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Apr. 28th, 2005

Lit Themes Love Essay

My Impressions of Love Based Off of the Literature
Love is one of the most prevelant themes in all of literature. No one single definition or pattern can be applied to it. Often I've just thought of love as something being without need for definition or clarification. It was the whole “I'll know it when I stumble across it” deal. If anything, the literature has taught me that there are four different types of love. Love is defined in relation to how one feels not only toward a romantic partner, but to their friends and families and themselves. It is also important however, to realize love is not always positive. An obsession for instance turns into what is called an unhealthy love.
The most interesting idea of love came from Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. The idea that love is an exchange of equal value. I had always been taught about unconditional love that could never be altered or taken away. I had been raised to believe that I owed my family love and respect. I had been taught that when I fell in love in a romantic way, I would only fall in love once and it would be an eternal love, and that no matter what happened, it would not go away.
Of course I could not reconcile these sort of ideas as I've learned of abusive family or boyfriend relationships. If people treat one another like trash, then there should be no obligation to feel love. Therefore, If other people abuse me or take me for granted I should not have to love them in spite of it.
I think my biggest problem is that Atlas Shrugged denies the idea of unconditional love, and I want to love unconditionally. When I sat down to consider this concept, I realized that the literature was more logical. I will never be able to say I can love unconditionally. People and situations are fickle,and are almost guaranteed to change over time.
“Immature Love” by Nathiel Brandon, Ayn Rand's lover, really speaks to the logical part of me and my feelings of love. This piece was really interesting from many perspectives. I know so many people who use the word “love” as something that completes them,and do stupid things while in love. I've witnessed people whose ideals fo love are such, that they refuse to move on to other stages in life on the crutch that the peoplearound them need to give them more. These sort of people really do go around looking to marry their mothers of fathers. The whole “I couldn't please daddy, so I will try extra hard to please you”, philosophy was very prevelant in high school girls I knew.
I have a friend who wanted her boyfriend to take away all her problems and take care of her, which made me angry. I've also known people in clearly verbally abusive relationships who just allowed the significant other to continue to abuse them, insisting that since they “love” the other person and that they are only hurting on the inside.
I am generally very hesitant in throwing around the word love, and have seemed to fortunately miss a lot of this immature love stage. I can't think of any unhealthy friendships or relationships I have had.
In “Love of My Life” by by T. Coraghessan Boyle the two main characters love was immature love. They two of them were trying to be movie couples and act as a couple should instead of showing genuine features of love. When an unexpected pregnancy came up, the two had no idea what to do, because none of their movie star romances have scripted actions for that situation. The two of them panic and cave in on themselves. They attack each other and harbor resentment for the child.
I think Jeremy might have cared for China as a friend cares for one another, but I think what he liked best about China was the sex in their relationship. As for China, she wanted a man to wave around and show how perfect and how much better than other girls she was. She was obsessed with Jeremy and didn't know what to do or think without him by her side. Her obsession was unhealthy, and part of what drove her crazy by the end of this short story.
I don't personally know any relationships that have turned this twisted, but I know that this is a sort of love that I do not want to ever experience. I hope that all of my friends are mentally stable enough to stay out of a relationship like this as well. If I ever perceived any friendship or romantic relationship becoming as artificial and showy as China and Jeremy's , I would hope I could drop it quickly.
While “The Love of My Life” discusses a brand of immature love, “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love” by Raymond Carver discusses two varying views on love. One view of love is that of Terri's, where she believes the hallmark of true love is that the person is willing to die for their love. The partner will destroy himself and his significant other to keep from losing their relationship. To me this kind of love is dangerous and unsettling. I see no romance in a Romeo and Juliet ending to a relationship. I would classify this relationship as an immature one and would bolt at the first signs of these sort of dependencies.
Mel, Terri's husband, agrees with my opinion that Terri's ex is insane. His opinion of love is that it is something purely spiritual and that two souls connect deeply on a spiritual level but there is no mental or physical piece to his relationship. I like the idea of connecting spiritually with a loved one, but I think that for romantic love one must also connect on a physical, mental and emotional level. Even the love for a friend must be on a mental, emotional, and spiritual level. I do not know any love that connects simply on a spiritual level. I think that a love of that sorts would be unbalanced and end in a unhappiness.
