The Tale of Genji

The Tale of Genji Akashi Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The storms continue for several days. Genji knows that if he were to return to the city because of the storms, he'd look ridiculous. However, the king of the sea continues to visit him in his dreams. A messenger arrives from Murasaki, looking more like an animal than a person. She writes that storms plague the city too, and the messenger explains that this weather is so unusual that courtiers are ordering religious services. Genji wonders if this is the end of the world and with his men, dedicates himself to praying to the Sumiyoshi shrine. As he prays, lightning strikes one of his rooms. Genji moves to a kitchen building and finally, night falls and the storm subsides.
Again, Genji continues to look as though he's not actually afraid of the storms. The continued appearances by the king of the sea suggests that the divine world and the natural world are taking a keen interest in Genji's fate and want to see him back in the city, which provides more evidence that Genji is not simply more exceptional than normal but so exceptional that he attracts this kind of divine interest.
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Genji and his men return to the main house. The damage is ugly, the house is filled with scared fishermen, and Genji feels utterly alone. Exhausted, he dozes off. In a dream, the Emperor comes to him and tells him to leave Suma. Genji is overjoyed, even after his father leaves to attend to something in the city. He remains awake until daylight. After dawn, a small boat pulls in from the former governor's house, asking to speak to Yoshikiyo. Genji sends Yoshikiyo down, thinking that the small boat must have been helped along by the Emperor.
The Emperor's presence again suggests that the supernatural world is taking a keen interest in the human world. This also helps to flesh out the novel's logic of what's right and what's wrong, as the Emperor's advice to Genji reminds the reader that the Emperor's wishes and desires are the ones that the characters are supposed to follow.
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A messenger tells Yoshikiyo that earlier in the month, the former governor saw in a dream that he'd receive a sign on the thirteenth of the month and needed to have a boat ready. On the thirteenth, the storm rose up. The former governor sent his messengers out despite the storm, and a strange wind blew them to the Suma coast. Yoshikiyo relays this story to Genji, and Genji believes the gods are offering to help him. He sends a message back asking if he could seek refuge with the former governor. The governor is delighted, and Genji sets out before dawn.
Though the novel doesn't overtly characterize the move to Akashi as such, it's worth keeping in mind that going to Akashi means that Genji has more people to talk to—essentially, he's going to have access to what makes Suma feel most like exile. This suggests that things are beginning to look up for Genji. It's also important to remember that he may once again become involved in romantic pursuits, given the presence of the Akashi Lady.
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The Akashi coast is gorgeous. The former governor installs Genji in a house on the beach, and the narrator notes that the governor's women live further inland. Genji is thrilled to discover that the former governor leads a lifestyle only slightly less grand than the one he led at court. After resting, Genji sends messages back to the city, promising Murasaki that he's still thinking only of her. The rains stop and Genji and the former governor discuss the Akashi Lady. Genji secretly wants to see her and wonders if there's a bond between them, but he reasons that Murasaki would be extremely upset if he acted on this impulse.
The way that Genji uses letters to care for Murasaki and his desire to keep her happy shows again that he's maturing, but his belief that he and the Akashi Lady might have a bond suggests that he's still prone to pursue romance whenever it seems to suit him. Further, saying that he has a bond with the lady is, notably, the same language he used to justify taking Murasaki, which doesn't bode well for the relationship.
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The former governor doesn't want to push the issue, but he prays that his hopes for the Akashi Lady might be realized. The Akashi Lady herself is in awe of Genji, but feels her attraction is inappropriate. As spring truly arrives, Genji continues to receive notes from the city. Lost in thought one evening, Genji pulls out his koto and begins to play. The ladies in the former governor's house sigh and the former governor sends for a thirteen-string koto. Genji plays this too and remarks that he loves it when women play the koto. The former governor smiles and explains that he was classically trained on the koto and his daughter learned to play by imitating him. He asks if Genji would listen to her play.
Once again, the wishes of the Akashi Lady’s father are given precedence. This reinforces how little power she has to control her life, even if she can, in theory, control what happens by choosing to become a nun or throw herself into the sea if things don't go her way. By appealing to Genji's love of music and of beauty, the former governor shows that he understands how to manipulate Genji's association with the natural world for his own benefit.
