LADY MURASAKI AND HISTORY
JANE AUSTEN AND LADY MURASAKI
Richard W. Amero
Above all, Lady Murasaki is discreet. She knows her role well. Supposed to please and ornament a society that exalted female beauty and gracious behavior, she, by neglecting this, risked abandonment. Already by learning the Chinese language she had transgressed one of the established rules, for educated women were looked upon as upsetting. Nonetheless Lady Murasaki's discretion was not entirely assumed since she accepted the values of her society. Still it puzzles by its implications of the unspoken, of the so much more she could tell, but will not from fear of shocking masculine notions and placing herself too far outside graceful spheres as an oddity.
In her diary Lady Murasaki confides her fears of going too far when she says she has been "definitely set down as an ill-natured censorious prig," but she adds tellingly: "The Empress has often told me that, though I seemed always bent upon not giving myself away in the royal presence, yet she felt after a time that she knew me more intimately than the rest."
Her female interests and sympathies oblige Lady Murasaki to keep at the task she has set for herself --- the portrayal of a domestic world. In her restraint, she resembles Jane Austen. Both writers absorbed themselves in domestic plots which show only a small part of their characters' natures.
Jane Austen's problem in such novels as Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, and Emma is middle-class marriage. She explores this subject from a variety of subtle, ironic and sometimes tragic focuses and the novels culminate in prudent marital arrangements. Marianne Dashwood, symbol of passion and feeling, is paired with the dogged Colonel Brandon, the clear-headed Elizabeth to the proud and complex Darcy --- "a union that must have been to the advantage of both," and the strong-willed Emma to the discerning Mr. Knightley. In Jane Austen, Jack must have his Jill and there is usually a pot at the end of the rainbow.
Lady Murasaki assumes more masks than Jane Austen. Similar to the English writer in the predominantly female tone of her book, her men are yet shown with more dimensions than Austen's, whose men are seen either objectively or subjectively by women, but rarely in and for themselves. The leading males of Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice, Edward Farrar and Darcy, seem wooden because their rigid adherence to social forms precludes sexual animation.
Lady Murasaki was no stranger to sex. Unlike Jane Austen, her attitude toward the subject was so far-reaching, perhaps because her observations were based upon her own experience as a wife and mother, that they cannot be neatly classified as masculine or feminine. She is more sympathetic to the urging of the human libido than is Jane Austen whose problems are the result of different social and personal causes.
Jane Austen's acceptance of the conventions of her society, despite her criticisms of their distortions, made her unwilling to treat sex frankly. Even the wit with which she viewed strong feeling has some of the attributes of a counter defense. On the other hand, Lady Murasaki appreciated the pathos and intensity of human feeling.
Thus Lady Murasaki has facets her English cousin could not or would not handle. Also, through the lives of her people, she reveals a world of domestic and political breadth, one in which the things with which women were not supposed to be concerned, obtrudes by implication. Though denied Tolstoy's broad view of history as it sweeps from drawing room to battlefield in War and Peace, yet in her recital of events and through her introduction of a variety of characters, Lady Murasaki approaches the more sheltered vision of a Marcel Proust. Like Proust, or Proust's forebears --- Saint Simon and Madame de Sevigne --- Lady Murasaki records the life of an entire civilization.
LONGING FOR LOVE
As women were the central objects of male vision during the Heian era, the men depicted in The Tale of Genji, while never renouncing their physiognomy, become progressively womanish in their behavior and attitudes. Obsessed with the idea of finding a perfect woman who will epitomize the cultural ideals of their society, the men pursue an endless game of courtships and seductions. Each new encounter represents another facet of the mysterious whole woman who tantalizes her worshipers.
The opening chapter depicts Genji's father, the Emperor of Japan, overcome with grief over the death of his beloved, Genji's mother. The Emperor discovers that Fujitsubo resembles his deceased consort, setting in motion the quest to obtain love that is the focus of the novel.
The second chapter tells of the banquet of a group of wealthy adolescent princes, of whom Genji is one. This banquet recalls the banquet in Plato's Symposium. The same comfort, humor and concern with love exist in both. Here Genji's companions itemize the defects in their female acquaintances. As Genji spends the rest of his life testing the opinions of his friends, their evaluation of women backdrops his later predicaments.
