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The Theme of Love in Literature


Many fiction works today implement so much elements and themes, showing readers different interpretations to things we're used to perceiving in the same light that everyone deems 'normal'. Love is one of the biggest themes in literature and has been since the on-start of literature up until this present day, and it is interesting to note the various experiments taken by authors of different genres to define and interpret this particular emotion. Love is generally recognized as a connection between two people fueled by a strong emotional force, and while some aspects of literature exhibit the belief that 'love conquers all' and hence a happy ending, other aspects examine a more pragmatic conception of this emotion. In this article, we explore how some works perceive love and how the outcome of this perception affects the plot and/or characters.

Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare
In this Shakespeare's classic, Romeo and Juliet fall in love against their families' wishes, and by the end of the novel they had both committed suicide for the other. In this instance, the love that this couple share is perceived as forceful, violent, and bordering on insanity. They had both planned to run away, defying their families, the society and the entire world. However, their plans go awry and Romeo drinks poison when he believes that Juliet is truly dead. Juliet in turn wakes up and stabs herself when she sees Romeo lying dead beside her, deciding she could not live without him. Their passion is so raw and powerful that they both die for the other so they can preserve their love even in death. Love in this case does not lead to happiness for these lovers, but rather destruction.

Sula, Toni Morrison
The story centers around Sula, a free-spirited girl who comes from a family of free-spirited individuals who defy societal conventions and think little of how or if their actions affect others around them. In this book, love (not romantic love in this case) is perceived as a burden, a feeling that cannot be helped or resisted, even if you tried. Sula loves her mother, but only because she's the one who gave birth to her, and so she feels it's an obligation. This is evident when Sula watches her mother's dress catch fire and continues to watch as it burns her to death. The same goes for her mother's feelings for her daughter Sula; Sula overhears her telling a friend that she doesn't like her as a person but loves her only because she's her daughter. Love is seen as a burden, something to deal with as one passes through life, not something joyful or sweet. It is such a powerful and heavy burden that leads to disturbing actions which are deemed okay because it was an 'act of love'. An instance of this is seen when Sula's grandmother Eva kills her son in order to 'save' him from his post-traumatic disorder.

Delirium, Lauren Oliver
In the first sequel of this utopian novel, love is perceived as a disease, one that makes people act crazy and do bizarre and dangerous things that ruins lives and society as a whole. Because of this, individuals are operated on from the age of 18 in order to take out this amor deliria nervosa, the disease that threatens to destroy mankind. Lena, the protagonist who has looked forward to the procedure for years (because it was believed to have killed her mother), suddenly finds herself showing symptoms of the disease. As she accepts that she is fully blown and that she might eventually die from it as have others, she vehemently embraces her fate, her love, and defies the rules she had followed and believed all her life. She defies her family and society, and plans to run away with the love of her life, come hell or high water. In this instance, love is stubborn and defiant, and like a disease, it slowly creeps up on you and takes over your entire thought process, leading to irrational thoughts that lead to irrational decision-making, which eventually destroys the parties involved.

Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte
The love between Heathcliff and Catherine is almost as that of Romeo and Juliet; but dare I say, more passionate, more mature, and far more transcendental. Just as Romeo and Juliet's love is perceived as almost religious, Heathcliff and Catherine's passion conceives the idea that redemption can only be achieved through love and desire. Each of them is the other's god as they revere in each other and their love, and they hope that they will be re-united in their love after death. This transcendentalism leads to the assumption that they are both soul mates, two souls that can never be separated, not even by death. In this instance, love is everlasting, once an individual has been marked by it there is no going back; it is irreversible, addictive with no cure or hope of rehabilitation.

It is interesting to note that none of these books portray a happily-ever-after, romantic ending as a result of the passionate feelings of these characters. It is apparent that love in these novels is portrayed as a recipe for disaster not a ticket to happiness. One thing to note also is that most of the afflicted characters are aware of their fate they are miserable and are suffering immensely, and are aware that they could ultimately be destroyed - yet they embrace their love with vigor!
There is never a time or place for true love. It happens accidentally, in a heartbeat, in a single flashing, throbbing moment.
--- Sarah Dessen

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Content copyright © 2014 by Ije Kanu. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Ije Kanu. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Ije Kanu for details.

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