Study Guide

Memoirs of a Geisha Blood

By Arthur Golden


Thicker Than Water

Blood is often part of a ritual, whether it's a sacrifice, a woman losing her virginity, or a woman's virginity being sacrificed. In Memoirs, we're told, "Red […] is the color of new beginnings" (24.13). Blood is also red, which is an alluring color and a shade Hatsumomo chooses for her lips.

But we're not concerned with Hatsumomo's lips. We're concerned with Sayuri's. As young Chiyo, her lip is bleeding when she meets Mr. Tanaka. He never says it, but maybe her bloodstained lip reminds him of the lipstick a geisha wears…because he sets her on the path to geisha-hood right then and there.

Sayuri loses her virginity to Dr. Crab, and we talk about the creepy thing he does with her blood in his "Character" page. But once again, for good measure: he keeps it. He soaks it up in a rag, and puts it in a little jar. No, we're not making this up. Yes, it's creepy af. And yes, it's evidence that blood means a whole lot in Memoirs of A Geisha—it's evidence of virginity, and it's evidence that virginity is super-prized in the geisha community and Japanese culture during the 1930s.

But there's another exchange that seems more like a blood debt. Nobu gives Sayuri a ruby to pay her debts, and she describes the ruby as "a giant drop of blood sparking in the sunlight" (23.26).

With all the blood in this book, that isn't a description to be taken lightly. And when Mother takes it, the ruby is "swallow[ed] up in her hand" (23.46). At this point, Mother thinks she is bargaining for Sayuri's virginity, so it's like she's exchanging a blood-red jewel for blood of another sort.

Later, Nobu gives Sayuri a chunk of concrete, promising to later exchange it for a jewel and become her danna. But she prevents that from happening. Red is the color of passion, and what little passion was in their relationship is gone, leaving it a lumpy gray stone.