This Unit Activity will help you meet these educational goals: 21st Century Skills—You will use critical-thinking and problem-solving skills, employ online tools for research and analysis and communicate effectively.
Literature has long been a major source of information and entertainment. Learning to analyze literary work systematically can significantly add to your enjoyment and appreciation of literature.
The aim of literary analysis is to extract information about a work of literature from the text itself. Literary analysis essentially involves a detailed examination of the text to answer predefined types of questions, including what the author intended to say or why and to what effect he or she used a certain literary device.
Such an analysis helps not only to identify narrative elements such as theme, plot, and setting in a fictional work but also to reveal the author’s purpose and viewpoint and the cultural and social factors influencing the author.
Genji Monogatari, or The Tale of Genji, is a Japanese novel written in the early eleventh century that tells the story of Genji, the son of a Japanese emperor.
Genji is considered to be one of the first psychological novels.
Read the first four chapters of part I of Genji Monogatari (“The Paulownia Court,” “The Broom Tree,” “The Shell of the Locust,” and “Evening Faces”), which has been translated into English by Edward Siedensticker. Another version of this same translation can be paged through online.
You can also find a paper copy of the book in your school library or a bookstore.
After reading the translation, analyze and describe the theme of the novel as revealed in the first four chapters.
Genji spends much of his time writing poems to women he is attracted to, but who have little interest in him; most of them know that nothing positive would come of an affair with him, and so resist the impulse as much as possible, although they often had similar feelings toward Genji. His numerous affairs often involved women from outside the court, behavior which was scandalous for a person of his position, so his affairs are usually conducted in complete secrecy, which he took considerable trouble to maintain. Each affair is significantly different in character from the others, though; a factor which keeps this pattern from becoming repetitive and boring.
For instance, at one point he lusts after a princess after hearing her play beautiful music on the zither; he quickly declares his love for her in a flurry of letters, which she never answers. However, the more he finds out about her, the less he likes her, but he cannot help feeling guilty after his ardent pursuit, and he maintains the relationship long after his feelings have waned. In one of his last affairs, he is on the receiving side of the attentions of an elderly lady; he has to think of creative ways of dodging the situation, without a loss of face for either party.
The last section, after Genji’s death starts out like an uncertain epilogue, but it soon takes on a life of its own, and the failings of the environment portrayed there only heighten the allure of that of Genji himself. The problems that seemed so double-edged when they were Genji’s pale beside the blunders and the folly of his descendants, and only make him look better in retrospect. This can lead to nostalgia for his sphere, and against it the troubles of the inhabitants of the later chapters seem both fated and pitiable.
Some contemporary readers feel that the author may have used his series of affairs simply as a device, to allow her to present a range of youthful love’s folly, in a series of devastating portraits, ranging from tragic obsession to utter, hilarious disaster. Some feel that the ‘Tale of Genji’ is not so much about Genji as it is about the women he interacts with in his life – their feelings, their experiences, their fates. Much as they have large roles, though, it is to Genji that the narrative returns time and again.
A major ambition of many members of the aristocracy in the world of Heian court was to present a daughter to the Emperor, or his Heir Apparent; the supreme goal of a non-imperial noble was to be the grandfather (via his daughter) of an Emperor. As a result, the Emperor usually had a range of recognized relationships with women, not so much as a result of sexual acquisitiveness, but because he was virtually required to make his prestige relatively widely accessible. These ladies did not all have equal rank; those on the lowest rungs had a birth rank which was too low, and they also lacked the necessary political support.
In the table below, list the characters in the first four chapters, identify their types, and describe their traits.
The eponymous hero of the tale, he is the son of an emperor (usually referred to as Kiritsubo Emperor) and of a low-ranking imperial concubine (known to readers as Lady Kiritsubo or Kiritsubo Kōi).
Genji’s father, who despite the large social gap between him and the Kiritsubo Lady, maintains an unwavering devotion to her, tragically exposing her to the jealousy of his other consorts.
