Murasaki Shikibu fills her novel, The Tale of Genji, with love story after love story, seduction after seduction. Lyric poetry flows freely between lovers, and male protagonists sweep women of every rank off their feet, seldom failing to obtain the object of their desire. Upon further examination, however, these men act not for the sake of love but for their own selfish gain. Through the characters of Murasaki, Ukifune, and the men who supposedly love them, Murasaki Shikibu portrays how men of the Heian period often loved women not for the women themselves, but pursued them in order to fulfill their own wants and desires.
Murasaki Shikibu shows competition as a driving force beneath the pretense of love through the complex relationships between Ukifune, Karou, and Niou. The two men, who view each other as both best friend and rival, each meet Ukifune on their own and without the other's knowledge. Niou's attraction to Ukifune does not seem to influence Kaoru's intentions towards her; once Niou discovers Ukifune's tie to Kaoru, however, Niou's efforts and seeming devotion to her take on the edge of competitiveness. At a poetry gathering arranged by the Emperor, Niou overhears Kaoru humming to himself about Ukifune and, with more than a little jealousy, thinks "with a first lover like [Niou], how could she possibly come to prefer me?" (1024). His habit of competing with Kaoru kicks in; he cannot escape the thought of Kaoru and Ukifune, and this tints all of his actions towards her. Even while spending time with her, he continually tries to push her into denouncing the Commander, forces comparisons between them, and suffers fits of jealousy (1027-28). Niou focuses on Ukifune not as an object of true affection but as another way to prove himself more capable than Kaoru.
By showing mindset that feelings of devotion transfer easily from one target to another, Shikibu continues demonstrating how men's actions and emotions towards women often... [continues]
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