The story basically revolves around the relationship between a Japanese emperor and a lady who worked in his precinct. From the outset, the story presents the lady as one with uniquely good looks such that her association with the emperor was constantly looked at with jealousy from the other women that the emperor associated with.
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The story takes a different turn as the beautiful lady gives birth to the emperor’s son and then tragically loses her life living the emperor in an unending state of sorrow. The story reveals a lot about the Japanese traditional social organization.
The author makes us aware of the different rankings among citizens based on the roles that their parents had been assigned by the state. For instance, the royalties are highly ranked and even believed to be better looking than the commoners. As such, individuals from a lower class, such as the commoners, are not allowed to interact in marital interactions with individuals from higher classes. This is actually the reason why the relationship between the emperor and the young lady is received with a lot of rejection.
The story presents the Japanese culture as one based on order with each individual assigned a particular place in society from the time they are born. For instance, the Minister of Left’s daughter is required to marry Genji even before Genji has abandoned his childhood, and both her father and the emperor ensure that this comes to be. Most of the story is set within the palace and it tries to bring to light the goings on among the royalties especially since it focuses on the relationships between individuals.
The reader can clearly establish that the practice of polygamy was generally accepted among the individuals of higher classes. The emperor has several women living under his roof and he summons whoever he chooses for romantic encounters. The same applies for the Minister of Left. From Genji’s grandmother’s account of her life with her husband, it is clear that she was his only wife. This, though not clearly presented, suggests that commoners and individuals from lowly classes were not allowed to take more than one wife.
From the way the story unfolds, the author is clearly trying to illustrate the importance of love in society. He (the author) constantly reminds us of the emperor’s anguish over the loss of the love of his life. The emperor does not find solace in many of the women who come to keep him company and this goes on until he is presented with a young lady whose resemblance to his departed lover is uncanny.
The same applies to Genji, who gets married to a very beautiful woman but still chooses to focus his attention on Fujitsubo-his father’s wife. It is sad that Genji and Fujitsubo cannot be together because of the latter’s association with the emperor but the author successfully shows us just how true love cannot be shaken.
The author also tries to show how death’s hand renders a cruel end to a beautiful life. Genji’s would probably have had a better childhood if his mother was alive. His grandmother stays with him in the early day’s of his mother’s death but her state of affairs cannot enable her give him the best he deserves.
Eventually she has to release him to the palace. Fujitsubo’s mother also protectively keeps her from getting married to the emperor because she can foresee her being desolated. When she (Fujitsubo’s mother) passes on, her daughter has no choice but to move in with the emperor.