Ideal Men &Women of the Heian Court based on “The Tale of Genji”

1498 Words 6 Pages
Genji Monogatari or The Tale of Genji is a story that was written by Murasaki Shikibu during the Heian period. It is a very well received work of Japanese literature and the first part of the story is written with the main character being Genji, and then continues without him. I have no knowledge of the second half of Genji Monogatari but it is in the first section of this tale the characteristics and traits for ideal men and women of the society within the story can be gathered. The criteria for an ideal man or woman in The Tale of Genji was the importance of the physical attribute of beauty, the background, personality, and education of a woman, and characteristics that the main hero of the story, Genji, possessed. In the society …show more content…
The general community around Genji is probably similar in the audiences understanding of his character because Genji was still only 17 at the time, and thus for them to lament based mostly on his beauty is a portrayal of society’s love for an ideal and perfect beauty. However, this standard was not only put on males, but also placed on females. In chapter 2 of Genji Monogatari they speak of many women and the physical characters that fit the ideal women is that which is “pretty, innocent, and young.” The stress men put on beauty is shown in one example said by the Chief Equerry of the story. In that example, the only thing that he found disagreeable with one of his lovers was that “lest her lack of looks offend me.” Going back to Genji’s beauty, the men of Genji Monogatari must have been deeply obsessed with perfect beauty as during chapter 2 they found Genji so beautiful they wished he was a woman. It is important to note, however, that while the story emphasizes the importance of beauty in an ideal man or woman, there is never an actual description of physical characteristics make a “perfect beauty.” In any case, while beauty is subjective and not defined in Genji, it is clear that it is an important opinion one must have for another before a person can be considered ideal. Chapter 2 of Genji Monogatari touched on the physical appearance of woman and how they must look to be desirable, but it also went in depth of the pluses and minuses of other
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