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Love and Forgiveness

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    For love and forgiveness to be the windows through which we look at literature, we must move from a rimary focus on seeing texts as created objects, with their ironies and unreliable narrators, to an old-fashioned emphasis on the stories themselves and on what characters do and say. Stories are driven by conflict”the agon, or struggle, that is at the heart Of so many plots. If forgiveness comes at all, it comes only at the end of the story.

    The biblical narrative of Joseph and his brothers, for example, begins with betrayal (Joseph is sold into slavery by his brothers) and ends with forgiveness, which is made possible only by Joseph’s great love for at least some of his brothers. But love and forgiveness are not he central themes of the story as a whole. If you functioned as a kind of “anthropologist of the text,” you might ask, “Where is the theme of love and forgiveness most likely to arise? ” The answer to that question informs the three sub-themes of this project.

    Forgiveness arises in the presence of the wisdom of love; when there IS love in the presence of the enemy; and when the nearness of death shines a light on what is important”love. Justice calls for punishment or requital of a wrong. Forgiveness gives up the claim for requital”and even the resentment that accompanies that claim. What creates the capacity for forgiveness? Often, wisdom traditions and, occasionally, works of literature suggest that love is the only force or state of being that allows forgiveness to be experienced.

    Love, Forgiveness, and Wisdom Sometimes time and experience lead to transformation and forgiveness (The Winters Tale); and sometimes redemption comes in the form of atonement (Atonement). Sometimes, when injustice seems to happen as a pattern of an individual’s life, a kind of transcendent grace or sudden movement of the universe seems to occur to knit the world together in a meaningful, loving whole (The History of Love). In time, what appear to be nforgivable personal wrongs, suffered at the hands of a loved one, can seem to work to a greater good (Sense and Sensibility).

    The Winter’s Tale – William Shakespeare Like all Of Shakespeare’s plays, The Winter’s Tale has inspired many VOIL_Jmes of critical commentary. A number of readers have pointed out that the structure of the play mirrors the Christian “divine comedy” in moving from sin and loss to transformation and redemption. But while this structure may be felt behind the action, Shakespeare’s focus is on the psychology of the characters”and of the audience. In each “movement” of the play, we see different aspects of love, orgiveness, and wisdom.

    In Part One (Acts to Ill), we observe the “sickness” of the brain that leads to fatal errors of the heart. In part Two (Act IV), we witness the transformations that make forgiveness and reconciliation possible. And in Part Three (Act V), the wisdom of love and forgiveness that redeems the past is dramatized in one of the most remarkable scenes in all of drama. The sickness of the brain that is explored through the character of King Leontes is jealousy.

    Far from being a proof of love, as some believe, jealousy is a product of fear, constricting the heart and blinding the eyes to reality. Leontes sees his queen, Hermione, in friendly conversation with Polyxines, his best friend, and through the eyes of jealousy, uses even the most innocent of actions as “proof’ in the construction of a case against her. This case, or story, leads to a trial in which the jealous king banishes his blameless wife and daughter because he cannot accept a story that contradicts what his sick brain has concocted.

    As Hermione points out in her defense, it shall scarce boot [assist] me / To say, “Not guilty”; mine integrity / Being accounted falsehood, shall, as I express it, / Be so received. ” Act IV begins: “Enter Time, the Chorus. ” Sixteen years have passed, and Leontes’ lost daughter is grown. Time itself has created this transformation, just as winter has become spring. We, the audience, move from witnessing a trial in winter in a formal court to observing scenes of springtime country life and young love.

    Part One seemed dark and realistic and could almost have served as the beginning of a tragedy: Two key characters die, the queen is banished (and her death is announced), and a daughter is abandoned (and presumed dead). But in Part Two, we seem to be in a fairy tale, where time tself produces the agents of redemption in the grown-up daughter of Leontes and the son of Polyxines. Having faith in the healing power of time is a form of wisdom”even when, out of fear, we distrust the future.

    Like time, nature itself is also transformative, and through the fable-like simplicity of the love story of Part Two, we are reminded that in spite of the human propensity to treat tragedy as more realistic than comedy, spring is just as real as winter. After witnessing the familiar romantic fable of a high-born prince falling in love with a low-born girl whose true identity is noble, we are repared for Part Ill, which rises above both tragedy and romance to a scene of love and forgiveness that the characters themselves can scarcely believe possible.

    And yet, it “really” happens, in spite Of their expressed disbelief. If we are watching the drama on a stage, we see the statue of Hermione, whom we thought dead, come to life and step down to take the repentant Leontes’ hand. Through the power of drama, we experience this miracle for ourselves and are deeply moved. What was once dead can come to life again. What was once lost can be found. As The Winter’s Tale helps us understand, through the ramatic experience we undergo, faith in the possibility of transformation is a form of wisdom.

    Sense and Sensibility -Jane Austen Novels often display the way wisdom disappears in the presence of romantic love. Elinor and Marianne Dashwood, the two sisters whose fortunes are chronicled in Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, are portrayed as embodiments of these paired opposites: Elinor, the oldest, displays good, sound sense; Marianne, in contrast, is full of sensibility, a quality much prized by the Romantics. In Austen’s world, sense is not simply rationality or objectivity, although it partakes of both.

    It also includes a proper regard for propriety, a skepticism regarding first impressions, and a cautionary self-awareness of the human tendency to read a situation from the perspective Of our own self-interest. Sensibility, in contrast, is a heightened sensitivity to sense impressions and feelings. Marianne judges Elinors suitor, Edward, to be deficient, saying that his eyes lack “all that spirit, that fire, which at once announce virtue and intelligence. ” Her own suitor, the more responsive Willoughby, reads poetry with feeling, delights in music, and romanticizes the landscape and the humble cottage in which the sisters live.

    The danger in acting from sensibility is that it is inherently subjective. When Elinor confronts Marianne about breaking propriety by going alone with Willoughby to explore a house, Marianne responds that “if there had been any real impropriety in what I did, should have been sensible of it at the time, for we always know when we are acting wrong.. . The rules of propriety may be confining and arbitrary, but they are externalized and not as susceptible to wishful thinking. While the narrative is told from a third- person point of view, the narrator speaks from Elinor’s sensible perspective.

    Elinors implicit criticisms of the excesses of sensibility are underscored when Marianne’s romantic illusions lead to disaster. The novel does not let Marianne sink to a state of utter ruin, however, for after suffering emotionally and physically, she marries a man much superior to Willoughby in character as well as wealth. And Elinor herself, while not outwardly expressive of romantic qualities, has been shown to be inwardly full of sensibility.

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