Short of paraphrasing the novel, the extent to which the longing for love embraces the lives of its chief figures cannot be disclosed. Genji's longing leads him into a number of relationships, many of simultaneous occurrence. Lady Rokujo, Utsusemi, Yugao, Aoi, Fujitsubo, Suyetsumuhana, the Lady of the Red Chamber, Oboruzukiyo, Asagao, a Goschi dancer, the Lady from the Village of Falling Flowers, the Princess of Akashi, Akikonomu, Tamakatsura, and Nyosan are a few of the women with whom he is involved.
The two women who stand out among the women Genji loves are Lady Rokujo and Murasaki. The first is a mature woman whom Genji admired in his youth and was compelled to slight. The second is Genji's unofficial wife who possesses the graceful and yielding qualities he admires. The contrast between these two women represents an antithesis which recurs in the novel. Rokujo is a woman of passion, Murasaki, a woman of restraint. Rokujo is a creature of the forest, Murasaki of the parlor. Rojuko's spiritual ancestor is the mischievous Storm God, Murasaki's the obliging, order-loving Sun Goddess.
Her passion so strong that it becomes an agent of destruction, Rokujo causes the deaths of Aoi and Murasaki. She kills not physically, but spiritually, through the genius of her rancor. Against the savagery of this woman, Murasaki is defenseless.
If ever Mohammed's paradise of seraglios and dancing women were to be realized, it might be in the pages of The Tale of Genji. Here love, overindulgence and luxury combine. People engage in the activity of love because they care for little else. Nature, which the nobles admire, cannot become a release from love because the nobles regard natural phenomena as an extension of their moods. Social life cannot offer alternatives because the conventions of a stratified society prevent the nobles from finding satisfactions beyond those of narrowly conceived self-interest. Even the possibility of escape from the flesh offered by Buddhism is one these people cannot take because they lack discipline.
EFFICACY OF FORM
The rulers of Heian society attributed a magical character to form. They believed everything they did must follow set rituals and correspondences to occult phenomena. In the Nara Age (the name of the age previous to the Heian), the ruling classes embraced Buddhism which proscribed an esoteric religious worship. In addition, they emulated the etiquette practices of the royal court in T'ang China. These they accepted eagerly, but without the sober understanding of the Chinese statesman Confucius, who had promoted their observance. The result of their indiscriminate acceptance of formal customs was not, as Confucius had intended, to introduce the ideal of human heartedness ('jen") into society, but rather to separate people into graceful and non-graceful categories depending on their knowledge of ceremony. Coincidentally privileged people were the most graceful, and underprivileged the most coarse.
While the importance of grace among the Heian nobles produced (in fiction at least) people who were exemplars of decorum, such as Murasaki and Genji, in real life it standardized the ways in which the classes behaved toward one another. In Japan, Confucianism led to the idea that people became better than others because they could do and say things in established ways of beauty.
Forms affected all aspects of court life. From a means of appreciating displays of refinement, they became a method for judging character. The nobles were masters of hiding their misdeeds behind facades of formal correctness. They were tried by the necessity of always behaving according to acceptable forms, but they rarely evaded them. Also, they continued to be the basis from which they appraised others.
Except for Rokujo, a passionate woman with a pathological mind, the forms did not produce severe disturbances. There are concealment and repression, but few cases of insanity in the novel. Of course, Lady Murasaki, an upholder of forms, may not have given her readers an adequate view of her society since he would not have diagnosed repression as a psychological, but as a supernatural phenomenon.
Social missteps produce extraordinary results. Kashiwagi is so in love with Nyosan, Genji's wife, he takes advantage of Genji's absence to sleep with her. Afterwards Kashiwagi dies, not because he is ill, but because his illness is caused by his doing something inappropriate. His crime is not his betrayal of Genji, but his poor taste in handling the liaison. Kashiwagi dies because he thinks Genji, the arbiter of taste, must find him contemptuous. His desperation is caused by Genji's discovery of the amateurish letter he had written to Nyosan after his rendezvous. As if to confirm Kashiwagi's fears, Genji is chagrined not because Nyosan has been unfaithful, but because knowledge of the affair has come to his attention.
