What Does Literature Teach Us About Love?

A brief assignment that I did for English class for Valentine’s Day (edited a little bit since my first draft sucked but I don’t feel like hand-writing out another one).

When it comes to love, literature has taught me that “happily ever after” is a universally obtainable reality. Literature taught me that happily ever after should be desired. Literature taught me that I need to find my Prince Charming; it taught me that I am not more than the sum of who loves me.

But literature also taught me that love exists beyond the Prince Charmings and the happily ever afters. Literature taught me that love can move mountains or crumble them. It taught me that love is beautiful when pure and disastrous when violated. It taught me how to appreciate the beauty in things I wouldn’t have given a second glance otherwise.

I am torn between unlearning literature’s deceptive teachings and holding on tight to its true ones.

Because literature has taught me everything I know about love. It taught me that I’m nothing if I don’t have my prince–it taught me I’m nothing if I don’t take care of my sisters. It taught me not to be happy with anything less than happily every after–it taught me that I should be happy with every step of the journey. It taught me that all my love must be saved for one other person–it taught me to love everything and everyone that I possibly can. It tried to teach me who to love–but instead, it taught me how to love, and I took control of that knowledge for myself.

Literature has taught me that love is the most powerful thing in the world, and that it’s up to me what I do with it.

Good teachers

“I Do” (poem by Andrea Gibson)
The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak
The Walled City by Ryan Graudin
The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux (although frequently misread and misinterpreted)
(to a lesser extent, the Andrew Lloyd Weber musical of the same name)
Lilo and Stitch (Disney movie/TV series)
Avatar: the Last Airbender (Nickelodeon TV series)
And We Stay by Jenny Hubbard
1984 by George Orwell (my favorite book)
Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

(I consider these examples, among others, to be examples of “true” familial and platonic love in addition to romantic. Brave New World may be less apparent than others, and Phantom of the Opera is definitely an…unconventional love story, to say the least)

Bad teachers

Fifty Shades of Gray by E.L. James
Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
Matched by Allie Condie
Evermore by Alyson Noel
True Blood (HBO TV series)
The 100 (CW TV series)
Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick
Divergent by Veronica Roth

(While these examples (Shakespeare excluded) don’t really constitute literature per se, they have had profound contemporary impacts on our culture, especially incredibly impressionable teenagers, and they deserve to be discussed and deconstructed)

What about you guys? What has literature taught you about love, if anything? Do you even think I should count TV shows as literature? Do you disagree with what I think are “good teachers” and “bad teachers”? Let me know down in the comments!

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3 comments

      1. Happiness is a journey, not a destination. So I work like I’m on vacation. I dance like a child without music, I sing like no one can hear me. I love like there are no conditions. I live as though I am the most prosperous person I know…b e c a u s e…I AM an undefeatable expression of the Spirit.

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