Genji’s mother and the favorite of Emperor Kiritsubo, Lady Kiritsubo is disadvantaged at court because she lacks parental support. Her father, a Grand Counselor, is already dead at the beginning of the narrative, and her mother cannot provide her with political support. s
She is the daughter of Prince Hyōbu by a minor consort and related to Fujitsubo on her father’s side (Hyōbu is Fujitsubo’s brother, hence Murasaki is Fujitsubo’s niece).
She is Murasaki’s nurse and most important protector after the grandmother.
Analyze the development of the plot in the first four chapters. Note the major events in the first four chapters in the order in which they occur.
Genji is born as the second son for the Emperor, the son of a beloved concubine of the Emperor, known as the Lady Kiritsubo, whose father is dead, and who depends on the Emperor for all her status. However, Genji’s birth raises the ire of the mother of the first son, a lady of much higher rank. Genji’s mother dies soon afterwards, and as the Emperor likes Genji, he is raised within the Court, becoming a very accomplished as well as good-looking young man. The Emperor would like to do more for Genji, but he cannot because of the power of the first son’s mother.
His father worries about his son’s future, since he has no powerful family behind him, so he makes him a commoner, and part of a non-royal family, giving him the last name “Minamoto”. (This is the origin of Genji’s ‘name’: ‘gen’ is an alternate reading of the character for his given last name, and ‘ji’ means ‘name’; so “Genji” roughly means “bearer of the Minamoto name”. It is not his actual name, though.) This allows him to serve as a government official; in writing terms, this device also allows him to belong to both realms, and thereby gives him an increased scope as a character.
As a young man, Genji is forced into a marriage of convenience with the daughter of a powerful court figure, but he is never really happy with her, although they do eventually have a son, Yugiri. Instead, he falls in love with one of the Emperor’s concubines, Fujitsubo; she strongly resembles his own dead mother (which is why the Emperor, who adored Kiritsubo, brought her to court). He has his first illicit affair with her; she becomes pregnant as a result, and gives birth to a boy. The child’s true parentage is kept secret, and he is by the Emperor as his own son, eventually ascending to the throne himself.
Although feeling guilt because of this affair, Genji goes on to have numerous other affairs with a large number of other court ladies. One of them is the Lady Murasaki, who is Fujitsubo’s niece; she had been placed in his care when she was a girl, and he raised her to be his ideal lady. Genji’s wife eventually dies, and he then marries Murasaki.
Finally, the exposure of Genji’s adultery with a concubine of the new Emperor (who had succeeded Genji’s father), a lady of another court faction (which includes the mother of the new Emperor, the old Emperor’s first son) results in his being exiled for a period. Although the Emperor is not much put out, he is forced by propriety to send him away; since he is in disgrace, Genji must leave Murasaki behind. After a short period in exile in Suma and Akashi, Genji returns to the capital, where his son with Fujitsubo has now become Emperor.
As a result, since the new Emperor knows Genji is his real father, Genji rises high in status and position, being appointed to a high official rank. He uses his power and wealth to bring benefits to the women he has loved, including bringing them to live in a palace, a magnificent complex of four interconnected mansions, one for each of the four seasons, and each housing one of his ladies.
His focus becomes advancing the careers of his children and grand-children, and when he manages to get his daughter, the Akashi Princess (who was the outcome of an affair with a wealthy merchant’s daughter in Akashi) presented at court, he has reached the zenith of his power and influence.
The previous Emperor, now retired and planning on entering a monastery, had placed his daughter in Genji’s care; Genji, moved by the fact that this girl, like Lady Murasaki, is also a niece of his first love, Fujitsubo, agrees to marry her too. However, the girl is very immature, casting him back on his love for Lady Murasaki. However, now that Genji has an ‘official’ wife, and one of high breeding, that forces Lady Murasaki into seclusion. Genji cannot afford to slight his ‘official’ wife, the daughter of a retired Emperor, but when Murasaki becomes ill, he abandons the daughter for a lengthy period to look after Murasaki. While he is doing so, however, Genji’s nephew, one of the suitors who had been vying for the young wife’s hand before she married Genji, and has not given up his desire for her, eventually manages an affair with her; she becomes pregnant, and bears a son, Kaoru. Distraught at Genji’s anger, the boy’s mother retires to a nunnery, and Genji in turn is forced to accept another man’s son as his heir; this causes him to repent for many of his own similar past actions.
