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The Tale of Genji Themes

This Study Guide consists of approximately 129 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of The Tale of Genji.
This section contains 1,448 words
(approx. 4 pages at 400 words per page)
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Overview

Murasaki Shikibu's epic-length novel, The Tale of Genji, probes the psychological, romantic and political workings of mid-Heian Japan. The tale spreads across four generations, splashed with poetry and romance and heightened awareness to the fleeting quality of life.

Evanescence

The theme of evanescence unifies much of the action. Evanescence means, literally, "to dissipate or disappear like vapor," according to The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Third Edition. The characters in The Tale of Genji appreciate beauty to an extreme degree, an aesthetic known in Japan as miyabi. But this appreciation is tempered by an understanding of the impermanence of all things, especially life. The theme of surface phenomenon as illusory repeats itself throughout Buddhist doctrine. It is this prevailing attitude that gives the novel a tone of underlying sorrow, which can be translated into another Japanese term, mono no aware, or, loosely, "the pity of things...

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This section contains 1,448 words
(approx. 4 pages at 400 words per page)
Buy The Tale of Genji Study Guide
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Epics for Students
The Tale of Genji from Epics for Students. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.