Memoirs of a Geisha Themes

Memoirs of a Geisha Themes


Love is the predominant theme found in the book. In fact, love is what motives Sayuri to eventually become a geisha. However, considering Sayuri’s status as a geisha, loving someone is not profitable and usually the relationships that geishas have with their danna’s is seen as simply a business contract that doesn’t involve the geisha to be in love with her protector. Even if a geisha falls in love with someone, she is still bound to her danna and has to relay on his money and status to survive. Sayuri is aware of the complications that come with loving someone so that is why, her love or the Chairman remains for a while an ideal, Sayuri keeping her feelings to herself. She is content to just see the Chairman and be in his presence to be happy. This changes however when signs that the Chairman might be interested in her become present. Sayuri’s love for the Chairman evolves starting from that point on: instead on just waiting to be noticed, she makes efforts in order to get close to him. She even destroys her chances with Nobu and the prospect of having him as her danna just so she could pursue her love for the Chairman.


In Memoirs of a Geisha, destiny is seen as something that can’t be changed and every character has to accept its own destiny. In most of the times, destiny in the book is confused with the limitations imposed by the society they lived in. For Sayuri, destiny seemed to dictate that she had no other choice than becoming a geisha which is partially true considering that during those times, the only way a woman could make money without getting married was either to be a prostitute or work as a servant. At the end of the book, Sayuri realizes that destiny is not as powerful as se believed it to be and that she could influence it slightly. Starting from that point, she starts to take matters into her own hands and try to make deliberate choices about her life, rather than letting things be decided for her.

Death and loneliness

These two themes are related and could be easily traced through the whole story. The protagonist find out quickly that lifer itself is a rather fragile thing and people can’t avoid the inevitable. She sees how her father gets old, how her mother gets sick and her older sister transforms from a little girl to an adult woman. When her parents pass and sister escapes, she feels emptiness and loneliness. Being too familiar with these feelings, she is afraid to be left alone after the Chairman’s death.

Parents’ love

The theme of parent’s love is not widely revealed, but it is of no less importance than any other in the story. One of the most touching moments is when Sayuri’s sees her father crying for the very first time in her life. Grief of a parent who is no longer capable of taking care about his/her children is overwhelming and strong.

Betrayal and loyalty

These themes are inseparable in the story. One the one hand a reader can see how Sayuri stays loyal to her heart and how the Chairman sacrifices his happiness for a friend willingly, but on the other hand we also see a lot examples of betrayal. For instance, Pumpkin’s betrayal of Sayuri shows how easily envy can destroy friendship.

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