Genji represents ideal form. Like Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice, he is a gentleman, but, because Lady Murasaki is a poetess, he is elevated to a height Bingley and Darcy could not reach, for they were seen, not through the imagination, but through the eyes of practical women in love. Because of his exceptional attractiveness, carriage and manners, Genji sheds a halo of beauty. At times, however, Genji's idealism appears to be an idea believed by the authoress in spite of facts. At best he is an ambiguous and a rich creation. His amorous impulses compel him to forsake Rokujo, to sleep with Fujitsubo --- his father's wife, to sleep with Oboruzukiyo --- the wife of his half-brother, and to break his trust with Murasaki in his attempts, even in his mature and presumably settled years, to win favors from Akikonomou and Tamakatsura, two girls who are his adopted daughters. Genji's major catastrophe --- his political downfall and exile to Suma --- is the result of a chance, frivolous attraction to Oboruzukiyo.
In the end Genji is the better man for his weaknesses. Though his indiscretions never become virtues, he triumphs over them because of his tact and respect for the feelings of his sexual partners. Though Lady Murasaki laughs at him, Genji becomes likeable for the finer elements in his nature, for the amiableness of his desires, and for his touching acts of courtesy, such as his providing for Suyetsumuhana and the Lady from the Village of Falling Flowers.
Form in Genji includes the smooth execution of ritual, the scrupulous compliance with the dictates of heavenly bodies, and the discrimination of a refined taste, but it is more flexible than a rigid observance of convention would imply. Genji's sensitivity and manners make him the man he is in whom major blemishes become minor assets. As a cultural hero, Genji is wanting, when compared with such heroes as Toshitsune and Benkei in Japanese military romances, but as a cultural ideal, Genji is something else, for he is in the tradition of Sugaware Michizane, patron deity of calligraphy. Like Orpheus, the legendary musician of Greek mythology, Genji charmed those who knew him. Though sweet and overly feminine, Genji's superlative qualities cannot be gainsaid.
The womanly focus with which Lady Murasaki views characters and events is clear in moments of commentary. At such times, Lady Murasaki is more subjective than she is when she lets the drama of events speak for itself.
The authoress reveals her views in her description of the relation between the sexes. The lessons the characters learn are also lessons Lady Murasaki wants to teach. Genji's mother was a commoner. The guests at the banquet express the thought that women may be worthy of scrutiny even though they do not come from the highest ranks of society. Throughout, the idea that women are meritorious regardless of birth is stressed. As Lady Murasaki was a commoner, the importance she attached to this point can be understood.
Genji falls in love with women because of their beauty of figure and character. He finds the most intriguing women among the lower classes. Though of royal stock, Murasaki, Genji's wife, was a commoner. Women in the highest classes were considered objects of marriage because they possessed wealth and power. For the intimacy of love, the nobles looked elsewhere.
If Lady Murasaki is saying her class is worth more than the market price, she is, nonetheless, willing to give ladies of the upper court their due. A serving woman to one of them, it behooved her to go carefully. Also, as an artist, she must be given credit for admitting truths which ran counter to her wishes. In presenting the beauty of the most royal of Japanese women, in Fujitsubo, Akikonomou and the First Princess, as well as women with native charm, Lady Murasaki seems to be canceling her argument. However, the ability to transcend partisanship enabled her to realize fully the experiences of Genji, Kaoru and Niou, men concerned with finding love and beauty wherever it happened to be.
While the young "cloud gallants and moon maidens" in The Tale of Genji appear to be enjoying a prolonged frolic, the older generation is tormented by the need of finding security for their offspring by means of marriage or concubinage. The young are in a precarious position. If they cannot sustain the privileges and wealth of their parents, they will become outcasts and paupers. For the poverty-stricken economics is more important than love. After her grandmother dies, Genji abducts the destitute child Murasaki as no one will stop him. Also defenseless is the indigent Lady of Akashi. Hoping he will provide for her, her father hands her to Genji.
Tamakatsura's husband left her in comfort, but left his daughters to face an uncertain future. Tamakatsura arranges for the eldest a marriage to an ex-Emperor, and for the youngest an appointment to the office of the Lady of the Bedchamber. The older girl's marriage turns out badly because her husband's consorts make her life miserable. The youngest daughter settles happily into a less distinguished position.
