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Modern and Traditional Love in Literature

Love in Literature

Love is an obsession: everyone wants it, everyone is looking for it, but few will ever achieve it. True love is hard to find and hard to keep; many spend their lives looking for that one person who makes their life worth living. Novels were the basis of most libraries for people of any income because it is human nature to empathize, regret, and rejoice with others. Tragic and happy relationship stories have made millions of readers around the world cry or smile. The theme of love and its influence on the fate of both one person and humanity did not cease to interest writers throughout the development of fiction as art.

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Every Love Story Has Its Scenario

Jane Austen’s most famous novel, Pride and Prejudice, changes the motive of love at first sight. Charles Darcy sees Elizabeth Bennett at a ball and is only moderately impressed at first – while she cannot stand him at all. Only after countless misunderstandings and victory over pride and prejudice do they find each other. In his novel, Austin describes a society in the early 19th century, a little world of landlords and the commercial bourgeoisie, with a rational approach to the issue of marriage and love.

In the works of Jane Austen, the love of the heroes is always hindered by something, but they find the strength to overcome obstacles and find their happiness. As expected from a romantic comedy, love and marriage are the central themes of pride and prejudice. K. Alquraidhy claims that the novel, in particular, focuses on the different ways that love comes and goes and whether there is room in society for romantic love and marriage (111). The reader sees love at first sight (Jane and Bingley), love that grows (Elizabeth and Darcy), and an infatuation that has faded (Lydia and Wickham).

As the plot progresses, it becomes clear that the novel argues that love based on true compatibility is ideal. The marriage of sanity is portrayed negatively: those who only strive for material well-being in marriage will never be completely happy, as Charlotte’s example shows (Sha’bäni 38). And Lady Catherine’s authoritative attempts to get her nephew Darcy to marry her daughter in order to unify the estates are portrayed as outdated and unfair.

The author tried to convey to the reader that all human prejudices do not matter when it comes to love. Using the example of the main characters, she shows that if you throw away pride and prejudices, emotions and feelings will prevail, and people can be delighted. According to M. Sha’bäni, Austin points out that the most severe kind of love is the love experienced by a hero with virtue and intelligence for a worthy purpose (38). Darcy and Elizabeth’s union is less joyful in a romantic relationship but establishes a new society that assures Elizabeth of long happiness.

Pride and prejudice show the kind of love that comes with the difficulty of being compatible with the conventions of a decent society. At the same time, M. Sha’bäni asserts that the Darcy-Elizabeth couple corresponds to a successful type of love because it is based on a fundamental understanding of oneself and each other (42). They are happy together because they are interested in improving their pride and instilling self-esteem. Through couple of these two heroes, Jane Austen shows the harmony of mind and feelings in a relationship.

Not Every Relationship Tells True Feelings

F. S. Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby was first published in 1925 and is now considered one of the most important American novels of the 20th century. The elegant New York jazz-era society is portrayed masterly and entertainingly: the lavish festivities of the roaring twenties and the inner emptiness of those who have achieved everything. Against the background of all this, the romance of two once separated lovers unfolds.

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As in Jane Austen’s novel, the themes of love and class inequality are inextricably linked. James Gatz descended from the most ordinary people, turned into a multimillionaire, renamed himself Gatsby, and invented an elegant lineage. He yearns for his ex-lover Daisy, who married the wealthy Tom Buchanan. The work is both a romantic and tragic love story. The protagonist, Jay Gatsby, who comes to West Egg to meet his former lover, Daisy Buchanan, is the most devoted to his affection. Despite the fact that she eventually betrays her loyal hero, he still loves her and loves his American dream, which Gatsby, in a sense, Gatsby still fulfills.

Unfortunately, the protagonist also quickly loses everything as he takes responsibility for the death of Myrtle Wilson to save Daisy, which leads to his tragic death. M. B. Chowdhury contends that readers love and sympathize with him after he dies; they make him a real hero (3). In this sense, one can understand that the love of the protagonist is genuine. True happiness doesn’t depend on a show; it is about understanding each other, sacrificing one dear for the sake of another, and respecting your feelings or opinions. Although the heroine is already married in the text, the main characters’ feelings have not diminished, which proves their unconditional love.

On the other hand, the central romance between Daisy and Gatsby, while a true love story, is equally a depiction of Gatsby’s obsessive desire to be in the past. As maintained by B. M. Bani-Khair, the character’s love for Daisy and his closeness and admiration for her seems overly idealized and, therefore, useless and unreal (169). Daisy’s inability to express her love for Gatsby was not because she was afraid of Tom. She never saw Gatsby as the love she wanted until he returned with a new form, with a richer fortune. But she also finds the materialistic side of life in Tom – a sparkling shell that she could not find in Gatsby.

Love According to the Authors of Different Eras

Unlike the same 19th century, to say nothing of earlier works, the theme of love in the works of modern authors is leaving the foreground, hiding behind social problems. Although this, in turn, can be considered as a similarity in the literature of traditional and modern since art has always been aimed at discussing the pressing problems of society. As it can be seen, the theme of social status, money, and marriage go hand in hand with the theme of love in the works of both traditional and contemporary authors.

The central theme of the works is love, which can radically change the views and behavior of any person. Through the prism of the main characters’ stories, the authors show how important it is to choose love over financial well-being. The main characters of both modern and traditional works openly say that a human cannot hide her feelings. Even though he or she is afraid of being misunderstood or abandoned, and even more so, none can give up love because of pride.