Meanwhile, Lady Murasaki, Genji’s real love and principal wife of more than twenty years (in reality, if not legally), who had long asked Genji’s permission to become a nun, and who is still ill, dies before getting the chance. Utterly devastated by this sequence of events, Genji begins preparations to take the vows himself, leaving the capital to enter a small mountain temple.
The Tale of Genji continues, although without Genji, who is assumed to have died in seclusion. In his place are Kaoru (his wife’s son with her lover), and Genji’s grandson Niou, the son of his daughter, the Akashi Princess (who is now Empress). These two carry on the Genji tradition of complex affairs of the heart. Kaoru considers entering the monastic life because he is unable to come to terms with the world of his time. He begins visiting one of the princes, who likewise disappointed with court life, has gone into reclusion in Uji; Kaoru finds him a kindred spirit. While there, he finally hears the secret of his own birth, and he also meets the Prince’s daughter, Oigimi, to whom he is strongly attracted.
After the death of the Prince, Kaoru proposes marriage to Oigimi, but she suppresses her own feelings for him, and instead encourages him to marry her younger sister, Nakanokimi. Kaoru, for his part, urges Niou to marry Naka-no-kimi, and Niou succeeds in seducing Naka-no-kimi. Kaoru tries to get Oigimi to agree to the marriage of Niou and Naka-no-kimi; however, the sisters come to feel that both men are trifling with them, and Oigimi decides to starve herself to death before she can reconsider her rejection of Kaoru.
After her death, Niou is forced by intense political and parental pressure to take as his main wife a daughter of Genji’s son Yugiri. Kaoru now transfers his attentions to Naka-no-kimi, who reminds him of the dead Oigimi; she is tormented by his persistent wooing. She tries to interest him in Ukifune, her half-sister by a different mother, who also looks like Oigimi.
When Kaoru sees her, he falls in love with her – but so does Niou, when he comes to visit. Kaoru succeeds in having an affair with her, but so does Niou. Kaoru would be the more important catch, but she is much more strongly drawn to Niou. Ukifune sees no solution to this tangle other than to drown herself in the river.
On the verge of doing so, and suffering from amnesia from the stress, she is saved by a senior religious figure; she then goes to Ono in his company, and becomes a nun there when her memory partially returns. When Kaoru discovers where she is, she refuses to meet him; the story abruptly ends there.
Genji’s curiosity is aroused by whoever might be in the house of yugao, so he sends Koremitsu to investigate, who reports back that To-no-Chujo had been there and that a lady evidently resided within. Genji cannot resist, so he disguises himself and arranges a secret meeting through her maid, Ukon.
Yugao is a very frail, submissive beauty, and Genji is reminded of To-no-Chujo’s rainy night story. Unlike To-no-Chujo, however, Genji is attracted by this gentility, and resolves to take her away. Unable to resist, and very frightened, Yugao is rushed off with Ukon to a deserted mansion. That night, Genji dreams of a jealous lady resembling Lady Rokujo, and when he wakes he sees an apparition by Yugao’s pillow. He tries to wake her, but she is no longer breathing. Genji panics, wakes Ukon and Koremitsu, but it is too late, she is dead. Koremitsu sends Genji back to his palace at Nijo and takes her body to a nunnery in the eastern hills for funeral rites.
At Nijo, Genji is unsettled by recent events and cannot appear at court. He sets out on horseback with Koremitsu to see Yugao’s body, but on the return journey he feels ill and falls off his horse. The illness lasts for quite some time, and when he recovers he confirms with Ukon that Yugao was in fact To-no-Chujo’s mistress. Genji retains Ukon and asks her to find Yugao’s daughter, intending to raise her himself. The chapter end with a final poetic exchange with Utsusemi, whom Genji also loses.