I think the story about the old couple Mel tells is cute, but I don't think I would want to be involved in a love like that either. I want to always be able to pull myself together and continue to live and be happy with or without the person. Obviously if a person I loved died I would mourn quite a bit, and I would be devastated, but that wouldn't stop me from living my life. I would move on and I would be happy again, partly because I want to live my life to the fullest and partly because I think my love would want me to enjoy whatever amount of life a was given. It sounds to me as if the old man could not survive without his wife.
I would hate to be sad and mopey, like my grandfather has been since my grandmother died. She died four years ago, and while I would always mourn the passing of a husband, after a good year I would want to be back up on my feet. I wouldn't marry again, but I would cherish the friends and family I had left. I would continue to adventure and take what life would give me.
While “ What We Talk About When We Talk About Love” talks about love for others “Oedipus the King” by Sophocles talks about self love and the fickleness one has for the love of others. Oedipus really thinks very highly of himself. He thinks that he outsmarted the Gods and their fate for him. He feels that he has gained his right the the thrown through nobility saving the Kingdom from the Sphinx's grasp with his infinite wisdom. Oedipus loves himself more than he loves the Gods and more than he loves his own people.
As far as my own self love, I feel that I have a less hubristic amounts of self love. I do not think I am the best thing ever, and I do not stare at my image all day long. I can take constructive criticism, unlike Oedipus. I think that I have a pretty good grasp on my own personal faults, and that keeps me humble.
Oedipus' love for others is very fickle. He claims to love Jocasta, but the moment she asks him not to hear the Shepard boy's information about where he came from, Oedipus immediately decides that she must not love him any more because he could have low birth. He never considers that Jocasta might really love him and be trying to protect him from damaging information.
Even his fatherly love is limited and overshadowed by the importance of himself. while Oedipus claims that his love for his two daughters is strong and unwavering, we see how he never thinks of their well being or his parental duty to help provide for them. He selfishly and impulsively gouges out his own eyes and demands that he be banished from the town. Never does Oedipus worry about his children until he can do nothing to help them. Even then, instead of comforting them and trying to give them strength is curses their miserable lives and puts fear into their hearts with dark words and warnings. It isn't enough he has left them to fend for themselves, he must tell them of exactly how damned the two children are. It is also interesting the Oedipus is completely disinterested with his male children. He has no wish to see them or have them cared for, and considering what happens in the Antigone perhaps he should have worried more about his boys than he did. Oedipus' disinterest in his own sons echoes the disinterest that his actual father showed in him in some degrees, because as Oedipus' father literally cast his son out of his life and sentenced him to death, Oedipus casts his sons out of his heart to die at each other's hands later.
I care much more about my family than Oedipus does. I have concern for their feelings and I take in their opinions as much as possible before trying to make decisions. I do not let my own self love hinder me from making decisions that are the best for all involved. I think part of that may be because I don't have the privilege that Oedipus has of being King and completely unquestioned.
“Araby” by James Joyce is another story about the love of a strong ego instead of the love of an actual person much like “Oedipus the King”. I don't take the story to really be a love story, as the main character is not in love with anyone in the story. He claims to be in love with “Megan's sister”, but he doesn't even know the girl's name. Also, the boy doesn't know much about the girl at all. He only knows she is pretty, and it seems that even with his small infatuation with her, he doesn't really pay attention to her.
As far as Megan's sister goes, I don't think that she knows the narrator exists. She seems to be a common little girl. The only time we ever hear her talk she seems whiny and bitter. She wants to go to the Araby but can't and she is annoyed about it. The ten year old boy doesn't notice this, and I can see a sullen look on her face as she talks about an annoying convent trip and I hear the whine in her voice as she tell the narrator “It's well for you,”.
The narrator is in love with the idea of love much like Romeo he want to play the knight in shining armor on an epic quest. He sets himself up a mission to get her something at the Araby, and then he prepares himself for it like a knight readying for battle. The adults who forget about the fair and just don't understand his needs are his dragons that he must battle with so he may go to the fair to get a token for his love.
The kid has built up this quest larger than life, and he comes to the fair in a rush ready to finally win his girl's affection, and when he gets to the fair he is completely disenchanted. Its the end of the fair, the grounds are probably dirty and everything has been picked over. Everything is probably gaudy and cheap looking. The people there are probably drunk and dark looking. He realizes that his quest is all an imaginary game and silly folly. He sees that Megan's Sister probably isn't slightly interested in him and doesn't care if he exists. The narrator grows up a lot in this short span of time and suddenly he is completely disillusioned with his sense of “love” and “loyalty” to this girl. He realizes that he wanted this sort of nice accessory so as Megan's sister as an ego boost and status marker. He wanted some knight in shining armor fairy book fake that just doesn't really seem to exist in the real world.
