Genji continues to doze while all his friends come in and tell a series of stories, like a little Chaucerian style set of pilgrim's tales, about their mistresses and their romatic lives. They have debated the merits of the known and the unknown in romantic interests and arrived at a statement that they think they can all agree on: that chosing a wife is a more difficult and important task than even the Emperor choosing a minister since one can only have one wife while the Emperor can have many ministers. I used to have this discussion with my Brahmans and Limbus while working in Nepal--nominally men are the more important sex, and the man's family the most important in a given marriage--but I used to ask people whether it were more important if the men in the family were more noted for honesty and good behavior or the women and people always, always, always answered "more important that the woman be honest and well behaved." Why? Because the woman was the interface between the household and the world--it is she who prepares tea and a seat for guests, who makes the household function, and who produces the children. One man in a household may be a rotter, or a liar, and the family name will not be brought into disrepute but if the new daughter-in-law doesn't know how to behave guests will be disgusted, the household will be shunned, and the legitimacy of the children of the patriline can be called into question so future marriages will be debarred.
This is, more or less, the conclusion the gentlemen come to: the position of wife is so pivotal and important that it can't be risked on just anyone. But meanwhile there are many lesser relationships which might rise to wife, or fall below constancy, how to choose?
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