Mother, Auntie, and Granny remind us of the three fates. Not only do geisha end up in the okiya through a cruel twist of fate, but each woman is at a different stage of life, and has a different personality.
Auntie is nice, welcoming Chiyo to the okiya, like Clotho, the fate who spins the thread of life when someone is born. Granny is the oldest, and she fries to death on the heater, which reminds us of Atropos, the oldest fate who snips the thread of life…except here she snipped her own by snipping the cord on her space heater. Oops.
In between them is Mother. She's like the sorority house mother, and she's all business. The best way to describe Mother is a quote from Sayuri that describes Mother's "highly developed ability to benefit from other people's suffering" (29.3).
The middle fate, Lachesis, decides how long a life thread will be. And in this book, it is Mother's decision how long a geisha's "life" in the okiya will be. Will she be a servant or will she be geisha? That fate lies with Mother.
Mother is the only character of these three who's fully developed, and she and Chiyo/Sayuri have an interesting relationship. To Chiyo, Mother is controlling and domineering, like a mother. But as Chiyo becomes Sayuri, the two don't become friends, but they do become business partners, albeit begrudgingly on Sayuri's part. Mother is more of a master than a mother, and Sayuri cannot wait to be out from under her tobacco-stained thumb.