Lady Murasaki: The Almost Ideal Woman
It is obvious that The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu was and still is an important piece of literature. Not only is it considered the world's first novel, the tale also gives us insight as to how Japanese women lived during the Heian Period. However, since the novel was written by a relatively high ranking women, most of the lives shown in the book are those of high ranking people. One of these high ranking people is Murasaki no Ue whom, I believe, represents the ideal life of a woman living in the Heian society even though her circumstances are quite strange.
Born in an era where the ideology of mono no aware (the willingness to see sadness in impermanent things) was popular, Murasaki Shikibu started writing The Tale of Genji soon after her husband died. As a lady of high status as well as a lady in waiting for the empress Akiko, Murasaki Shikubu had the time to observe life at the court and incorporate them into her work. The constant boredom and the gossiping that eventually led Genji's mother to her death was a representation of the life of a high ranking woman. The presence of consorts and concubines in the daily life of the Emperor reveals the acceptance of polygamy in Heian society. The life of Murasaki no Ue shows the growth of the ideal woman of its time.
The entire life of Murasaki no Ue can be taken as an example of an ideal woman living during the Heian Period. When Genji first meets Murasaki no Ue, she was living in the care of the monk and Shonagon where she recieved a basic education. Interested in her, Genji decides to take her into his home. There, she is well provided for by Genji who takes the position of both men that matters the most to Heian woman: the father and the husband. Heian women were expected to be well educated in cultural subjects such as music, Calligraphy, and poetry. Murasaki no Ue was well versed in all those as well as Go and monogatari (romance stories) in order to help her...
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