Parents are afraid that after they die their children will become poor. Because of this dread, Genji stays in the world when he wants to become a Buddhist recluse. The same foreboding obsesses the father of the Lady of Akashi and Prince Hachi no Miya. These men hope to ensure their salvation by placing themselves above worldly considerations, but their awareness of family responsibilities holds them back. After the Lady of Akashi becomes Genji's mistress and mother of his daughter, her father can devote himself to his religious pursuits. Prince Hachi no Miya's case is more tragic. Even after his death, he must return to the world because the plight of his unprotected daughters summons him.
In the Heian court parents worried about the future of their children, men experienced the throes of requited and unrequited love, and everybody tried desperately to be elegant and graceful. Privileged people were always on display in the Emperor's palace and in their own, and their good breeding was always being tested.
The guardians of the boy Emperor held a picture competition to determine which women would become his wife. Lady Akikonomou's side championed old and Lady Chujo's side new painting. Genji, Akikonomou's guardian, won the victory for his ward with his own paintings. The contest was political and esthetic. It joined together the greatest concern of the time --- the marriage of offspring --- and the greatest activity --- artistic connoisseurship. "It was indeed," Lady Murasaki wrote, "a moment in the history of our country when the whole energy of the nation seemed to be concentrated upon the search for the prettiest method of mounting paper scrolls."
Genji contemplated the evening's events with a smug sense of self-satisfaction: Genji had a strong presentiment that the Court ceremony and the festivities of the reign were destined to be taken as a model in future times. It was for this reason that even in the matter of private pastimes and receptions he took great pains that everything should be carried out in the most perfectly appropriate and pleasurable manner. Hence life at the Court during the period became one long series of exquisitely adjusted pomps and festivities. (Part 2, Ch. 8, p. 342) Genji was not, however, completely attuned to the perfection he insisted upon: Genji was still haunted by the impermanence of worldly things, and now that the Emperor was beginning to reach years of discretion he often thought quite seriously of embracing a monastic life. It seemed to him that in history one so often reads of men who at an immature age rose to high position and became conspicuous figures in the world only to fall, after a short time, into disaster and ignominy. (Ibid.)
Genji's thoughts offset the delight he has just experienced.
Genji never succeeds in doing anything except living in flux. His agitation does not lead to something invincible, but only to the continuance of never-resolved moods. He is dissatisfied with his world and with himself but he cannot move elsewhere. He says later: "The ancients no doubt far exceeded us in the solid virtues; but our sensibilities are, I venture to assert, far keener than theirs."
The lords and ladies of the court go boating on a lake in Murasaki's Spring Garden: The lake, as they now put out towards the middle of it, seemed immensely large, and those on board, to whom the whole experience was new and deliciously exciting, could hardly believe that they were not heading for some undiscovered land. At last however the rowers brought them close in upon the rocky bank of the channel between the two large islands, and on closer examination they discovered that the shape of every little ledge and crag of stone had been as carefully devised as if a painter had traced them with is brush. Here and there in the distance the topmost boughs of an orchard showed above the mist, so heavily laden with blossom that it looked as though a bright carpet were spread in midair. Far away they could just catch sight of Murasaki's apartments, marked by the deeper green of the willow boughs that swept her courtyards, and by the shimmer of her flowering orchards, which even at this distance seemed to shed their fragrance amid the eddies and rocks. In the world outside, the cherry blossom was almost over; but here it seemed to laugh at decay, and round the Palace even the wistaria that ran along the covered alleys and porticos was all in bloom, but not a flower past its best; while here, where the boats were tied, mountain-kerria poured its yellow blossom over the rocky cliffs in a torrent of colour that was mirrored in the waters of the lake below. Water-birds of many kinds played in and out among the boats or fluttered hither and thither with tiny twigs of flower sprays in their beaks, and lovebirds roamed in pairs, their delicate markings blending, in reflection, with the frilled pattern of the waves. Here, like figures in a picture of fairyland, they spent the day gazing in rapture, and envied the woodman on whose axe green leaves at last appeared. (Part 3, Ch. 6, p. 479)
The picture is one of grace and contentment.
In subsequent generations wealthy Japanese connoisseurs attempted to duplicate the Heian gardens described by Lady Murasaki. Yoshimitsu, the third Ashikaga shogun, built a garden at the Temple of the Golden Pavilion (Kinkaku-ji) in the fourteenth century that harkens back to Murasaki's Spring Garden. There are also reminiscences of the gardens in The Tale of Genji in the garden of the Detached Palace at Katsura, designed by Prince Toshihito and his son Prince Noritada in the seventeenth century.
