A Literary Analysis of Naomi, a Novel by Jun’ichiro Tanizaki

Silverberg calls the Modern Girl of Japan in 1920s-30s as moga. Moga and mobo (her male counterpart) appeared in many articles, magazines, and cartoons of that time. Scholars have argued that Silverberg’s Moga was not a real depiction of the Modern Girl of that time; instead, it was only a media heroine, a cultural construct, or a mental image that was presented in the stories and magazines. For Silverberg, Tanizaki’s Naomi is a true depiction of the Modern Girl or moga of that age. Just like Tanizaki described Naomi, Silverberg described Moga as extremely feminine. She is very bold and flirtatious and does not hesitate from physical encounters. Tanizaki’s Naomi and Silverberg’s Moga pursue sexual freedom. They do not accept other people’s boundaries set for them when it comes to class, gender, race, and culture. They define their own boundaries. Silverberg sees Naomi as independent and self-reliant, which are the basic characteristics of her moga.

Naomi lures men, lurks his manhood, and shows off her perfect beauty. She interrupts with the male-controlled system of the society as we see that she does not do any housework, is manipulative with Joji (the protagonist of the novel Naomi), and is always showing off her wonderful clothes. Since Naomi is erotic, elusive and coquettish, she best fits Silverberg’s definition of Moga, since both Naomi and Moga are fleshy epitomes of modernity. Moga is a depiction of the Modern Girl for Silverberg; and, Naomi is the symbol of the Modern Girl for Tanizaki. The basic characteristics of both are similar. Hence, it can be said that Silverberg sees Naomi as the Modern Girl as she displays all the characteristics of her moga.

At the end of the novel Naomi by Tanizaki, Naomi becomes better in the sense that she learns the Western values through proper training that Joji funds. She learns to behave in a better Westernized manner and her embodiment of Western standards complete with the classes of dance and theatre that Joji arranges for her. However, gradually she starts taking hold of Joji’s entire life. Joji starts as the dominating companion of the relationship and ends at submitting at the hands of Naomi, who disturbs the patriarchal system of the society in general and her house in particular, where Joji lives in a separate bedroom and Naomi entertains her guests in the other bedroom. She manipulates Joji in many matters involving money. She becomes the kind of modern girl that is non-appreciative of her male counterpart’s struggles for her. Joji makes struggles to make a perfect Western wife, but she ends up becoming a totally Westernized concept of a woman who takes her image from Hollywood movies. This shows how Naomi gets better at behaving in a Western manner but does not become a better person or a better human being. When compared to Joji, she is not better than him, as Joji is an ambitious and dedicated person, while Naomi is a carefree and rebellious kind of a woman.

 

Works Cited
Tanizaki, Junʼichirō. Naomi. New York: Vintage, 2001.

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