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Genji is very interested in hearing the Akashi Lady play. He asks the former governor to play the lute. They pass the night happily singing, playing, and drinking. Late at night, the former governor tells Genji about his life and about that of his daughter. He explains his hopes for her to marry a "noble gentleman" in the city and if he's unable to arrange this for her, she's supposed to throw herself into the sea. Genji weeps, feeling this is a sign that he and the Akashi Lady have a bond, and asks if he can see her.
When Genji becomes even more interested in the Akashi Lady after hearing what she's supposed to do if she can't marry well, it suggests again that Genji likes being important, especially when he can use his status to "help" vulnerable women. He is, in other words, drawn to her because of her relative lack of power.
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The next afternoon, Genji sends a note on saffron paper to the Akashi Lady. The former governor insists she respond quickly, but she feels unequal to Genji and refuses. The former governor replies for her, telling Genji that she is indeed interested. Genji is startled by how upfront the note is but responds later in the day. Genji's letter makes the Akashi Lady cry, as she again feels as though he's too good for her. Finally, she chooses lavender paper and writes back. Her handwriting is lovely. Genji begins sending notes every few days in secret, afraid that Yoshikiyo has already laid claims to the lady. The Akashi Lady remains generally proud and aloof.
Notice how the former governor bullies the Akashi Lady into replying when she doesn't want to. This reminds the reader that the Akashi Lady must do as the men around her want her to do, as she has little power to stand up for herself and choose anything else but death. Also notice that Genji feels more attracted to her when he sees her lovely handwriting, which reinforces the importance of letters and handwriting in his assessment of a lady's worth.
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Genji spends much of his time thinking of the city and Murasaki. However, he reasons that he won't be in exile much longer. Meanwhile, back when the storm had ravaged the Suma coast, the Suzaku Emperor had a disturbing dream in which the Emperor yelled at him about Genji. Kokiden didn't think it was anything to worry about, but Suzaku came down with a painful eye condition after that. Soon after, the Minister of the Right died and Kokiden became ill as well. Suzaku fears that as long as Genji is away, he'll suffer, and he suggests that Genji be allowed to return. Kokiden refuses.
The Emperor's visit to the Suzaku Emperor likely happened right after the Emperor spoke to Genji and told him to return to the city, while the Suzaku Emperor's eye condition indicates that he's being punished for going against his father's wishes. This brings the importance of the parent-child relationship back to the forefront, as Suzaku must listen to his father in order to right these wrongs.
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As colder weather arrives, Genji begins to ask the former governor if he could bring the Akashi Lady to visit in secret. He believes he can't go visit her, as he thinks she's too independent and they're of different stations. He decides that her parents have impossible hopes and vows to only exchange notes with her while he's in Akashi. The Akashi Lady only wanted to see Genji, so she's satisfied with this. The former governor fears that he's going to fail to marry her to Genji.
The way that the Akashi Lady sells herself short because of her relatively low status shows how tuned in women have to be to the way the court works, as she recognizes that it may be in her best interest to not push too hard for a relationship with Genji. Again, this shows that she likely fears she'll suffer something like what happened to the Lady of the Paulownia Court.
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Related Quotes
Finally, one night, the former governor arranges for Genji to visit the Akashi Lady's house. Looking at the moon, Genji thinks of Murasaki, but the house intrigues him. Stopping at the door, Genji speaks. The lady doesn't answer, as she has decided to not let him in. This annoys him; women always want to talk to him and he thinks it would ruin the mood to force himself on her. Hearing the sound of a koto, Genji asks the lady if she'd play for him. Her sad reply reminds Genji of the Rokujō Lady. The lady runs to an inner room. Genji follows and does force himself on her, thinking she's almost too beautiful.
When Genji is willing to go against his earlier decision to not visit, it shows that as mature as he may be now, he's still prone to giving into his desires to be involved with interesting and relatively powerless women. The connection between the Akashi Lady and the Rokujō Lady implies that like the Rokujō Lady, the Akashi Lady may be dangerously overcome with jealousy when Genji looks elsewhere.
