chapter 1-41 summary - The Emperor and Kiritsubo give birth...

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The Emperor and Kiritsubo give birth to the novel's hero, Genji, in 11th-century Japan. Kiritsubo, the Emperor's true love, is of the lower ranks of court. The slander and petty jealousy of the other palace wives contribute to the mental anguish which results in her early death, when Genji is but three-years-old. Genji from the start impresses everybody with his unparalleled beauty. He is exceptional in every way. He is raised in the court. Despite his father's unflinching devotion, indeed because of it, the boy receives the name Genji, which classifies him as a commoner. The Emperor knows that without influential maternal relatives, Genji's position as a crown prince (or a son picked to become future Emperor) would be tentative, especially after his own death. Since the Kokiden faction will most certainly cause his son problems, it seems more practical to secure for him a court ranking (a political but not royal position) and to encourage his studies. A Korean soothsayer's prediction that the boy will never become emperor plays a part in this decision. Genji, or Minamoto, roughly translated means ''commoner.'' It carries negative connotations, that the bearer of the name has been dispossessed of a potential birthright because of an embarrassment or scandal. But the name Hikaru Genji, by which he becomes known, means "the shining prince." The Emperor's grief over Kiritsubo is eased when he meets her look-alike, Fujitsubo. She becomes the Emperor's official consort, and Genji grows up in her presence. Genji is drawn to Fujitsubo for much the same reasons as his father. The Emperor seeks a substitute for his wife, and Genji seeks a mother. Right after Genji's coming-of-age ceremony, at the age of twelve, Genji is married-off to the Minister of the Left's daughter, Aoi. She is a Fujiwara. Aoi turns out to be cold and unsympathetic, and Genji spends most of his time at the Palace in his mother's apartments (though he is now denied access to her). His inattentiveness to his wife
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inspires resentment from his father-in-law. Aoi's brother, To no Chujo, becomes both Genji's close friend and bitter rival. Five years pass between the first and second chapters. At the age of seventeen, Genji is already an experienced lover. His countless affairs occupy much of his time and energy. He seems to have a penchant for difficult situations, that or he is too weak to avoid them. Genji seduces Yugao, a former mistress of To no Chujo's, and she dies of a mysterious ailment shortly after. Lady Rukujo's living ghost seems to be responsible. Though this is Lady Rukujo's first appearance, it is understood that her jealousy (she is one of Genji's many partners) is the root cause. Genji, now eighteen, discovers Murasaki in the hills north of Kyoto. He is there seeking a
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This note was uploaded on 09/18/2011 for the course CHEM 1A taught by Professor Nitsche during the Spring '08 term at University of California, Berkeley.

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chapter 1-41 summary - The Emperor and Kiritsubo give birth...

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