In her recitals of her exquisite lords and ladies, Lady Murasaki does not forget the "no men." At the outskirts of the Spring Garden, she places the grooms and laborers:
Even the grooms and laborers who were loitering amid the serried ranks of coaches drawn up outside the great gates, little as they usually cared for such things, on this occasion pricked up their ears and were soon listening with lips parted in wonder and delight. For it was indeed impossible that the strange shrill descants of the Spring Mode, enhanced as they were by the unusual beauty of the night, should not move the most impercipient of human creatures. (Part 3, Ch. 6, p. 480)
"No men" appear at the periphery of the court circle. Desperately helpless, rather than comfortably helpless, the poor in The Tale of Genji resemble the anonymous people in Remembrance of Things Past who look into the windows of the hotel at Balbec.
Though references to the lower classes are few, the feeling of their being near is constant. In Jane Austen the presence of proletarians or farmers is not noticeable, but Jane Austen is not concerned with projecting her readers into levels of suggestion beyond her cameo-like world. Lady Murasaki comes closer to Henry James in his concern with the evil involved in being an aristocrat than to Jane Austen with her middle class assumptions regarding virtue and propriety. The cost exacted by the elegance of Jamesian heroines, Isabel Archer and Madame de Vionnet, as well as the cost exacted by Genji's magnificence, means for both writers the horror not just in the drawing rooms where these sublime figures move, but the horror which comes from open windows where the seething masses smoulder.
In Henry James suffering and magnificence are interrelated, as witnessed by his tragic heroines: Catherine Sloper, Daisy Miller, Isabel Archer, Milly Theale, and Maggie Verver.The same assumption is implicit in the agonies of Lady Murasaki's leading male figures. In Jane Austen a departure from rational standards is sufficient to produce disappointment. Suffering is caused by the too quick surrender to passion of Marianne Dashwood and the younger Mr. Bennett. The good sense and practicality of Elizabeth Bennett and of Elinor Dashwood, however wise these heroines may be in the ways of the world, is considerably removed from the grand sorrows of Isabel Archer and Milly Theale and the noble yearnings of Genji and Kaoru.
Lady Murasaki enjoys putting the nouveau riche in their place. She handles these people with a satire like that which Proust uses in his treatment of the Verdurins and of Block in Remembance of Things Past. As with Proust, Lady Murasaki also shows the inadequacies of the aristocrats the nouveau riche use as models. Genji says fatuously: "Those who are born to greatness may be certain that, whether they exert their minds or not, the advantage of noble birth will suffice to distinguish them from their fellows."
Lady Murasaki contradicts Genji when she writes approvingly of Suyetsumuhana's aunt:
I have noticed that people of quite common origin who have risen in the world can in a very short time achieve a perfect imitation of aristocratic importance. And similarly if through some accident an aristocrat falls into low company, he generally exhibits a meanness so thoroughgoing that it is hard to believe that he has been at any pains to acquire it. (Part 2, Ch. 6, p. 311)
Marcel Proust has used almost the same words to show how the crude tastes of the Verdurins pass as sophisticated while the aristocratic tastes of Swann and Charlus become disreputable.
The political work of the court is alluded to only when the plot demands its inclusion. For example, Genji is exiled not only because of his liaison with an ex-Emperor's concubine, but also because Kokiden, the present Emperor's mother, regards him as a threat. During his absence the festivities of the court are suppressed. With his return from exile and the ascendance to the throne of his illegitimate son, Genji, as advisor to the youthful monarch, revives the celebrations of the older regime. Genji's participation in the protocol of political life soon proves disillusioning. Like many before him, he retires to private life. His failure as an administrator points out the difficulty of doing any successful governing because of the extreme ritualistic requirements of public office. Genji would have been an incompetent politician anyway for his chief value is in being an artist and a lover.
Tu no Chujo, who replaces Genji as advisor to the Emperor, remarks when meeting him at a concert:
This is just the sort of concert that Genji so much enjoys, and that is why he is always trying to get free from the ties of business. Nor do I blame him, for the world is an unpleasant place at best, and surely one might as well spend one's time doing what one likes, instead of toiling day after day at things that do not interest one in the least. (Part 3, Ch. 3, p. 411)
This expression of disdain for politics shows the extent to which the Heian nobility had fallen from the system of Confucian ethics they were supposedly emulating. The Tao, which Confucius had advocated as a standard superior to law since it was not based on self-interest, had become in the Heian court a dedication to the pleasure-principle.
