The Quest for Beauty in The Tattooer by Jun'ichirō Tanizaki Essay

The Quest for Beauty in The Tattooer by Jun'ichirō Tanizaki Essay

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Femme Fatale
In Jun'ichirō Tanizaki’s short story “The Tattooer”, Tanizaki features an ambitious tattoo artist who yearns to create a masterpiece on the skin of his ideal woman. Initially, this woman is anticipated as the one who holds the potential to achieve the status of a twisted goddess. Moreover, the artist’s process of forging his masterpiece on this particular woman acts as a stepping-stone to his imminent demise; she is a lethal double-edged sword. The tattoo, which takes the form of a black widow, metaphorically transforms the woman into a Japanized “black widow” herself. Accordingly, the dual nature of woman is portrayed as timeless beauty and infinite destruction.
The main interest in this short story is further elucidated when delving into a more profound level of the woman regarding her potential in acquiring timeless beauty. This potential, which transcends the careful inspection of reigning beauties, is only determined with a simple glimpse of her barefoot as evidenced by her, “Exquisitely chiseled toes, nails like the iridescent shells along the sore at Enoshima…” (Tanizaki 100). Her foot, which represents nothing but a small portion of the body, overshadowed the complete existence of other beauties. Only a glimpse of the woman’s barefoot was required for the confirmation to be delivered; a confirmation which ascertain her potential in blooming to a divine entity capable of infinite destruction. This definition of infinite destruction refers to the potential of the woman in having absolute control over men. Progressively, the woman’s potential is eventually seen with greater clarity when the artist was “scrutinizing her intently” during their encounter, and consequently, it has escalated to the sky in the sense th...


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... was wreathed in flames” (Tanizaki 103). The fate of the first victim was sealed. He was overwhelmed by her beauty, and thus, became her victim. The black widow will now yearn on consuming other men.




In retrospect, the woman is portrayed as a femme fatale, as she is initially regarded as the one who can attain infinite beauty and destruction. The artist’s resolution of forging a masterpiece on her is interpreted as him digging his own grave. Also, the woman metaphorically transform into a black widow; a creature symbolizing beauty and destruction. The woman is indeed portrayed as destruction.
Work Cited
Jun'ichirō, Tanizaki. “The Tattooer”. 603-102-04 Eastern Literature. Jeffrey Fyfe. Toronto, ON: CSPI – Coursepack, 2012. Print
Ray, Pratt. Projecting Paranoia – Conspiratorial Visions in American Films. 2592 Westbrooke Circle, Lawrence, 2001. Print





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