Themes

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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 182

Tales of Ise by Ariwara no Narihira is a collection of stories centered on the journeys and escapades of the protagonist. The overall theme of the collection is love in all of its aspects. The other theme of the book is the art of poetry. Early on in the first story, readers notice that the main character is a poet, and he is inspired to compose poetry based on his relationships with women and observations during his travels.

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The various tales examine the multiple dimensions of male-female relationships, some of which are superficial and amount to no more than sexual relations, while other relationships are more meaningful. Through the various relationships the protagonist experiences, he ends up learning new lessons in life.

Thus, it can be argued that his relations with various women push his evolution as a person. This is especially the case after dealings with infidelity and unfaithfulness. The collection of stories could be a metaphor for Buddhist concepts, in which everything in the universe is transient in nature, and that the material reality is full of suffering and disappointments.

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