Towards the end, there is some sign that the titular Genji feels some real remorse for the emotional carnage he has left in his wake. But not much. Or, at least, not enough to my mind. But the author clearly seems to be showing some disapproval.
I haven’t read much about The Tale of Genji and I wonder if there is some feeling among scholars that Lady Murasaki is actually engaged in a proto-feminist critique of medieval Japanese culture and its idea of the perfect gentleman (personified by Genji – handsome, aesthetic, poetic, etc).
But I also try to remember that, for example, strict sexual mores are almost always a more recent phenomenon than we think and, in general, to be careful about viewing things from a modern and western eye.
That said, does anyone else find it creepy that the young girl he took in to be his ward – you know, the one who inspired him to become offended and self-righteous when her earlier guardian didn’t trust his good intentions – is now his common law wife?
At the same as I read this, I read some of Basho’s travelogues and both the famed poet and the fictional prince spend time near the beaches of Suma (Genji self-exiles himself there after becoming persona non grata in the capital; I couldn’t quite figure out whether he had been formally banished or not). Basho loved them and Genji found them boring, but upon his return, he waxed rhapsodic about their picturesqueness and poetic qualities. Note to reader: in terms of timeline, Basho went to Suma long after The Tale of Genji was written, so if there was influence, it went in that direction.