Traditionally speaking, I should wear a mask.
In Masks, by Fumiko Enchi, a modern look at the roles of women, in Japan, are explored. Not only in the home, but also as an intricate part of society, working their way through life, men, and emotions thought lost to Japanese women. The female characters of the novel are vindictive, cunning, powerful, and intelligent. All seem to predict and expedite their own situations, manipulating any that pose as obstacles towards their goals. In this empowering novel about Japanese women, it becomes evident what would become of men when women prevail in a Japanese society.
Pre-World War II the women of Japan were hidden and taught to be "shufu, woman deep inside the house,- Their identities would mimic only the leading men in their lives, forcing them to remain shallow beings of an over-traditional society. Unable to demonstrate their true emotions, the ladies of Japan would metaphorically wear masks. Masks that would distract outsiders from seeing any hint of individualism in them, and be blinded by what society molded their women to be: polite, inhibited, and subservient. These women would be able to mask their emotions as well, lacking any genuine feelings. Their lives would be completely influenced by the whims and wants of the men they loved, and obeyed. Anything wanted by women, or exemplary of their individualism was shunned in fear that one day these feminist ideals would grow and overcome the once subservient gender.
"Togano Mieko who symbolizes the power of women- also exemplifies the upturned patriarchy in Japan. She is not only the protagonist of the novel but also the pinnacle example of how a woman would be in a man's position. It is not the wants and whims of the men that influence Yasuko, the leading female pond in this novel, but the will of Mieko who like the "Rokujo lady is instead a Ryo no onna: one who chafes at her inability to sublimate her strong ego in deference to any man, but who can carry out her will only by forcing it upon other- and that indirectly, through the possessive capacity of her spirit-.