The Ideal of a Man and Woman of the Heian court Based on the Tale of Genji

The Ideal of a Man and Woman of the Heian court Based on the Tale of Genji

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In this paper I will be discussing the ideals of a man based on the Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu with translations by Royall Tyler, beginning with some background information on what the Tale of Genji is, then moving on to discuss the ideals that were presented in the story and how the ideals are contradicted.
The Tale of Genji, otherwise known as Genji Monogatari, is a classic Japanese literary work that was written by Murasaki Shikibu in the early eleventh century and is considered to be the world’s first novel, depending on who is asked. The book was not written in order, but was instead written in chapters. There has been some debate on whether or not Murasaki wrote all of the chapters due to certain issues with continuity, however, most of the book is said to be written by her. What makes the book interesting and somewhat difficult to keep up with is the number of characters that appear throughout the work. Not only are they numerous, but they are also lacking names, often times being given titles rather than names. Some characters get a name as the book progresses, however most do not. The major influence of this is the Heian-era court itself. A name would constitute a family and if the family is important, then the eldest son of that family acquires the family name, thereby ensuring the lineage continues. Less important people were given just first names as a way to differentiate in rank.
Given the title, the premise of the book can be easily deduced. The main character, Genji, is described as being the most beautiful man ever, with equally impressive talents. Whatever Genji applied himself to, he excelled at. Wooing women, writing poetry, painting, among other things all came naturally to him as swimming comes nat...


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...n more, the more I lived with her and formed her to my will,” which I feel is contradictory to his earlier ideals of a woman being one who is not highborn. Genji tries too hard to have his cake and eat it too and this is the fundamental flaw of his perfect character.
This flaw present in Genji, not only corresponds to him, but corresponds accurately to what people in general possess. Although the underlying concept being simple, individuals often muddle up the simplicity, thereby creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. Now, this may not hold true for everyone, but the ideals presented in the novel are a good reality check because an ideal is just another name for a goal, which is what everyone has in some way or form. Though, I may not agree with some of Genji’s ideals, it is the obscurity that makes Genji all the more human and not just some character in some book.

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