February 12, 2009

Romance Is in the Air

I have to admit, Valentine's day is one of my least favorite holidays. Contrary to what you may think that says about me: no, I do not hate love, and no, I am not a bitter and cynical woman. I happen to be a huge supporter of love, and I am also blissfully married. I just wish I could get more excited about Valentine's day. There doesn't seem to be a lot of anticipation for it. And, since my anniversary is just around the corner from it, it kind of sucks the fun out of the holiday for me. My anniversary is more like Valentine's day than Valentine's day. And, honestly, I don't mind that so much, actually I almost prefer it.

But, I feel like I can't let Valentine's day go by without giving it, or rather, what it celebrates, a little bit of attention. So, to commemorate the festival of love, I've decided to bring you some of my favorite couples in literature. Which, I found out, seems only fitting since the first reference to "Valentine's day" was made in a poem written by Geoffrey Chaucer. Turns out V-day's origins are literary—who knew. Granted, then it was "seynt Volantynys day" and was probably pronounced something like [sent Vool-en-tinies day], which isn't so romantic, but still. So, here they are, in no particular order:

Well, I said no particular order, but actually this couple does take the number one slot for a reason. I fell in love with Wuthering Heights the moment I began the first chapter in the fall of 1998. I was the ripe old age of 17 then, and I had a huge problem with daydreaming in those days. But, nevertheless, my love for the story has never waned, and I actually blame my entire life's path on that book, but that's a story for another day.

What do I love about Cathy and Heathcliff? I get asked this all the time when I start to rave about Wuthering Heights, usually with a bewildered stare and a scrunched nose. So, yeah, they were insane. I mean, Heathcliff was, less face it, demonic. But there was something about these two together that I have never been able to forget. I don't know if you could really call it love, what they had, with the violent outbursts, commitment to revenge, and complete disregard for anyone else's feelings but their own. But, certainly they had several characteristics of a relationship I always dreamed of: endless devotion, the inability to get enough of each other, unbelieveable loyalty, the soul of one person split into two bodies. When I think of Catherine and Heathcliff, those are the moments I remember. And they are delicious.

Tragic love story, but a masterpiece. The only play I like better is King Lear. But what makes Romeo and Juliet so special. Even though it leads to their demise, there's a few things I really love about them. First, they are young and infatuated. Remember that feeling? Like you would die if he didn't look your way? Sure, it's teenage torture, but honestly, there's nothing like young love. And, although it wasn't his first love, I still think Romeo was truly devoted. I mean, he killed himself for crying out loud. Second, they weren't afraid to go against convention. They loved each other; they didn't care what anyone thought of it. Third, impulsivity. There isn't anything more excitingly decadent than acting on an impulse, especially if you think it's unrealistic. Anyway, I wouldn't consider any of these things good in abundance—just might get you killed. I don't like that idea. =)

Who doesn't love Elizabeth and Darcy, I ask you!? Arguably one of the best literary couples of all time. One of the things I like best about them is the exact opposite of what I just described above. They're love comes in time and after a lot of struggle. They hate each other, and yet, they realize that what they hated was a mistake, and they slowly find themselves in love, almost before they can detect it. It's not smarmy love at first sight—I like that.

This couple is from a book I just discovered last month called These Is My Words by Nancy Turner. It's written in the form of Sarah's diary in the late 1800s out in the Arizona Territory. Without giving too much away, what I really loved about these two was how deeply they loved each other and how much they had to work at their relationship. Sarah and Jack were not the lovey-dovey couple either. They didn't understand each other, and they disagreed. But they worked together beautifully, and they were committed to each other. And eventhough they had rough patches and misunderstandings to straighten out, they loved each other as deep as love can run. It was inspiring.

Ok, go ahead and roll your eyes now. Get it over with. So, I had to include Bella and Edward because I really did enjoy their whirlwind romance. Ok, be honest with yourself, you kept turning those pages too, didn't you? So, I'm not an Edward fanatic, and I'm not Bella's biggest fan, but I really enjoyed reading the Twilight books (save the fourth one). And a big part of that was because of Bella and Edward together.

When I first read them, I thought New Moon was my favorite, but on second thought, I'm sticking with the first one. I like the confusion, the intrigue. It's a bit lusty without getting Danielle Steel. And honestly, it's just down right entertaining. Ok, the end. Haters to the left.

So, this one is an unlikely choice. It comes from Ernest Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls. Now, this book is about an American, Robert Jordan, who helps some guerillas (and I don't mean the kind that eat bananas) during the Spanish Civil War. Ok, not an ideal place to find love—definitely. During his time in Spain, Robert meets the lovely Maria, an escaped prisoner (as far as I can remember). She is frail and sweet and has had her hair practically shaved off.

The thing I love about their relationship is confusing. First of all, they never really fall completely in love—it's impossible to do given their surroundings. Death is always at the door, waiting to come in when the time is right. Which is interesting, because death is a key element to why their relationship has remained with me all these years. Death is often used to describe physical relationships in literature. I never got that—it never made sense to me. That is, until Ernest Hemingway (which is puzzling because I don't even like the way he writes relationships usually). And I think there are a lot of critics who disagree with me, but I think I understood how their souls were so closely bound together that they felt they could die at those moments. I've read commentaries that say that death present in this situation symbolizes distrust. I would say the exact opposite: it symbolizes their complete trust in one another and a state of ultimate happiness that will fade when they next have to face the world.

And there you have it! Who are some of your favorites? I hope you have a happy Valentine's day, full of conversation hearts and m&m's in many shades of red.


Michael said...

It's probably my fault that you aren't more excited for Valentine's Day. Oops. So, which pair do you think we most closely resemble? I vote for vampire love.

Kristen said...

I wasn't expecting to see a new post from you so soon and was pleasantly surprised. It is so refreshing to read your blog--I love how you write.

I loved your list of couples, too. I would add "The Scarlet Pimpernel"'s Percy Blakeney and Marguerite. Have you seen the movie or read the book? (They're totally different) It would be a good Valentine's day movie. Percy is the elusive Scarlet Pimpernel, who is sneaking aristocrats out of Paris during the French revolution, but no one knows the Pimpernel's true identity. His public identity is a shallow fop, but he is totally romantic towards Marguerite. I just smile through the whole movie--I love Percy. As a couple, they have secrets from each other, but love each other (it gets resolved in the end). You have to see the movie. :) [Wow, that was long]

Erin_C said...

Ok, this is a little psycho but I really love Tariq and Laila from a thousand splendid suns. The book isn't really about their love and they actually aren't together a ton as adults, but everything they go through and how much they love each other and how thier love gets through so much even in a place where a man didn't need to love a woman to get "satisfaction". I think it is so sweet. I really love them.

Kristen said...

Camie, why didn't you like the 4th Twilight book? (I was just curious) I thought the pregnancy part was grotesque and the honeymoon a little more info than I would've liked. But I actually did like seeing Bella as a non-whiny, non-damsel in distress; I liked that she could protect her family, although in an X-Men-like way. All the vampire X-Men were a little much for me.

Okay, another part I didn't like: Bell was all worried that she 1)wouldn't be able to see her family, 2)wouldn't have an intimate relationship with Edward for a while, 3) wouldn't be able to have kids, 4)would be blood-thirsty for a while...need I go on? Were any of these fears necessary? Apparently not. I was a little irked that everything was wrapped up all nicely at the end (even with Jacob and the strangely named Renesmee!!) Ok, last point: I liked seeing Edward as himself and not as the overly-protective boyfriend he felt he had to before; he was a little more 'normal.' I liked him a lot more after reading that.