What is Love?
“I'm not supposed to love you, I'm not supposed to care, I'm not supposed to live my life wishing you were there. I'm not supposed to wonder where you are or what you do...I'm sorry I can't help myself, I'm in love with you.” (Quote from Lord Byron)
What is love? Scientists would simply call it a magnificent chemical war inside the brain causing us to feel the way we do about another person. Famous poets Lord Byron and Shelley would argue that it is beauty that makes us feel love but isn’t it in fact love that opens our eyes to what’s truly beautiful about a person. Many would agree that love is blind but if this is so, how can it have the ability to allow us to see and feel things untouched by any other emotion. The only way to describe it that genuinely serves it any justice at all is to say love is magic. It has the power to make any given person do extraordinary things, the ability to transform or destroy anybody completely all in one emotion, one thing is for sure, it gives people a greater purpose for existence, a reason to live and die for, something beyond themselves to devote their life to. These constructions of love are repeatedly promoted in two of the most well known novels of the Victorian period, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte and A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens.
‘She walks in beauty, like the night, Of cloudless climes and starry skies; And all that's best of dark and bright, Meet in her aspect and her eyes: Thus mellow'd to that tender light Which heaven to gaudy day denies.
One shade the more, one ray the less, Had half impair'd the nameless grace Which waves in every raven tress, Or softly lightens o'er her face; Where thoughts serenely sweet express How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.
And on that cheek, and o'er that brow, So soft, so calm, yet eloquent, The smiles that win, the tints that glow, But tell of days in goodness spent, A mind at peace with all below, A heart whose love is innocent!’ (Lord Byron, She Walks in Beauty)
Lord Byron, a famous poet from the 17-1800’s, frequently promoted love as being linked to appearance and beauty, judging from his poems where whenever he would talk about love he would either be describing a beautiful women or the beautiful features of a women of his desire. There’s no doubt that these poems were popular and appealing to the public, however, whether they are true or not is a different story all on its own. Both novels, Jane Eyre and A Tale of Two Cities correspond and contradict this idea of love. For example in Dickens’ work Lucie Manette is made to be an object of innocence and beauty, she’s very pretty yet she’s virtuous, she’s very generous and kind, willing to give her time to help anyone in need of her help, including her father whom she nurses out of insanity after he is freed from the Bastille. The fact that Dickens made the ‘leading lady’ of his novel this way, shows that he believes what’s on the ‘inside’ is just as important if not more, than the appearance of a person. These same ideas are portrayed in Bronte’s work, but in her version the roles are reversed, as she makes Rochester very handsome also giving him a particularly strong magnetism to his personality. People, more specifically women, are drawn to him, and to Jane his most prominently attractive feature is his eyes, which have been said to be, by many, ‘the window to the soul’, so what does this mean? Does the fact that he has smouldering eyes mean that he has a beautiful soul, or does it work the other way around, maybe it goes hand in hand but the author making this distinctive statement about eyes alone, shows that this is of particular significance. Jane, however, is described as rather plain, so if Bronte didn’t believe the same as Dickens why would Rochester be so drawn to her, fall in love with her so easily and refuse a superficially beautiful woman in order to have Jane instead. Both novels agree to the fact that beauty is sometimes an aspect...
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