Essay on The Tale of Genji: A Classic in Japan

Essay on The Tale of Genji: A Classic in Japan

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The Tale of Genji is considered one of the greatest works in Japanese literature. In it contains a great richness and detail about court life and expectations during the Heian period. The author, Murasaki Shikibu, lived in the palace during the time she was under the service of Empress Akikio, which no doubt greatly influenced her writing of the Tale of Genji (Waley, x, xxi-xxii). In this book, Genji, also known as the Shining Prince, is the main protagonist and is thought to be the ideal man. The early chapters are rich in detail of his relationships and interactions with many women and the views of what is acceptable in their society at the time.
Genji was noted over and over again for his beauty and talent. In fact the only person that was known to have hated him was the Kokiden Consort. She influenced Genji's exile, while everyone else was against it. When this happened though everyone missed him. They especially yearned to hear him play since he was so talented in music. At the festival of the cherry blossoms Genji played with the sō no koto. It was later seen in the Akashi chapter that Genji played with a Chinese instrument, the kin. In addition to music Genji also danced magnificently at the festival.
The ideal man had to be sentimental. By far, the greatest of the arts was the ability to write poetry. Poems allowed feelings to be conveyed. It often showed the intelligence and status one was in. Especially during the Heian period, to cry was not an unmanly attribute. In fact in order to be great at writing poetry, it was the ability to write out how one felt in a symbolic and elegant way. Genji was most notably known for his excellent execution of creating poetry. It was often said that his poems were unmatched causing ma...

... middle of paper ... know how to read his associates, and a woman needs to know how to read her lover well. If one can do this he or she would be perfect. In my personal opinion Genji is far from perfect. In most of the stories I usually feel for him at the end when he loses the one he loves, but that sympathy quickly turns to annoyance when the next chapter starts, and he seems all to easily to forget the former and happily moves on to another woman. I think the women in the stories, with few exceptions, have no backbone. With their voices they resist but with their actions they completely submit. I understand it was the culture of the time, but just because it was seen as appropriate does not mean that it was right.

Works Cited

Tyler, Royall. The Tale of Genji. New York: Penguin Books, 2006. Print.
Waley, Arthur. The Tale of Genji. Garden City: Doubleday Anchor Books, 1996.

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