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Genji sends her a note in the morning. Every so often, he secretly visits the Akashi Lady, though he's constantly overcome with guilt that Murasaki will find out about his affair. Finally, he writes to her and confesses that he's having an affair. Her reply is generally pleasant, though she does note that he broke his vows. Feeling guilty, Genji stays away from the Akashi Lady for several days. This terrifies her, and she considers throwing herself into the sea. She does her best to not annoy Genji, and when he resumes his visits, he continues to find her pleasing.
The Akashi Lady's response to Genji's few-day absence shows that now that she's begun a relationship with Genji, it's absolutely in her best interest to maintain it. This is especially true for her, given that on the coast she doesn't have a palace full of other suitors. Here, Genji is her only option.
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Genji starts keeping sketchbooks of his time in Akashi. He sends them to Murasaki. When the New Year arrives, the Suzaku Emperor is still ill. Suzaku realizes he must abdicate and allow Reizei to rule. Finally, he decides to go against Kokiden and in the summer, summons Genji back to court. Genji is thrilled, though sad to leave Akashi. The former governor and the Akashi Lady are upset, though Genji visits nightly to comfort her. She'd become pregnant in June, and she's very unhappy about it.
Because the Akashi Lady is pregnant, it means that Genji will be unable to follow through on his decision to only write to her as long as he's on the coast in her vicinity. This suggests that the Akashi Lady may have some hope of keeping Genji interested in her, given that he'll be unable to ignore her when she has his baby.
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Genji's men are thrilled to be leaving, but Genji is sad. He wonders why he continues to get involved in "profitless affairs of the heart," and those who know that the Akashi Lady is pregnant gossip that Genji causes trouble. When Genji visits the Akashi Lady before his departure, he assures her that he'll bring her to the city. She insists that she only deserves a tiny bit of affection. She weeps and recites poems about her sadness. Finally, Genji sends for a koto. He plays, and the former governor asks his daughter to play. Genji finds her playing much like Fujitsubo's and he regrets not asking her to play for him sooner. He asks her to keep the koto as a memento.
It's telling when Genji notices a connection between the Akashi Lady and Fujitsubo, as it implies that he may have formed a deeper connection with her had he realized how similar they were earlier. This in turn would give the Akashi Lady a better sense of security, especially given how Genji and Fujitsubo have been able to maturely put aside their differences for the sake of their son.
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On the last morning, Genji sends the Akashi Lady a regretful poem, and he cries as he writes it. Those who don't know she's pregnant think that Genji is just sentimental, but those who do know are jealous. The former governor arranges a farewell feast. Genji and the Akashi Lady exchange robes, and Genji promises the former governor that he'll write to the Akashi Lady. The lady continues to weep and is nearly inconsolable. Her father begins spending days in bed.
Promising to write to the Akashi Lady shows Genji leaning on court customs to make it seem as though he's going to continue to care for her, though it's worth keeping in mind that Genji has also exchanged letters with a number of women while still neglecting them entirely.
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The reunion when Genji reaches the city is joyful. Murasaki is more beautiful than ever, though the sight of her makes Genji think of the Akashi Lady. He tells Murasaki about his lover in Akashi. Murasaki insists she's not worried. The Suzaku Emperor restores Genji's titles and they talk happily all night. Genji sets about commissioning prayers, checks in on Reizei and Fujitsubo, and sends a note to Akashi. The Gosechi dancer is disappointed that Genji is back in the city, so she sends a note attempting to obscure her handwriting. Genji recognizes it anyway and writes that he still misses her, though he doesn't pursue a relationship with her. Similarly, he sends a very short note to the Lady of the Orange Blossoms.
Genji's notes to the Gosechi dancer and the Lady of the Orange Blossoms reinforce that notes alone don't always equal care and romance: he's still neglecting these women. While the Gosechi dancer's situation is unknown, the Lady of the Orange Blossom's precarious position at court—and the fact that Genji is her only avenue to do better in life—suggests that with this return to court, Genji may begin to shirk his responsibilities in favor of romances that are more fun and less work.
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