Type: Literary Analysis
Pages: 8 | Words: 2355
Reading Time: 10 Minutes

The tale of Genji revolves around Genji, a son of an emperor. This tale illustrates the court life of Japan in almost a thousand years ago. Genji was the second son of the emperor and his mother was a low ranked concubine who passed away when Genji was just three years of age. The emperor love for Genji’s wife is so great that when she died the emperor grieved over her for long and could not forget her. The emperor later heard of a Lady Fujitsubo who was a former princess of an emperor. Genjis father married her because she resembled his departed wife and thus reminded him of her. Genji falls in love with Fujitsubo but its forbidden since she is her stepmother. At that point in time Genji marriage to (Aoi no Ue) with whom he had a son was not going on well and he was perturbed because his affair with his stepmother was forbidden. Genji was also involved in many unfulfilling affairs with other women.Most of his lovers disappoint him since they all have problems, for instance one of his lovers passed away during the affair while others rejected his advances. Genji also found his lovers dull in most circumstances. He eventually found a young girl Murasaki who he educated and married when she became of age. After Genjis father passed away Genji was forced to flee the capital and live in Suna for a few years because of a scandal that ensued because of his romantic endeavors. Genji returned to the capital after a few years and he was restored to his position in the court. At this time he settled with Murasaki and several other ladies. Genji influence in the court rose gradually and he concentrated to see his children and grandchildren advance.Men in the story establish liaisons with a wide variety of women. Genji had an affair with his stepmother though it was forbidden though he was married. The first chapter of the tale is concentrated with the way Genji the hero had sexual liaisons with a lot of women. Twelve chapters of the forty four tell of these liaisons. Genjis father also had married many women showing that the men in this society were polygamous. Genjis looks were irresistible and he did not abandon women he had liaisons with and this shows that the men in this tale valued their character as much as they valued their looks. They have admirable and striking characters and were ideal. Genjis father had many wives whom he loved and though he loved Genjis mother the most, he treated them well. Genjis father grieved over his wife for long and this shows the much love he had for her. He is portrayed by this as loving and a caring man a character that Genji possessed also. When Genjis mother was being taken to her own home after falling sick, the emperor reminded her of the vows they had made to stick together even when all was not well. This portrays the caring side of the men in this tale. The men in this tale are deplorable at times. They pursue women other women at the expense of others happiness. For instance Genji pursued Princess Asagao in chapter 20 and this embarrassed, distressed and tormented his wife Murasaki whom they had been married for long. Genji also does not understand Murasaki feelings though it is claimed he loved her very much. Genji is not the only man in this tale whose behavior is typical of males. Other men in this tale have treated women worse than Genji. In chapter 50 also called the eastern cottage Genjis grandson Niou is said to have behaved like a commoner, a shameless lecher. Men in this tale are humane in tone. The men do not physically attack their women nor do they unreasonably insist on purity or virginity or other virtues. “The men in this tale expect their women to neglect many things; they also try their best to reciprocate.

