Analysis of “The Tale of Genji” by Murasaki Shikibu
The novel spans several decades; the protagonist, the brilliant Genji, one of the imperial sons, has all sorts of virtues, rare external beauty, and outstanding abilities, which causes everyone’s admiration. His career at the Court is developing successfully: he lives in luxury and has a prominent future. The second chapter of the work describes the young men’s endless search for ideal love and his fantasy of eternal feelings.
Genji is incredibly amorous and has a huge number of mistresses. The young man takes care of everyone and does not neglect any of them. However, he considers perfection the princess of the wisteria pavilion, his father’s concubine. The lady falls under the charms of Genji and enters into a connection with him. After some time, she gives birth to a boy, the future emperor. Noticing the similarity of the child with Genji, the lady is horrified by what she has done and breaks off her passionate affinity with a secret admirer. After some time in the mountains, Genji meets a ten-year-old girl, Murasaki. She reminds him much of the lady from the wisteria pavilion, and the young man takes her in to make her his wife when the girl grows up (Kern, 2018). Meanwhile, Genji’s first wife dies in childbirth, and he focuses entirely on forming his ideal woman Murasaki.
The young man’s stories about his sentiments and emotions towards women do not portray him as an evil heartthrob. He feels great love and tenderness for them but cannot choose one because of the endless hunt for the dream. Growing a girl into a future wife looks absurd in the context of the current time, but it should be perceived through the prism of the days of the imperial era (Kern, 2018). The vision of an ideal in the head of the emperor makes him extremely amorous but unintentionally inconsistent.
Kern, J. C. (2018). Digesting Genji in the Fifteenth Century. Japanese Language and Literature, 52(2), 315–340. Web.