Light and Darkness in Kitchen

July 11, 2021 by Essay Writer

“We moved deeper into the dead of night.” (page 50) Throughout Kitchen, Banana Yoshimoto uses light and dark to describe the environment around Mikage, as well as assigning these traits to characters whom she interacts with. However, it is not so much the comparison between light and dark that is astounding, but rather how Banana Yoshimoto, the author of the novella, presents both options in multiple variations giving readers an idea of what mood Mikage is in. As Mikage moves through life she is faced with the loss of several of the most important people in her life such as her parents, grandfather, and eventually her grandmother. These losses all take a toll on her, but it seems her luck has changed when she is brought into the Tanabe household; a household that radiates light in the darkness that has surrounded Mikage.

The biggest loss in Mikage’s life, though arguable, was the loss of her grandmother. Losing her parents at a young age, Mikage was raised by her grandparents until the death of her grandfather which left her to spend the rest of her time with her grandmother “together before bed, sometimes drinking coffee, sometimes green tea, eating cake and watching TV.” (page 20) Though one could say that Mikage was equally affected by the loss of her grandfather, his death is not a focus of the novella; instead, the loss of her grandmother caused Mikage to lose so much more. Not only is Mikage’s last blood relative gone, but the apartment she lived in for so long is now no longer an option for her. Mikage recognizes the light in her life while she is living with her grandmother, but she places a caveat on said light. Only after her grandma’s passing does Mikage truly see the glow of her life with her grandmother, reflecting. “Until only recently, the light that bathed the now-empty apartment had contained the smells of our life there.” (page 32) As she moves the remainder of her objects out of the once lively apartment, the light that once held the “smells of our life” no longer contains such memories. Mikage is forced to recognize that her life is changing and, in a way, so is the light that was responsible for casting a glow over her and her grandmother. “In the afternoon sunlight of the kitchen, I found myself feeling immensely tired.” (pg. 74)

Though the setting of the story does hold quite a bit of control over whether or not it is light or dark, Banana does an excellent job of presenting the darkness in multiple lens’. The last time Mikage sees Eriko, the woman who “adopted” her, she describes Eriko as “…watching the city glitter in the darkness.” (page 47) This suggests darkness as something beautiful to watch and, in a way, participate in. There is almost a magical quality to said city in this passage; though, one may question if it is the darkness presenting this magic or Eriko, herself. This question is validated later on in the story as Mikage must face the darkness after Eriko’s murder. She recognizes that “night was just as it had been” yet everything had changed. The light that once filled the apartment had seemingly been extinguished. “Truly great people emit a light that warms the hearts of those around them. When that light has been put out, a heavy shadow of despair descends.” (page 55) Eriko was this light in both Mikage’s and Yuichi’s lives; however, now both are left to discover a new light, whether in themselves or in each other. Mikage had noted previously that Yuichi had a calm, almost zen light about him, but it is in this darkness that we see his light dimmed to an almost invisible level. Comparing the magic of the darkness while Eriko was alive to the darkness that surrounds them in her death, the reader sees that it truly was Eriko who created such a magical property.

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