters…for example Anne of Green Gables, Jane Eyre, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, The Secret Life of Bees …)
    But yes…in terms of Golden’s book, the Chairman is WAY older than Sayuri (he was in his thirties when Sayuri was 12). Both Sayuri and the Chairman, despite a calm exterior, were burning with passion (or so I gathered from the story). He was the first man she loved (like Jane did Rochester) and the Chairman has had his share of mistresses. Thier marriage was much like Jane/Rochester’s in that it was so intense (ala “bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh”).

    That’s as much as I can recall for the moment..and its been a while since I’ve read the book. But yes, I can’t wait to see the movie quite soon!!!

    Comment by mysticgypsy — December 23, 2005 @ 2:59 pm |Reply

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