Now read the remaining chapters of Part I. After you have finished, quote at least five examples of the use of imagery and symbolism in Part I.
Genji was suffering from malaria. He took four or five attendants along to visit a sage in the northern hills. He was a most accomplished worker of cures. Then a pretty girl of perhaps ten ran in and complained to the nun in a weeping voice that Inuki had let her baby sparrows loose. That was the first time Genji saw the Murasaki-no-Ue. The bishop gave farewell presents: a rosary of carved ebony which Prince Shotoku had obtained in Korea, still in the original Chinese box, wrapped and attached to a branch of cinquefoil pine; and several medical bottles of indigo decorated with spray of cherry and wisteria. It was still dark when Genji made his departure, going his word that he would come back. There was a heavy mist and the ground was white. Passing the house of a woman he had been seeing in secret, he had someone knock on the gate. There was no answer, and so he had someone else from his retinue, a man of very good voice, chant a poem of his. Though there was a poem given in response, no one came out. Before Prince Hyobu, the father of the girl, came, Genji took the girl away to his Nijo residence in the middle of night. Genji worked hard to make them feel at home. He wrote down poems and drew pictures for her to copy.
Read Part II of Genji Monogatari. After you have finished, answer the following questions.
Analyze the development of the plot in Part II. Note the major events in the order in which they occur.
The ceremony of the initiation of the Third Princess took place at the end of the year. A large array of splendid gifts came from the Suzaku emperor and others. From Akikonomu came some combs, which had been sent by the Suzaku emperor when she married. The Day of the Rat fell on the twenty-third of the First Month. On that day, people celebrated the Genji’s fortieth birthday. Tamakazura came with some new herbs that promised long life. She had brought her two sons. Her young and beautiful face reminded Genji of his old age and his lost days. Towards the middle of the Second Month, the Third Princess came to Rokujo to marry Genji. Genji could not refuse the request of Suzaku who had been looking for someone to support for his daughter. There was also another reason that Genji was induced to marry her.
For the Third Princess was a niece of Fujitsubo. In the Tenth Month, Murasaki made offerings in Genji’s honor. Choosing a temple in Saga, she commissioned a reading of the sutras for the protection of the realm. Ending the fast, a banquet was arranged at the Nijo residence and attended by many people in festive dress. The musicians took their places. Yugiri and Kashiwagi went out and danced under a tree of plum rouge. As it had become true, he would like to withdraw from the world and go off into the deep mountains. The old nun’s grief was limitless. As she was the wife of Genji, it was forbidden love. Kashiwagi called the cat and took it up in his arms. Mewing prettily, it brought the image of the Third Princess back to him.
When Emperor Ichijō died in 1011, Shōshi retired from the Imperial Palace to live in a Fujiwara mansion in Biwa, most likely accompanied by Murasaki, who is recorded as being there with Shōshi in 1013. George Aston explains that when Murasaki retired from court she was again associated with Ishiyama-dera: “To this beautiful spot, it is said, Murasaki no Shikibu retired from court life to devote the remainder of her days to literature and religion. There are sceptics, however, Motoöri being one, who refuse to believe this story, pointing out … that it is irreconcilable with known facts. Murasaki may have died in 1014.
Her father made a hasty return to Kyoto from his post at Echigo Province that year, possibly because of her death. Shirane mentions that 1014 is generally accepted as the date of Murasaki Shikibu’s death and 973 as the date of her birth, making her 41 when she died. Bowring considers 1014 to be speculative, and believes she may have lived with Shōshi until as late as 1025. Waley agrees given that Murasaki may have attended ceremonies with Shōshi held for her son, Emperor Go-Ichijō around 1025.
