So just as a quick recap of last week’s blog for those of you just tuning in (which I assume is most of you since I don’t have any followers) we discussed the history and outlook of the crazy holiday (if one can really consider it to be considered so) Valentine’s Day. From survey and personal opinion I basically made the argument that most people (at least the ones I interviewed) have either a very skeptical or negative outlook on Valentine’s Day; very few people have the “publicized” outlook of the “Disney kind of love” the movies portray Valentine’s Day and love in general to be. From that argument (of a negative look at the associations of love) we’re going to take a deeper look into how literature views this “love”. Come with me as we dive deeper into the “literal” (yes pun intended) outlook of love in modern literature.
Let me paint you a picture for a moment… (with words of course)
“The beautiful Indian Pocahontas has fallen in love with the handsome John Smith. John Smith comes from overseas (England) with a group of people in search of Gold, but has soon realized that there is none. In the midst of their affair, war breaks out, but the love of Pocahontas and John Smith perseveres and allows the two groups of people to live without war, and Pocahontas and John Smith live happily ever after”
Now let’s take this same story and add a “literal” (yes I did it again) twist.
Pocahontas is a beautiful Indian girl Pocahontas lives with her tribe until suddenly a group of white men intent on finding gold ravage their land in war and battles. John Smith suddenly finds Pocahontas attractive and wants to have her as his wife (along with his 3 mistresses). Pocahontas is already arranged to be married to Powhatan (who she doesn’t really love, but was an arrangement created during war between the tribes for peace). So Pocahontas must kill Powhatan in a way that appears to be an accident so that the tribes can remain friends, and Pocahontas can marry John Smith (who already raped her, and she doesn’t love him) in order to create a new treaty of peace between the Indians and the white man!..... Quite a bit different then the Disney version.
Modern Literature’s portrayal of love has an interesting twist in comparison to the views set up by the portrayal seen by the media and what’s on TV. To help further my explanation and defend it we’re going to take a look at several different (and quite famous) works of literature that are often recognized as great portrayers of “love”. For starters let’s take a peek at perhaps the most “widely known” love story: Romeo and Juliet (my personal least favorite play by Shakespeare).
Now I know I’m probably going to receive wide criticism for my quick summary of this play, but it’s been a long time since I’ve read it, but my memories of the play always pan out the same way: Romeo is an overly hormonal male who challenges everyone to fights (much like a teen) and is deeply in love with this one chick, but then, almost overnight, his love shifts for Juliet. He now falls head over heels in love for Juliet. The only problem is that Romeo and Juliet’s families have “beef” and disagree with their relationship. So Romeo and Juliet have a secret love affair and run off and get married. They secretly get married and one of them fakes their death. The other person doesn’t get the memo, thinks their “love” is dead and commits suicide to join their loved one in “heavenly bliss” and eternity. The person who faked their death finds their loved one dead and kills themselves. And thus the birth of the most romantic story of all time is born (from the depths of two overly hormonal, bipolar, suicidal, and stupid teens).
This play is almost a “mimic” of love. Romeo jumps from one girl to the next without a second thought, and his “obsession” follows suit to Juliet. Romeo then “stalks” his “love” (like Edward sitting outside a window “watching you sleep”) until at last they come together. Shakespeare almost purposefully teases on the subject of “love” as he (I feel) pokes fun at the reactions of these crazy little pubescent teenagers. This work by Shakespeare is “comic” in its portrayal when you step back and look at it through the right eyes. And many more famous authors and writers share this criticism of love; their ideas and thoughts peer through the pages of many different works.
One of the more prominent ways to look at the views of love is to view the way the author looks at marriage. And commonly (as mentioned above) marriage is viewed as a commodity, and has (perhaps) one of the most “materialistic” views seen in literature. In Pride and Prejudice we are immediately introduced to this view in the opening pages. Austen introduces us to the thought that “a rich single man must be in want of a wife (because that’s just what they’re supposed to do)”. And immediately after explaining this to us (the readers) she goes on to narrate how Mrs. Bennett (the psychotic witch with a capitol “B”) and every other mother in town sees this new rich man as an opportunity to marry off their daughters into wealth. The act of love is entirely bypassed and set instead into marriage, and marriage is decided in order to “gain” wealth or land, or something, for an individual. So far none of our outlooks is showing a “positive” look on love or marriage. Come back again next week where we’re going to discuss some more views of love and marriage through the eyes of literature.