I think everyone has had these fake Romeo “in love with love” crushes where one wants the feeling and not the actual girl or boy one claims to be interested in. In first grade I had a crush like this on the poor kid, Colby, I smothered him with love poems and flowers and all sorts of romantic endeavors. His friends made fun of him and he would blush like crazy when ever I walked by. Eventually he worked up the guts to tell me to stay away from him, and it was then that I realized I didn't even know him. I just wanted someone to love.
“A &P” by John Updike is about a kid who unlike Oedipus is in need of some self confidence and self love, unfortunately he is looking for love from others instead of love from within. I think the biggest part of the narrators lack of respect is a class struggle and a feeling of being lower. He uses the girls as the “other” upper class group to compare with even though they are probably on the same level as him.
These upper class people have fancy pool parties and matching glasses, while we have these rinky dink cartoon mismatched glasses. They have fancy food and we have burnt hot dogs. They are so rich and privileged they feel they can come into a store in just their bathing suits without repercussions. They probably don't need to work a crappy summer job for money, in fact they probably have a great car while I have to work this low class crap job and I have a crappy are, or no car at all. They have the privilege of affording friends who will sympathize and understand them while I am stuck striving for some artistic and spiritual accomplishment that no one understands or respects.
The worst part is that as the narrator tries to make his stand to say “I deserve better and I am as important and worthy of respect as they are”, but he simply confirms that he is out of step with his peers and trapped in isolation. The girls don't care about him and he loses them. His boss will get a replacement in a week or so and he won't even be missed. No one will understand why hie quit and he will be teased and mocked for it. Quiting had no impact on anything and it only helped to reassert the “they are better than me” feeling as well as the “what I think, feel, an am has no affect on others.”
For a while I had trouble feeling good about myself, and I too tried to assert my quality by getting others to tell me how good I was. It took me years to realize that the only one who can boost my self esteem is me, and that no amount of overly kind friends, hanging around “cool kids” , or collecting “cool stuff” could make me love myself.
Novalee also has to learn a lesson about how to love herself in Where the Heart is by Billie Letts. At first Novalee is a scared girl who avoids her problems and doesn't know how to manage things on her own. Slowly though she gains confidence as her needs are met and she begins to have successes.
Novalee is also slowly able to find love from others through a caring community of out casts. These out casts help to give Novalee a home to fit into and be comfortable in. They get her through the hard times, and are their to celebrate the good times with her too.
I think that love is all about helping support people in their time of need best one can. Everyone can only do so much for one another, but he or she should still do whatever is possible to help. When my friend, Keo was going through a bout of depression, I sat with her every day and tried to cheer her up. I reminded her of good things and good times. I made her laugh and held her when she cried. Real love has that sort of support to it.
Unlike Where the Heart Is , “the Ache of Marriage” by Denise Levertov seems to be heavy with what unhealthy love does to a person. I thought that this person had built up expectations of marriage and had gotten married for the wrong reasons and now she was unhappy and angry about it. I saw the beginning part to be talking about how kisses, communication, and sexual relations are heavy with this ache or unhappiness. I took it to mean that something was wrong in the relationship and that the person didn't know what to do with it.
In the next stanza I thought that the use of communion was a religious reference, where in the Christian religion one receives the “body” of Christ and becomes one with gone and complete. So I thought that like in “Immature Love” this narrator was looking for completion in her partner and this connection and feeling of oneness only to be turned down. I also thought communion could be a reference to the marriage ceremony and how even during the marriage the completion the narrator was looking for what was missing. I also considered that the narrator might be talking about actual communion and connection with God. Since she has been married she had been unable to seek this connection to God, so the marriage is so bad that even God has turned her away.
I thought of Pinocchio at the reference to the leviathan and how the two were trapped in this monster of a commitment searching for the fabled “joy”, only to find there was none.
At last, I saw the ark as a complete religious reference. Yes, the animal chosen two by two to go on the ark we saved, but they were became the only ones of their kind and even more isolated and unable to back out.
