Friday, October 8, 2010

Love's Yin: Broken Hearts

Last week, the theme analysis focused upon love's powers to restore, heal, empower, and enrich our lives, but just as often, love is a conquering tyrant, willing us, forcing us to love that which cannot flourish, leaving us broken and often bitter.

For example, in “My Immortal,” Evanescence sang

You used to captivate me
By your resonating light
Now I'm bound by the life you left behind
Your face it haunts
My once pleasant dreams
Your voice it chased away
All the sanity in me

These wounds won't seem to heal
This pain is just too real
There's just too much that time cannot erase


This is the Yin of love whereas Love as a conquering hero is the Yang. Both have inspired poets, lyricists, and novelists. Consider the examples below.

Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet tells the tale of a love that kills. Misunderstandings, mistaken identities, and misalliances murder the lovers.

Lydia, Jane’s younger sister, in Pride and Prejudice chases the handsome, duplicitous Mr. Wickham. Although she wins him, he does not love her. Her love for him brings her financial hardship and requires her to live with the knowledge that he is unfaithful to her.

Stephanie Meyer drives Bella and Edward apart. Both nearly die until they yield to the love that demands sacrifice and courage from each.

Films too deal with broken hearts. The Break-Up shows how ugly two people can become when empathy and sacrifice flee. (500) Days of Summer proves that love’s tyranny may shatter our dreams and crush our present. Some people, including literary figures such as Shakespeare’s Ophelia, Dickens’ Miss Havisham, and Faulkner’s Miss Emily, never recover.

In John Donne’s “The Broken Heart” and “The Bait,” the speakers reveal that they will never be whole again after love has ravaged their hearts and spirits.

Fantine’s song, “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Misérables, expresses the agony of love lost:

There was a time when men were kind
When their voices were soft
And their words inviting
There was a time when love was blind
And the world was a song
And the song was exciting
There was a time
Then it all went wrong

I dreamed a dream in time gone by
When hope was high
And life worth living
I dreamed that love would never die
I dreamed that God would be forgiving
Then I was young and unafraid
And dreams were made and used and wasted
There was no ransom to be paid
No song unsung, no wine untasted

But the tigers come at night
With their voices soft as thunder
As they tear your hope apart
And they turn your dream to shame


Fantine never recovers or overcomes her devastating loss. Love is a tyrant that crushes her.

Grammar, Usage and Mechanics (GUM):

Someone, someone's got me wrong
You thought that your love was strong
Now you're feelin' like such a fool
Poor you, you're thinkin' maybe if you said goodbye
You'll understand the reason why
The love you had felt so cool um hm

Oh but it's all right
Once you get past the pain
You'll learn to find your love again
So keep your heart open
'Cause love will find a way


Having had and overcome a broken heart, I can believe Pablo Cruise when he says that everything will be all right once we get past the pain. I wonder, however, if Mr. Cruise is correct in writing “all right” as two words. Should he have used “alright?”

No, Mr. Cruise was correct to choose two words: all right. In fact, your English teacher probably taught you that “alright” is always wrong. If only the contest between “all right” and “alright” were that simple!

“Alright” first appeared in 1887, according to an online entry from Merriam Webster’s work. The same entry notes that professional writers often use “alright” to mean “okay” or “satisfactory.”

For example:

PI (Private Investigator): We’ll meet at Harry’s under the green awning--alright?
CI (Confidential Informant): Green awning--got it!

“All right,” on the other hand, may have the same uses and meanings, but the two- word version suggests that a person is whole and/or secure (I am all right. Don’t worry.) and that a product is well done (The balance sheet proves that the accounts are all right.).

Language users ultimately determine what is correct so “alright” will probably become more and more acceptable. Until that time, if you sit for the ACT or SAT exams, choose “all right” so you won’t be all wrong.

Reading Challenge:

Read or re-read the works mentioned in this post.

Writing Challenge:

Write about love’s night, its Yin. Use specific, concrete details to show that breaking up is hard to do.

Connye Griffin is My Writing and Editing Coach