TEAHOUSE OF THE AUGUST MOON - questions
Complete the following questions with as much detail as possible to support your answers.
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1. In Act One, Scene One of The Teahouse of the August Moon we are introduced to the play’s
major characters, and the plot begins to develop.
(a) What incident in this scene is the initial incident of the plot?
(b) Who becomes the protagonist in the play?
2. The protagonist has several conflicts to resolve, both external and internal. Oddly, his major
external conflict for the first part of the play is resolved about halfway through and replaced by
(a) What is his main external conflict up to the end of Act Two Scene One?
(b) Who are the antagonists in this part of the play?
3. (a) What is the protagonist’s main external conflict after Act Two Scene One?
(b) Now who (or what) has become the chief antagonist?
(c) How is this conflict resolved?
4. Taking the play as a whole, what is the protagonist’s major internal conflict?
5. Of the above-mentioned conflicts, which is the most important? Give reasons for your answer.
The playwright of The Teahouse of the August Moon, John Patrick, makes certain that no
events in the play appear to happen just by coincidence. He prepares us for an event by planting
ideas, or foreshadowing, events earlier in the play. When this happens, we have been prepared for
an event; and we accept it as believable.
A clear example of this use of foreshadowing occurs in Act One, Scene One, when Sakini is
assigned to act as interpreter for Captain Fisby. If Colonel Purdy had just given his own interpreter
to Fisby out of the blue, it would have been hard for us to believe. To get around this, Patrick has
Purdy say very early in the play, “I’m thinking of getting rid of that interpreter. He doesn’t set a good
example.” This makes it entirely believable when the Colonel lights upon the first opportunity that
comes along to rid himself of Sakini.
Listed below are three more events for which we are prepared before they occur by means of
foreshadowing. Tell what earlier event or speech prepared us for them.
1. Seven Star Batata, the commodity that puts Tobiki on the map, has been made in the village for
generations from the sweet potatoes that grow so well there.
2. Lotus Blossom probably chooses to marry Mr. Seiko since she cannot marry Captain Fisby.
3. The teahouse and stills are reassembled in time for the visit of the Congressional Committee.
1. The oriental atmosphere is very important to The Teahouse of the August Moon. What devices
has John Patrick used in his play to create a strong feeling of the Far East? In preparing your
answer, consider stage directions, scene descriptions, speech, props, and events.
2. The play has previously been referred to as a fantasy and has been compared to a fairy tale.
One feature that gives it its magical quality is Sakini’s ability to step into the play and out, to be part
of the story or to discuss the events with the audience.
Name two other events or devices that contribute to the play’s pervasive mood of fantasy and
In literature, some characters are flat, whereas some are round; some are static, whereas some
are developing. In The Teahouse of the August Moon most of the characters start out as types
rather than as real individuals; that is, they appear to be flat, static, stock characters, the sort
typical of many comic productions. Some of these characters, however, later in the play, do
develop; and we come to see them as more complex individuals.
l. Of the four U.S. Army characters (Purdy, Fisby, McLean, and Gregovich) which ones remain f1at
and static, and which ones develop and become comparatively round?
2. Virtually everything we need to know about Colonel Purdy is revealed in Act One, Scene One.
Reread the scene carefully, and then write a detailed character sketch of the Colonel based solely
on what is presented in that scene. Be sure to defend what you say by referring directly to things
the colonel says or does, or by the attitude of others towards him. Since almost everything that
occurs in this scene helps to characterize Purdy, you should go into some depth. (Before you
begin, read through the document on writing a character sketch.)
The Teahouse of the August Moon is satire, a piece of literature that holds up human folly or
vice to scorn or ridicule, Although a satirical piece of writing ridicules people, their ideas, their
values, their customs, and their institutions, it does so not simply for the sake of amusement; but
generally so that those made fun of can see their own folly and, it is to be hoped, try to overcome it.
In case the idea of satire is not familiar to you, a famous example might help to clarify it. In 1729
Jonathan Swift, a well-known Irish satirist, wrote a work entitled “A Modest Proposal for preventing
the Children of Poor People from being a Burden to their Parents or the Country.” Swift was upset
by the vast difference in living standards between the rich and poor, and by the indifference with
which the wealthy classes regarded the misery of the destitute masses.
In his “Modest Proposal” Swift, writing under an assumed name and as a member of the upper
classes, suggested, in a seemingly serious manner, that a way to overcome this situation would be
for poor to sell their young children to the rich, who would eat them. This, he suggested, would give
the poor a new source of income, would cut down drastically on their numbers, and would vary the
diets of the rich.
Swift’s writing naturally horrified many of his contemporaries. but it did get across his point that
the wealthy people of England regarded the poor as not much more than cattle. Why not go all the
way and slaughter them for food?
“A Modest Proposal” is a bitter, biting satire. The Teahouse of the August Moon is much more
light-hearted in tone; but its message, too, is serious.
1. Which character in the play is the chief object of satire?
2. This character is a member of an organization, or institution, that is also the butt of satire. What
organization is this?
3. Just what attitudes, shared by this character and the organization to which he belongs, is the
play ridiculing or satirizing?
4. On a larger scale, the whole western world is being satirized in The Teahouse of the August
Moon for our attitudes towards ourselves and non-western civilizations. Is this attack on us and
our civilization justified? Give reasons for your answer.
5. One of the most telling attacks the play makes against our western civilization occurs when
Fisby realizes that the beautiful, fragile Lotus Blossom would be destroyed if he took her to live in
the United States. How would American life destroy Lotus Blossom?
6. While the play satirizes aspects of western civilization, it extols the virtues and values of
traditional Japanese society. What does Fisby (and, it is to be hoped, the reader or audience)
came to understand and appreciate about what is truly valuable from the village of Tobiki? In other
words, what lessons does he realize we can learn from the East?
7. Sakini is the character in The Teahouse of the August Moon most given to making direct
satirical comments. Like so many, sly, roguish servants, Sakini sees through the absurd
pretentiousness of his masters and he delights in poking fun at (and making fun of) Purdy,
Gregovich, and Fisby.
He does this in several ways. One way is to deliberately drive his bosses to distraction with his
thick-skulled-native routine. For example, when, in Act Two, Scene One, he embarrasses Colonel
Purdy by tapping his rear end to announce his presence, the Colonel indignantly tells him to knock
in the future. As a result, Sakini does just this - he knocks on the Colonel, pretending not to
understand what is really expected.
From anywhere in the play, describe another instance in which Sakini deliberately annoys one of
his American bosses by “playing dumb.”
Satire generally relies heavily on the use of irony, that is, saying one thing but meaning something
very different, usually the direct opposite of what has been said.
Sakini uses irony quite extensively in his comments to make fun of Purdy, Gregovich, and Fisby.
An example occurs again in Act One, Scene One when he tells us how wisely Colonel Purdy is to
predict the weather accurately every morning even though at that time of year the weather in
Okinawa is always the same. The clear message, of course, is that the Colonel is not wise at all,
but actually stupid to make such an obvious comment time and again.
1. From anywhere in the play quote one of Sakini’s ironic comments.
2. Explain what is ironic about the comment that you selected.
Bearing in mind, as well, all that you read, written, and thought about in this lesson and the two
previous, discuss the major theme of The Teahouse of the August Moon.