Both “The Ache of Marriage” and “The Woe That is Marriage” by Robert Lowell speak towards my fear being trapped in a bad marriage. I hate being trapped in things, and with all the unsuccessful marriages now a days I am very wary of the idea of ever getting married.
If I were the narrator of “The Woe that is Marriage” and I knew my husband was doing drugs and going to prostitutes instead of me, I would leave him. I would not stand it, and our love would not last through unfaithfulness or willful addictions.
Though admittedly, some of the poem is quite humorous. I think it's funny that the wife keeps the ten dollars and the car keys with the whole sort of “I know you're going out to get cheap ten dollar whores and if you want it to continue you need to come to me for the keys and money”. I like how she tries to force control back to herself, even though I think it only highlights how she has no ability to even shame him into faithfulness.
As far as family love goes, the poem “What Work Is” by Philip Levine defines love through actions. Even though the narrator clearly says that he has not hugged his brother in a long time and he has not said he loves his brother, we know that the narrator loves his brother. If someone is willing to stand hours out in the rain for a job to help out a brother follow his dreams, then that is true devotion.
“The Gift of Sweat” by Rebecca Brown shows the same devotion in “What Work Is” to a complete stranger. Rick, a sick elderly man sacrifices his health to walk down town to get a cinnamon bun for his cleaning lady, simply so he can thank her for her kindness. I wish that I could have done something so touching for someone else, but I have never felt that strongly or been in such a situation that would allow for me to risk my health for one I love. Rick is really just a very caring, contentious sweet old man, and I hope one day I will become friends with someone that caring.
Words By Heart, by Ouida Sebestyen introduces the idea of loving people for the best they can be. Ben is a very happy, peaceful man and he has profound respect and a feeling of brotherhood with all his fellow humans. It would be wonderful if one day I could grow into seeing the “Jesus” inside of people and love them for what they can be. If everyone in the world could view people in this way the world would probably be at peace.
My own personal words by heart about love spoken by “True Love” by Wislawa Szymborska. The narrator questions and demands things about true love in such a way that it places it even higher on a pedestal and makes it even more precious and desirable. True love is perfectly normal and anyone who looks for it will find it. Soul mate love of one's perfect other half may or may not be serious, it really depends on the person. When I find my soul mate he's going to have a good sense of humor and we're not going to be too serious about anything, because being able to laugh is really the key to happiness and all of life. As long as one still has humor, one has the single most valuable tool against the world's evils. True love practical? Please! Nothing could be a larger indulgence and less practical and insane than true love. It is out there waiting and one day it will just grab a person out out nowhere and consume their very being. It has no rhythm or method to it at all.
The world gets two happy people with their own unique view on things. Others are drawn to happy couples and enjoy seeing them because we are attracted to that sort of positive energy and we want that kind of relationship for ourselves. We are happy for people we care for when they find that special someone. We want those we care about to have someone who recognizes how special and valuable that person is and cares for them as they should be cared for. We also want our friends to be happy and it pleases us to know that they are happy.
My favorite paragraph has to be at the peak of the narrator's own seeming bitterness. She seems to despise other's happiness demanding that those in love fake a little depression and use less clear language to express their feelings. This is rather amusing because what more does anyone want in a relationship than happiness and clear communication. What she is denouncing about true love is what most people want most about it.
As for the destruction of religion and poetry, just because one is in love doesn't mean that the world is all peachy roses. Even the closest couples fight, and have their moments of anger and questioning. Not everything would be the same happy boring work there would be a lot more happiness in the world if everyone had his or her soul mate, but I don't think that this would destroy poetry and art. People can still be in love and bad things can still happen. One's love can die or be in an accident. Some people will still be poor and mistreated while others will be rich and privileged. People will still be bigots and prejudice, there will still be plenty of pain and torture, but there would be more comfort and love. I would think that having one's soul mate by one's side would give something to really believe in. The whole someone did create me with a divine plan and I have a perfect compliment to myself, there must be a God out there to do this for me sort of belief. Besides someone would still have to be blamed for the death of those we love and some form of afterlife comfort would still need to exist, so religion would really only be helped to be proven if everyone suddenly had his or her soul mate.
