In the Heian world of the Tale of Genji, for men as well as women, beauty and elegance are important traits to have, as seen in the great amount of emphasis placed on Genji’s good looks and grace. As he is the model of a perfect man, examining Genji alone is enough to understand the standard of what a Heian male should be. At times, Genji can be persistent and aggressive to the point of being a nuisance who clearly is not used to being denied anything—this is most likely the result of his being so favored by everyone around him while growing up, especially his father. He is made a commoner, but still ranks higher than most people (pg. 37), and is thrown an elaborate coming-of-age ceremony. If not for the interference of the mother of the Heir Apparent, he would have been handed the title of successor as well. Nonetheless, despite his short-comings, Genji is quickly forgiven due to his charm and gentleness. An example of this is when h...
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...ic female figures in Ancient Japanese literature. His sentiment is basically that such acts are melodramatic and lead only to regret on her part (pg. 25). I took it to mean that Murasaki Shikibu was criticizing those old tropes used in Japanese literature, and the unrealistic standards (which the men in Chapter Two later admit are impossible) are a criticism of the expectations placed on women in Heian society. All in all, the book points at the despairing conditions of women in the Heian Period, and as for Genji, who is described by the author and other characters as “perfect” in every imaginable variation of words, it is made clear through his actions and decisions that he is not perfect, and tends to be quite selfish—signifying that the male ideal is also unrealistic and unattainable.
Shikibu, Murasaki. The Tale of Genji. New York: Penguin, 2006.
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