Lady Murasaki was as dedicated to pleasure as her fellow courtiers and as incapable as they of understanding what the future held in store. She scarcely mentions the military clans or the rapacious Buddhist monks who would later undo her culture. The provincial governors, at whom she laughs, would soon challenge Fujiwara supremacy.
After the death of her husband, Tamakatsura was well off because:
So time serving a creature is man that no one could hold a public position such as (her husband's) without accumulating a vast quantity of gifts and lands. (Part 5, Ch. 3, p. 766)
In spite of her wealth, Tamakatsura cannot help her sons who are forced to seek their own success. The more fortunate Kurodo no Shosho, Genji's grandson, seeks sexual rather than material success. He loves Himegimi, Tamakatsura's daughter, so ardently that, when she refuses, he feels his life is ending. Kurodo no Shosho tells Tamakatsura of his problems:
On the evening after the Banquet, Kurodo no Shosho called. He had no doubt discovered that Himegimi was in residence again, and that had thrown his feelings into a fresh access of commotion. 'It is of course gratifying in a way,' he said, 'that the Government has recognized my services. But inwardly I remain in such a state of continual torment that I am barely conscious of my promotion. This has been going on, as you know, for years now, without a moment's respite.' He passed his sleeve across his eyes, as though to brush away a tear. But she felt this was done chiefly for effect. He was now about twenty-seven, a strong, handsome man, with a fresh healthy complexion which it was difficult to associate with an incurable despair. 'These young men,' thought Tamakatsura, 'are really becoming insufferable. They are so used to having everything their own way that honors and promotions no longer mean anything to them.' Her own sons, who had no father to get fair play for them, were far indeed from having time to mope about in this way, fretting after trifles. Sakon no Chujo had by his own efforts become Major in the Bodyguard of the Right and Uchuben was a Senior Ad-Grand Council, which was miserable. Tu no Jiju, the youngest, was a senior in the Chamberlain's Department, which was not so bad for his age, but wretched compared with most other people. (Part 5, Ch. 3, p. 790)
Tamakatsura contrasts Kurodo no Shosho's health with his love-anxiety and his indifference to his own advancement with her son's avid pursuit of theirs. She does not, however, really criticize Kurodo no Shosho for she wishes her sons had the same good fortune.
The Tale of Genji exposes the inadequacies of men to whom the search for sexual pleasure is a prime motivation. As Sigmund Freud has pointed out, the pleasure-principle often involves people in a neurotic search for pain rather than pleasure. For this reason, Freud says the reality-principle should "educate the sexual instincts in order to preserve the organism from chaos." A society whose leaders are given over to an inordinate search for sexual gratification can no more defend itself from internal and external enemies than can the individual. As a result of their failure to solve social problems, the Fujiwara elite made themselves prey for the underclass they had created.
The aspiration to do good has propelled Western man since the Fourth Century B.C. Aspiration and achievement have not coincided. Because of this gap, Western man has felt tension and guilt. Even so, he and his society have changed. Knowledge has increased, industry has expanded, and government has become respectful of the wishes of the governed.
In The Lonely Crowd, David Reisman sheds light on the problem of morality when he divides cultures into three character types. These are tradition-directed, inner-directed, and other-directed. The world of The Tale of Genji is tradition-directed while the Western Jadaic-Christian world is inner-directed. This stage, Reisman claims, is today giving away to an other-directed phase.
Reisman's study helps us to grasp the difference between Lady Murasaki's time and our own. The figures in here novel could not conceive of themselves apart from their society. They could wish to escape life entirely through communion with the ONE, but they could not impose distance or focus in their view of themselves in relation to others. Above all, they could not understand moral laws, as the will of God; hence as their own will and vindication in the world in which they lived.
