The Tale Of Genji Essay

1090 Words Jan 15th, 2016 null Page
It would be natural to assume that the central character of The Tale of Genji, a classic work of the Japanese Heian Period attributed to a courtier known as Murasaki Shikibu, is none other than the titular Hikaru Genji himself. His life and exploits provide the main focus of forty-one of the tale’s fifty-four chapters. However, there are those who claim that the real heroes of the tale are in fact heroines. J.M. Maki even declared that the tale has “the most remarkable galaxy of feminine characters that has ever appeared in any literary work” (Maki: 1940: 139). To what purpose Murasaki Shikibu portrayed the existence of women in such detail has caused scholarly debate, many interpreting it as a critique of the difficulties they suffered under a patriarchal, polygamous society; some go so far as to insist that it was “to warn women against marriage” (Tyler: 2002) or a “coping strategy” (Bargen: 1997: 5) for its widowed author, while others have adopted a more nuanced approach; namely that the grave consequences romance held for women – in an echelon of society preoccupied with romance (Morris: 1964: 224) – is just one of the tale’s underpinning themes (Yoda: 2004: 61).
It is challenging to choose just two stars from such a remarkable galaxy, but one lady who immediately comes to mind is Murasaki, the love of Genji’s life. Tyler dubs her “the essence of the tale” (Tyler: 1999: 435), for throughout her many challenges Murasaki undergoes a more complex evolution than even…

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