Murasaki’s brother Nubonori died in around 1011, which, combined with the death of his daughter, may have prompted her father to resign his post and take vows at Miidera temple where he died in 1029. Murasaki’s daughter entered court service in 1025 as a wet nurse to the future Emperor Go-Reizei (1025–68). She went on to become a well-known poet as Daini no Sanmi
Genji’s marriage to the Third Princess, the favorite daughter of his elder brother Suzaku, emphasized Genji’s reasons for accepting this marriage and the ways in which it affected the relationship between him and Murasaki. However, it also prepared the ground for a further treatment of the relationship between Genji and Suzaku himself. Kokiden once planned to marry her much younger sister Oborozukiyo to her son, then still heir apparent. Before she could do so, however, Genji made love to the young woman himself (“Hana no En”), striking up with her a passionate, lasting affair. Suzaku knows that the two remain in touch even after his accession, and because he loves Oborozukiyo, the difference between possessing her person and her heart torments him. The opening passage of “Miotsukushi” makes these feelings clear. Genji has returned from exile and is about to sweep Suzaku aside, together with everyone who ever supported him.
Name and describe three key characters who appear in this part of the novel (or whose roles have advanced in this part). What role do they play? What evidence from the text can you provide that they are round characters, and thus have an important role? How do they interact with and challenge or support the protagonist? Use this table to capture your answers.
Basically love at first sight They have a son together that is kept secret while she is married to the Emperor Kiritsubo now the little boy is crown she became Empress but Genji n her kept it secret Aoi no Ue
His first wife and the daughter of the Minister of Left. She marries Genji when she is sixteen and he only twelve They have a son together name Yūgiri but dies after
He engages in a series of unfulfilling love affairs with other women, but in most cases his advances are rebuffed, his lover dies suddenly during the affair, or he becomes bored of his lover.
She is the second wife and daughter of a provincial governor who probably belonged to a minor branch of the mighty Fujiwara clan. She served as a lady-in-waiting to the Empress Shoshi (a daughter of the powerful Fujiwara Michinaga), and was a literary contemporary and rival of Sei Shōnagon she is a niece of the Lady Fujitsubo but marries after Aoi death he kidnaps her, brings her to his own palace and educates her to be his ideal lady — that is, like the Lady Fujitsubo.But he was expose about all his love affairs.Then she later die.
Task 5: Analyze Part III of Genji Monogatari
Now that you have read Parts I and II, complete the novel by reading Part III of Genji Monogatari. After you have finished, answer the following questions.
In this part, the legacy of Genji continues. Genji, who has died in seclusion, is succeeded by Kaoru and his grandson Niou. Does the setting change in this part? If yes, how? What impact has the change had on the action and characters in the novel?
Yes the setting has change because his son Kaoru and grandson Niou didn’t want to accept the Lord Inspector offer to marry his daughter but niou liked the step daughter of lord inspector. Kaoru is a retired emperor. They were into frangance and music. Genji had love affairs to all the women from father wives to brother wives to other wives. I guess hearing the expose of his love affairs Kaoru n Niou didn’t agree so they went on their own path.
Genji Monogatari has a foreign, historical setting. It is important to understand the culture and society in which a story is set to fully appreciate it. Use these resources to learn more about the era and the prevalent culture of that time:
Analyze the setting within the context of the era and culture in which the story is set. List important details that shed light on the setting of the story. Explain what each reference above reveals about the society or culture in which the story is based.
Your introduction should state the focus of your essay, as well as the theme of the work. Think of the introduction as a roadmap that the essay will follow. The conclusions that are made along the way must be supported by thoughtful analysis and textual evidence from the piece. Use your notes and responses to the questions in the other tasks as raw material to stich together in this essay. Submit your essay as a separate document along with this activity.
Your teacher will use these rubrics to evaluate the completeness of your work as well as the clarity of thinking you exhibit.