The Imperfection of a Beloved Woman

Most people stereotypically accept that the idealization of their beloved distinguishes literary characters. Poems, serenades, and love songs support these assumptions because they describe the beloved as a divine being or a fairy-tale character. In Sonnet 130, William Shakespeare destroys this stereotype and praises the imperfection of his beloved, and chooses the path of pure truth, describing the appearance of a woman. These descriptions are notable for their liveliness and simplicity, and therefore they did not get lost in monotonous sonnets and other love poems.

This sonnet begins with a negative description of the appearance of a beloved woman. In contrast, in most poems, songs of other authors from the beginning create an almost angelic image of a lady. Hasan, Abdulkareem, and Star believe, “The poet breaks his mistress into negative body parts and gives negative praise to her. It rejects the conventional exaggeration of love poetry” (169). Due to the unconventional approach to creating a sonnet, it is this work of Shakespeare that writers and researchers sometimes call a parody.

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On the other hand, Shakespeare’s meaning in this sonnet is clear: the author wanted to show that a poet and a man fall in love with a woman, not for her noble birth and, most importantly, not for her beauty. Shakespeare’s lady is free from stereotypes, embellishments, and thoughtless praise. Describing her appearance in this way gives the impression that the same simple character of this girl is emerging. She is modest, most likely poor, and tries to get food for herself and her family. She is not narcissistic and does not show arrogance towards men; however, she may have a perky character.

It is interesting to note that the descriptions of appearance in this sonnet overlap with another work of Shakespeare, namely Romeo and Juliet. This connection in Sonnet 130 is barely perceptible but can be traced in the first part of the work: “If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun” (line 3). The fact is that Shakespeare describes Juliet, giving her noble birth as well, with the complete opposite, and endows her body with light and, in general, very light and warm shades (Murugu 23). Thus, the deification of Juliet takes place; she becomes an ideal lover.

Shakespeare shows the external imperfection of his beloved and refuses soft descriptions and the association of a woman’s appearance with airiness. Shakespeare states, “If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head” (line 4). He deliberately uses expressions that are not usually associated with women and young girls. These expressions do not reflect softness, airiness, humility, and complaisance. The position reflected by Shakespeare is vital, as it expands the reader’s concept and the ideas about love at different times and in other territories. Through such a varied glorification of love, the modern readers understand the lyrical hero and compare it with themselves, with their friends.

The aspect of understanding and comparing a lyric hero with a modern person can be crucial since it can increase the popularity of a work or author. Usually, people pay attention only to relevant authors and texts that raise issues close to society or a particular group of people. Some pieces become popular only in a short time when people need the issues raised. However, Shakespeare’s sonnets, in particular, Sonnet 130, open up one of the eternal questions of female beauty and attractiveness to a man. Shakespeare talks about the mechanism of falling in love, in which neither status, origin, clean, smooth skin, nor neat makeup plays a role. In whatever playful or parody manner the story about the dark-skinned beauty is presented, the mockery hides an essential question ‘Why does a man fall in love with a woman?’.

True love, which prompts people to write sonnets, does not affect external features. People do not fall in love with a chic hairstyle, not beautiful expensive clothes, or bright makeup. A person fills every trait of his beloved with meaning, bizarrely comparing appearance with nature and other objects. In the end, the author concludes that he does not know anything about queens and goddesses, about their life and appearance. For the author, not a single heavenly noble person matters, but he cannot stop looking at his modest beloved, who is next to him and walks with him on the same land.

Sonnet 130 is a challenge for Shakespeare’s Europe. The stereotypes of high society, the elite, the nobility, and the intelligentsia prevented lovers from building relationships. Subsequently, they influenced new, more rigid stereotypes about women and their role in society. Today, many women feel the pressure of these stereotypes and societal expectations. It was a real protest and a cry from the heart to write a sonnet in which a woman will be described in the way that Shakespeare did. This cry from the heart was against social foundations and monotonous love poetry.

Thus, Shakespeare’s Sonnet 130 describes the beloved not through the deification of the image but through the negation of this deification. Shakespeare contrasts the beloved woman with the stereotypical image of a gentle and noble lady whose appearance is emasculated and bright. For Shakespeare’s time, such a work was a protest against the stereotyping of the image of the beloved and endowing it with monotonous features of tenderness, weakness, and nobility.

Works Cited

Alquraidhy, Khalil. “Evolutionary Love and Companionate Marriage in Jane Austen’s Novel Pride and Prejudice.” International Journal of Language and Literary Studies, vol. 3, no. 1, 2021, pp. 105–121. Web.

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Bani-Khair, Baker M., et al. “The Death of the Idealized Romantic Love Dream in the Great Gatsby: A Synchronized Image with the Funeral Scene.International Journal of Humanities and Social Science, vol. 6, no. 10. 2016. Web.

Chowdhury, Maria Boshra, and Md. Ziaul Haque. “The Nature of Love: Sydney Carton in Dickens’ a Tale of Two Cities and Jay Gatsby in Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.World Journal of Education and Humanities, vol. 3, no. 3, 2021. Web.

Hasan, Mariwan, Lara Abdulkareem, and Lara Star. “William Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 130”: A Reconsideration.” Journal of English Language Pedagogy, Literature and Culture, vol. 5, no. 2, 2020, pp. 148-169.

Murugu, Kanchana. “Women and Femininity in Shakespeare‘s Sonnet-130.International Journal of Trend in Research and Development, 2017, pp. 23–24. Web.

Sha’bäni, Maryam, et al. “A Comparative Study of Plato’s and Jane Austen’s Concept of Love in Pride and Prejudice.” International Journal of Applied Linguistics and English Literature, vol. 8, no. 3, 2019, p. 37. Web.

Shakespeare, William. Sonnet 130. The Complete Sonnets and Poems, by Shakespeare, edited by Colin Burrow, Oxford UP, 2002, p. 641.

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