The men in this tale have dominated their world. All the government officials were male” and it was just those palaces that had to do with women that were given to women. This shows a male dominance society where men believe that certain duties are supposed to be done by them and their male counterparts. It was also the males who were enlightened and educated on the subjects that were seen to be serious. For instance most men studied moral philosophy, statecraft among others. Men who were in top leadership positions and who travelled widely and thus had a private and public life would travel rarely with their women and if they did the woman spent most of her time hidden in the inner rooms. These women were not allowed to even let female relatives to catch a glimpse of them. She escaped the gaze of any man whom she was not related to.These show that the governing body was made of chauvinists who viewed women as lesser beings than men. Men allowed women to “inherit and pass on property. In the Tale of Genji the” author showed that women would be highly educated and accomplish many things. They were taught other courses other than those taught to men. The Men in this tale had also been given a greater degree of sexual license than their women. Women in this tale were told to uphold good morals through standards that were conservative in nature and most of them did especially through conviction. The view of morality in our modern society shows like sentiments with those of the tale. Women opportunities were limited by polygamy.”The law in the time of the tale allowed men to marry only one woman however polygamy stretched it to allow them to have lesser wives who could bear them children who were fully recognized.” A child who was born by a woman considered less that others enjoyed did not have much prestige and thus his prospects were less promising. High aristocracy men had two or three wives who were ordered hierarchically. This custom was a drawback to women excelling and was clearly tried lots of women. This practice favored the males and it was an advantage to most male courtiers. “For instance the author of Kagero Diarywas a woman who was known by the mother as the mother of Michitsuna.” She narrates of her experience of being married to a great lord. She was not a senior wife to her husband and her status was low and her husband committed to her only because she was beautiful.Though the husband was committed to her she was always jealous of the senior wives of her husband. “She hated the time her husband spent with the senior wife or with other women. The emotions of such a woman are not seen in the tale of Genji. Most women in the tale and even in modern society would be jealous of younger wives that their husbands got”. In the Tale of Genji, Genji continuously reminds Murasaki that the Akashi lady with whom he had an only daughter was no threat to her. This was prevalent in chapters thirteen and fourteen. Genjis son Yugiri after marrying princess Ochiba in chapter nine made his wife Kumoi no Kari to storm out of their house because she was angered by him taking a new wife.Though the practice of polygamy may be devastating for most women, in the tale of Genji, Murasaki and Kumoi No Kari are not jealous of every woman that their husbands had a lasting bond with. Murasaki had confidence in the love of Genji and believed that she came first and others mattered very little to her husband. Murasaki was greatly troubled by Genjis special interest in Akashi. Genji later married Akashi whom was of a higher rank than Murasaki. The final result of this was a disaster. Genji did not fail in his devotion to Murasaki but for her that was not enough, she fell sick and her sickness worsened until it killed her a few years later. Kumai No Kari did not take her husband taking of another wife the same way as Murasaki. Kumai comprehended that Princess Ochila was not a threat to her supremacy. She did not worry about Princess Ochila yet she had several children with her husband. She was not worried because Princess Ochila was ranked lower than her and her husband did not make any move to put her in a higher rank than she deserved. It is obvious thus that in the tale of Genji, a husband taking other wives did not scare the wife much. What mattered to the wife was the other woman rank which was dependent on who the father was and whether he had a high or low rank. A formal wife accepted the existence of another wife as long as those other wives did not pose a threat to her standing with her husband. The other women accepted their position and managed to make peace with their situations. In the tale of Genji the rank was important in a relationship between a man and a woman. A lord in a house would approach any servants in his household and married them but they were considered to be of a lower rank. In the modern societies men in similar positions are allowed to have the same privilege of taking servants as wives of lower ranks. Some of these relationships were genuine and true affection was possible since in the tale some men showed these wives of lower rank genuine affection. Though this happen in real life, there was no way such a situation would be changed and often the woman was sent away and the man would be reminded not to soil the family name because of an infatuation. “In the tale of Genji Prince Niou got it over his head with a woman who was not completely worthy of him.” He risked his chances as the future Heir and more something that someone of a lower rank would not be aware of. Women who were ranked highly but not high enough to deserve their husbands full respect would test their husbands limit of tolerance. For instance, the tale of Genjis mother in Chapter one is a good example. Her father had died which made it worse because support from the father was important for a woman and her father had never been more than a Grand Counsellor. The grand counselor was not a bad office but since it was the Emperor who wanted his daughter,” Genjis mother did not qualify to bear an imperial heir. The emperor was infatuated with Genjis father which distracted him from paying enough attention to his other women”. The emperor did not even pay enough attention to the woman who had sired for him a heir because of Genjis mother. Tyler(2001) argued that the Emperor infatuation with Genjis mother resulted in a lot of anxiety and lack of contentment from the other wives since they were of a higher rank than Genjis mother. His infatuation with Genjis was so intense that he tried to replace the heir who had already been appointed with young Genji which he was later to realize was not possible because of the set standards. This situation made clear the fact that a man would show his commitment to a woman whom he was equal to socially. Genjis father was an exception and he was expected to remain in his best behavior. This also applies in real life.

There has been controversy among many readers how Genji consummated his married with young Murasaki. This controversial aspect has been defined as rape. “Rape is a situation where a woman is forced to have sexual intercourse without her acceptance. This happens in the tale of Genji and it is one of the way men treated women. A man who was courting a woman who was socially worth of him did not take initial intercourse lightly. In this tale, such intercourse marked the beginning of a long-term relationship. It was the beginning of a marriage or quasi marriage and thus affected a woman’s whole feature”. In the tale a young woman of good family and who knew who she was and wished to remain had her first sexual intercourse after receiving authority to dos so from her father. This shows that her opinion and feelings were not considered and thus were not relevant. Fathers mostly ignored their daughter’s feelings. Ladies in the tale did not betray sexual interest in men. They are typical of respectable ladies in other countries and times. There are rare occasions in the tale of men forcing themselves on woman who came from good families whose fathers were alive and active in the world. Genji had his first intercourse with Oborozukiyo in chapter 8. She had not been brought up with high standards and she could not resist Genji which made it amusingly dangerous. Nokiba no Ogi in chapter three`had intercourse with Genji by mistake and she did not object. “She was not socially and personally important in Genjis eyes and she was just a passing figure in the tale”. Young women were disadvantaged materially and socially if they did not have a father. In the tale Utsusemi is a good example. She became a principal governor’s wife. Suetsumuhana father did not have a lot of political weight before he died and this made Genji to take her by force since he had no choice but proceed without her permission. Genji kidnapped Murasaki after his father decided to take her home. Genji has been criticized by many readers for this since it is said that soon after his wife died he started having intercourse with her yet she was not of age. She was only ten while Genji was seventeen. Murasaki’s father had never recognized and accepted her because his formal wife disliked Murasaki’s mother. Ukifune Oigimis unrecognized sister was taken by Kaoru without her consent. This was because she was of a lower rank and in their social setting it did not matter.

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