Honor-Shame Code in The Tale of the Heike Essay

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Honor-Shame Code in The Tale of Heike In The Tale of Heike, the way in which the Japanese viewed defeat and dying is revealed to the reader through various incidents covered during the time of the novel. To be defeated was shameful but to prevail was a way to gain respect and honor. The accounts in Heike tell us that one could defeat an opponent by exiling him, insulting him, or even taking revenge upon him. Because being defeated was shameful, warriors would kill themselves before being killed by the opponent. If a warrior failed in his duty, suicide would be the necessary measure taken to regain honor. Not only could suicide be a way to gain honor, it could also be a way to shame someone. If you prohibit your enemy
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This brought Nakatsuna’s humiliation. To reciprocate the humiliation, Nakatsuna branded Munemori’s horse Nanryo as “Taira Buddhist Novice Munemori, formerly Nanryo” (309). This reveals to the reader that it was a part of warrior ethos to shame the person who shamed you. Other forms of humiliation included the parading of a warrior’s head by his enemy. Before going into battle, warriors yell out their line of decent, titles, and names. Moritoshi does this formality before attempting to slay Noritsuna (392). It is also important that the warriors request the names of the enemies they are about to slay because “when a man kills an enemy, it doesn’t mean much unless he waits until he’s identified himself and made the other fellow do the same (392).” “Fame depends on who you fight; it doesn’t come from meeting just anybody who happens along (387).” After the exchange of names, the warrior after defeating his opponent is able to call out the name of who he just killed and claim his fame. For example, after Noritsuna tricked Moritoshi and cut off his head, “he stuck the head on the tip of his sword, held it high, and announced his name in a mighty shout. ‘Inomata no Koheiroku Noritsuna has slain Etchu no Zenji Moritoshi, the Heike samurai known in these days as a demon god!’ (393).” The fallen were not only shamed by being slain by the enemy but they also were further shamed by the parade of heads. After battles, the winning side would gather all of the heads and paraded