Just as my ideal thoughts on love are contained in “True Love”, my greatest doubts are within Mathew Arnold's “Dover Beach”. I feel that it is a poem filled with inner and outer turmoil. Arnold does not know what to make of the world and its changes. In the beginning he starts the poem out with this beautiful description of the ocean and the shore line, but certain word choice begin to underlay the peaceful feeling of the poem. “grating roar”, “pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling” “The eternal note of sadness in.”. These sounds are not happy or positive. Grating sounds makes people shudder. Fling has an angry child like frustration to the word, and eternal sadness is somewhat self explanatory.
Arnold brings a feeling of eternity into the depths of the poem as he talks about Sophocles' time and even then the ocean was a sea of “human misery”. In the next stanza, Arnold ties the feeling of spirituality and religion that was in the first stanza by calling it the “Sea of Faith”, and even here there is some significant sadness and loss as it was “onces. Too. At the full, and round earth's shore/...But know I only hear/Its melancholy, long withdrawing roar,”. People are losing their faith in religion. They are losing a connection to God and the beauty and enchantment that was once in the world.
I've always taken the next stanza to be a sarcastic “Ah, love, left us be true” as if mocking the situation. I thought Arnold is talking about how the world we once knew is receding and leaving us faithless and lost in the sharp reality of what is. Even in Sophocles' time there was this foreboding feeling of the truth behind illusion, but now the truth has been revealed we see the ugliness of the world without the protection of faith and belief in goodness, truth or love. I don't think that Arnold is pleading with his love, I think he already knows that she is deceiving him and that he is mocking his once trust in her, saying how can we be in a world with “neither joy, nor love, nor light/ Nor certitude, nor peace nor, nor help from pain;”. In a world without love, Arnold has broken his own plea. How can he have love in world devoid of it? I think Arnold believes there is no saving the world and that this illusion that is the ocean has been pulled back. For the first time people see what is beneath that dark ocean and they see their own darkness. Arnold is appealing to the loss of what he would have called love. He is also talking about the love of illusions and that love in God and faith is nothing more than a love of lies and deception.
I worry that I love in a world of illusion as Arnold once did, and the curtains will one day be pulled to reveal the horror that is in the world of “Dover Beach”. When I am depressed, I tend to agree with “Dover Beach”'s analysis on how the world looks. I lose hope for the present of the future.
Andrew Marvell's word's by heart when it comes to love are men's traditional come ons from “To His Coy Mistress”. I have mixed feelings on this poem. It is funny because it's all about this big come on to some poor girl that probably doesn't even know this guys name. It's funny how little men have changed in all these years; they are still only after action. I can just picture some desperate guy going around and saying this to every girl in the desperate attempt to get some action.
For example the narrator starts of with the whole, if I had all eternity I would court you forever. I would spend a hundred years talking about your eyes along and we would take the whole thing as slow as you wanted to. It would be romantic and wonderful and everything you wanted. Even in the beginning here he throws in a dirty joke with “vegetable like love” referring to how his erection would grow “vaster than empires” but their actually sex would last longer than the rise and fall of such empires.
Of course he can not keep up this sort of talk for long, because of course the two do not have eternity, they have only this one life to live, and time is moving fast. Soon this girl is going to get old and if she hesitates to have sex now because of old fashioned feelings about virginity, then worms will be the only thing trying it, which if you ask me is just gross and doesn't belong in any sort of love poem. Then again, men are crude and think those sort of images are funny.
So then the rest of the poem is a come on about how since the two are short on time they should have sex right now and “get it on”. This amuses me quite a bit especially when I picture some guy going around and repeating this poem to every single lady in court trying to persuade her. I can't help the laughing.
On the flip side this poem is also somewhat dark. The last part is vicious and violent in the word choice. It have the classic rape psychology with the you know you want it I can see it in your blush, which could just be a blush of embarrassment. I don't think that the poem is supposed to imply the potential of rape of significant pressure on the female, and this attitude is undoubtedly the domineering attitude of the time, but it still has some menacing undertones. I would not want this as a love poem, it might be a funny joke if I really knew my partner and knew that he was joking with me, but beyond that I would feel a little scared and threatened if someone seriously presented this poem to me as a love ballad.
My thoughts on love based on the literature are scattered and few. Really, what I think I learned most was that I have very little knowledge of love and what love is. I push people away from me and keep to myself in fear of being hurt or becoming dependent on another. I know lots of words from the different literature pieces we read, but I do not have the experience to choose which set of thoughts would be mine.