Inner-directed people abide by moral laws. Other-directed people adapt these laws to group aims. The decline of inner-directed people may not mean their disappearance. Their reappearance may be along the lines of the heroes and heroines of Henry James and Marcel Proust, people sure of moral laws, but not so sure they would allow them to tyrannize others. Though James finds middle class society shallow and though Proust invites fire and brimstone on the inhabitants of the Cities of the Plain, these authors are not Puritans for they see values within the suffering the characters experience. Like Lady Murasaki, James and Proust admire goodness as it demonstrates itself in a real world. They judge only after they know. Even then they judge with understanding.
The Tale of Genji depicts the interrelationship between artistic achievement and human suffering. In doing so the novel blends idealism and realism in a range broader and more complex than that favored by people who live by simplified moral laws. Within the Heian society the grace and decorum in The Tale of Genji were fugitive qualities. Within the novel they testify to the illuminating power of the artist who offers others an awareness of beauty and dignity which they can incorporate into their mental, emotional and physical lives.
1. Waley, Arthur. The Tale of Genji, Houghton Mifflin, 1925,
introduction by Waley, XV.
2. Mudrick, Marvin. Jane Austen: Irony as Defense and Discovery, Princeton University Press, 1952.
3. Grant, Francis Ruth. Oriental Philosophy, Dial Press, New York, 1936, 163-205.
4. Anesaki, Masakaru. History of the Japanese Religion, Kegan Paul, 1930, 156.
5. Borton, editor. Japan, Cornell University Press, 1951, Ch. 13, 176-181, article by A. K. Reischauer, 180.
Serious literature was almost wholly Buddhist. . . . In spite of this outward splendor, the inner life was not correspondingly rich. In fact there was often an emptiness stemming from an awareness of the fleeting character of all earthly things, without the real assurance that mortal man could become a citizen of eternity, a conception which Buddhism was supposed to stress.
6. Tsunoda, de Bary, Keene. Sources of the Japanese Tradition, Columbia University Press, 1958, Ch. 9. 179.
"Refinement" gave to the courtiers a justification for their own way of living and at the same time a contempt for the non-courtly similar to the attitude which has given the English words "peasant-like," "boorish," and "countrified" their uncomplimentary meanings.
7. Lederer, E. Japan in Transition, Yale University Press, 1938, 102.
The rules of fitness serve as a means of forming the character of man. They purify man of all pollution and magnify the beautiful in his nature. When he uses them to govern himself he becomes through them correct. When he practices them toward others, they assure him of the free path.
8. Tyler, Parker, "Prince Genji and the Picture Competition," Art News
Annual, 1959, 117.
9. Kuck, Loraine. The World of the Japanese Garden, Weatherhill, New York, 1989, 130.
10. Ishikawa, Tadashi. Imperial Villas of Kyoto: The Katsura and Shugaku-in, Kodansha International, Tokyo, 1970, 16.
11. Dupee, F. Henry James, Doubleday Anchor, New York, 1956, 215.
12. Dupee, F., Op. Cit., 232-233
Maggie of all James's characters is the most vividly susceptible to the presence of evil; she has a regular sensibility for it. And the evil is after all, as Spender suggests, "simply the evil in the modern world," the isolation of the sensitive and the loving, a condition for which "their only compensation is that by the use of their intelligence, by their ability to understand, to love and to suffer, they may to some extent atone."
222 Milly is "the heir of all the ages" as James calls her in the preface, not merely because of the accumulated wealth of the world which is already hers, but also because of the heritage of suffering and responsibility which must be hers as well if she is ever to be complete.
13. Freud, S. Beyond the Pleasure Principle, Bantam Books, New York,
14. Waley, Arthur. The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon, transl., Grove Press, New York, 1960, 15-16.
Is this adored Being in reality powerless against evil, or ignorant or cruel? These are questions that in all the ages have racked the Christian's soul. Official solutions (which it was heresy to reject) failed to satisfy him; the conflict became an agony that has continually goaded Western man into what to the East have seemed gratuitous turmoils and achievements, making his thoughts a hard bed to lie on, waking him (as uneasy quarters drive a traveler on the road at dawn) not only to fresh adventures but to the discovery of the beauties that, wrapped in morning dreams, the East has ignored.
15. Reisman, D., Glazer, N. & Denney, R. The Lonely Crowd, Doubleday Anchor Book, 1955.
Note: The above is a revision of Chaper 3 of a thesis written by Richard
Amero toward the award of a Bachelor of Arts Degree at Bard College,
Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, 1950.