Friday, October 1, 2010

A Great Big Idea: Love will find a way.

Last week, I quoted some lines from a Pablo Cruise tune, “Love Will Find a Way,” and I challenged you to uncover overall meanings in Grimm’s story about Rapunzel. One of the meanings was surely that love will find a way.

The Prince, heartbroken and blind, wanders in the wilderness for years, remaining apart from mankind until Fate intervenes to place him once more in Rapunzel’s arms. There he regains his eyesight, his beloved, his family, and his homeland where he and Rapunzel live happily for years to come. Their love conquered all obstacles in their path.

Love portrayed as a conquering tyrant and Love as the conquering hero are two of the most commonplace themes in literature. Some of the writers who have successfully employed these themes appear below.

Consider the overall meanings in Shakespeare’s comedies wherein misunderstanding or mistaken identities jeopardize the happiness of two imperfect but likeable characters who profess their undying love for each other in the final scene.

Consider the work of Jane Austen wherein necessity and social mores shape the alliances between most characters except in those most worthy and most capable of selflessness; these independent individuals who refuse to settle overcome and claim the greater happiness.

Consider the commercial success of Stephanie Meyer who brought together two of the most unlikely lovers: an independent girl and a vampire.

Consider the plots of every romantic comedy (rom-com, a.k.a. chick flick) brought to the screen, including recent entries such as The Ugly Truth, The Bounty Hunter, and The Proposal as well as classics such as 50 First Dates, Sleepless in Seattle, When Harry Met Sally, and The Notebook.

Consider also song lyrics from romantic love ballads, including Dolly Parton’s farewell tribute to her mentor, "I Will Always Love You:" "I hope life treats you kind / And I hope you have all you've dreamed of." Here love conquers petty selfishness, transforming the lover into someone who wishes only the best as she departs.

Edwin McCain seems to sing of love’s healing powers in “I’ll Be” when he insists: "And I dropped out, I burned up, I fought my way back from the dead, / I tuned in, I turned on, remembered the thing that you said." Love conquered the speaker’s losses and returned him to life itself.

Poets have sung the same messages in their lyrics. Shakespeare’s sonnets evaluate the many degrees and hues of love. In 116, Shakespeare’s speaker declares that love is an "ever-fixed mark / That looks on tempests and is never shaken." In other words, true love conquers all obstacles in its path. In 29, the speaker recovers his sense of worth and well-being in spite of being "in disgrace with Fortune and men’s eyes" because he remembers that someone loves him.

In “September 1, 1939,” W. H. Auden’s speaker, reeling from the news that Hitler has invaded Czechoslavakia, asserts that "we must love one another or die." Similarly, Biblical scripture admonishes us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. Both assertions require a great deal from us, and both promise that Love is a conquering hero, one who can make us blind and deaf to our brother’s defects.

Finally, Robert Frost’s speaker, in “Birches,” claims that "Earth's the right place for love: / I don't know where it's likely to go better." He’s right, of course. Love is our greatest gift, one that must be accepted with reverence and given freely.

Grammar, Usage and Mechanics (GUM)

When writing about literature, standard practice requires that you write about it in the present tense. Literature always lives in the present moment. If you review the post above, you will see examples of this.

1. Shakespeare’s speaker declares (from paragraph 10)
2. W. H. Auden’s speaker, reeling from the news that Hitler has invaded Czechoslavakia, asserts (from paragraph 11)

In addition, when writing about literature, standard practice requires that you distinguish between the poet or author and the work. For example, few, if any, writers have taken a life, but many write about murder. In such thrillers, the author is not the same person as the killer, but we often presume that an author’s life mirrors the life unfolding in the novel. Such a presumption is a mistake. Thus, when writing about fiction and poetry, name the characters or refer to the speaker rather than the author. Both examples above refer to the author’s speaker, not the author alone.

Reading Challenge

Read a Shakespearean comedy such as Twelfth Night or As You Like It. In addition, read Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, a book that influenced Stephanie Meyer, by the way.

Pick any one of the romantic comedy films mentioned and “read” them for the overall meaning explored in this blog post.

Finally, listen to the songs and read the poems mentioned in this post.

Writing Challenge:

Invent a tale using science fiction, fantasy, or any other sub-genre that you enjoy. Use specific, concrete detail to reveal the overall meaning: Love will find a way.

Connye Griffin is My Writing and Editing Coach.