Friday, August 24, 2012

Part XXII: The Three Generations of men from Tale of Genji

Spoilers from
The Tale of Genji

One of the favorite books that I enjoyed reading was The Tale of Genji, and getting to know the many loves of Genji and To no Chujo's descendants. I have to admit that with modern sensibilities its easy to dislike their characters and behaviors, yet one has to look past all that. (The version I read was the Seidensticker edition.) I've discovered the book completely by accident: when I was taking World literature class, one of the assignments was to read portions from Norton World Anthology Vol B of The Tale of Genji. (The chapters were from Seidensticker edition, portions from Chapter 2, 4, 12, 13 and 25. I think I desired to read The Tale of Genji due to the second chapter, The Broom Tree.) When I got my bachelor's degree, however, I rewarded myself by asking from The Tale of Genji, and since then I hadn't regretted my decision. I will simply discuss the men from the novel: Genji, To no Chujo, Yugiri, Kashiwagi, Kaoru, and Niou.

Genji:
The Tale of Genji is also very Oedipal and numerous times I wondered what would Freud think of all that was going on in the book? (Genji's mother has passed away when he was an infant, and his father got a woman that resembles his mother who took care of him. Yes, there was a romantic attraction between the two...) Genji is very loyal to the women he loves, and takes care of them. He's also very successful and enjoys life the way he does. He does have faults of his own such as kidnapping the girl Murasaki who is related to Fujitsubo (the stepmother) and marrying her eventually. He seems to also fall in love too easily and would be compared to a Gary Stu character. There are a few things wrong with him though, despite the kidnapping of Murasaki and sleeping with his own stepmother. One of the things he mourns is his lack of children. He has three natural children, two sons and a daughter, but often wishes for more. Another would be not allowing for Murasaki to become a nun like she desired, and not respecting a certain lady that caused deaths of his wife and a lover he took up into the mountains. Genji is very nurturing and few times takes care of or ends up looking after children that are not his own.

To no Chujo:
Often To no Chujo and Genji are portrayed to be rivals in many things, especially women. To no Chujo cares a lot about appearances, and, unlike Genji, has way too many children. To no Chujo tends to be on the losing side and doesn't seem to care about the women in his life. In some cases he also makes very poor decisions, such as choosing a wrong husband for one of his daughters. He is Genji's brother in law as well as his best friend.

Yugiri:
Strangely enough, I thought that Yugiri bore strong resemblance to To no Chujo rather than to his father. He seems to have no great love as his father does, and like To no Chujo has countless children. What is odd as well is that Yugiri lost his mother at an early age (his mother was possessed by a spirit who kiled her,) and Murasaki took care of him, although Genji made sure that Yugiri never saw her or never fell in love with her. At first I thought he would have one love instead of multiple loves but I was wrong. If I recall correctly, he wasn't as successful as his father was.

Kashiwagi:
He's the son of To no Chujo and is one of the more likable characters, sort of. He and Yugiri are good friends, and he strongly resembles Genji. Genji ends up becoming married to a half niece if I'm not mistaken who is called The Third Princess. When Kashiwagi sees her, despite his marriage to Second Princess (probably a half or a full sister to Third Princess,) he falls in love with her and ends up seducing her. Kaoru results from the affair, whom Genji is forced to call his son. At one point, Kashiwagi takes care of a cat that the Third Princess loves. Unfortunately I cannot recall whether he died from killing himself or being killed by someone else. (I suspect that he may have died from not having her.)

The second part of the novel, ending with Genji's death and beginning with Prince Niou who is the grandson of Genji through his daughter, and Kaoru, legally Genji's son, but in reality, grandson of To no Chujo. For some odd reason the second half was an irritating and frustrating read for me, for it sounded like a broken record (not kidding.)

Prince Niou:
He strikes me as a selfish character as well as extremely arrogant. He can be described as attractive, but he seems to mess everything up, or at least he doesn't consider others' needs. He is also in competition with Kaoru, and has a wife and some children. At one point he makes Nakanokimi his wife and she bears his child. He's not the main character, thus we don't see his point of view.

Kaoru:
He should be a likable character because he might be considered the anti-hero of this novel. (Not a villain, but a different type of hero. I often thought anti-hero meant villain.) He might be a modern type of hero, although half the time I was wishing for him to love someone else instead of Oigimi. He does get married but I doubt he has children at the time the novel was over. He's also in love with Ukifune just like Prince Niou. Ukifune loves Prince Niou, I think, and half the time I wished to tell him to move on and so forth.

The story itself in a cliffhanger: Ukifune, desiring to escape, tries to kill herself, or else fakes her own death and is found by a monastery. She desires to be a nun. Kaoru learns of her whereabouts and creates a plan to bring her to him and that's it, the end. Use the imagination to figure out whether or not he'll succeed.

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