Task 1: Analyze Literary Elements in Genji Monogatari
Describes the theme of the story and the sequence of events Explains how the narrative mode is appropriate to the story
Lists many characters, including the protagonist, and describes their character traits adequately
Roughly describes the theme of the story and the sequence of events
Roughly explains how the narrative mode is appropriate to the story Lists some characters, including the protagonist, and mentions their character traits
Attempts to describe the theme of the story and the sequence of events
Attempts to explain how the narrative mode is appropriate to the story Lists very few characters and does not correctly describe the character traits of some characters
Thoroughly analyzes the use of imagery and symbolism in the story
Deeply explores the significance of symbols used
Provides abundant evidence to support analysis
Adequately analyzes the use of imagery and symbolism in the story
Adequately explores the significance of symbols used
Provides sufficient evidence to support analysis
Briefly analyzes the use of imagery and symbolism in the story
Attempts to explore the significance of symbols used
Provides some evidence to support analysis
Does not analyze the use of imagery and symbolism in the story adequately
Struggles to explore the significance of symbols used
Fails to provides evidence to support analysis
Accurately analyzes the major events and development of the plot T
horoughly answers questions specific to characters
Lists many key characters
Thoroughly describes the role of key characters in the plot by providing relevant textual evidence
Correctly analyzes the major events and development of the plot
Adequately answers questions specific to characters
Lists some key characters
Adequately describes the role of key characters in the plot by providing somewhat relevant textual evidence
Roughly analyzes the major events and development of the plot
Struggles to answer questions specific to characters
Mentions at least one key character
Struggles to describe the role of key characters in the plot
Vaguely analyzes the major events and development of the plot
Does not answer questions specific to characters adequately
Does not list key characters
Does not describe the role of key characters in the plot adequately
Accurately analyzes the change in setting
Thoroughly describes the plot outline of the story
Thoroughly explains how the development of plot retains or diminishes reader interest
Lists many key actions of the primary character
Thoroughly describes the apparent motives of the primary character
Provides relevant and insightful passages to support the analysis of the character’s motives
Correctly analyzes the change in setting
Adequately describes the plot outline of the story
Adequately explains how the development of plot retains or diminishes reader interest
Lists some key actions of the primary character
Adequately describes the apparent motives of the primary character
Roughly analyzes the change in setting
Struggles to describe the plot outline of the story
Struggles to explain how the development of plot retains or diminishes reader interest
Lists a few key actions of the primary character
Struggles to describe the apparent motives of the primary character
Vaguely analyzes the change in setting
Correctly identifies and lists multiple references to the time period and thoroughly explains their implications
Accurately analyzes the setting of the story
Thoroughly explains what each reference reveals about the society or culture in which the story is based
Correctly identifies and lists many references to the time period and adequately explains their implications
Lists many details that provide insight into the setting
Adequately explains what each reference reveals about the society or culture in which the story is based
Correctly identifies and lists some references to the time period and explains some of their implications
Lists some details that provide insight into the setting
Struggles to explain what each reference reveals about the society or culture in which the story is based
The introduction accurately states the focus of the essay and the theme of the work. The essay thoroughly covers most literary elements and analyzes the cumulative effect of the literary elements used and the connections between them. The essay thoroughly analyzes the author’s development of the overall theme. The conclusions are thoroughly supported by thoughtful analysis and textual evidence. The essay does not contain any grammatical, spelling, and punctuation errors.
The introduction correctly states the focus of the essay and the theme of the work. The essay adequately covers most literary elements and analyzes the cumulative effect of the literary elements used and the connections between them. The essay adequately analyzes the author’s development of the overall theme. The conclusions are adequately supported by thoughtful analysis and textual evidence. The essay contains few grammatical, spelling, and punctuation errors.
The introduction roughly states the focus of the essay and the theme of the work. The essay acceptably covers some literary elements, but struggles to analyze the cumulative effect of the literary elements used and the connections between them. The essay struggles to analyze the author’s development of the overall theme. The conclusions are weakly supported by analysis and textual evidence. The essay contains noticeable grammatical, spelling, and punctuation errors.
The introduction vaguely states the focus of the essay and the theme of the work. The essay does not cover literary elements adequately or analyze their connections well. The essay does not analyze the author’s development of the overall theme adequately. The conclusions are not supported adequately.
The essay contains numerous grammatical, spelling, and punctuation errors.