The History of Forbidden Love

By The Elm - Sep 30,2012@8:59 pm

By Val Dunn
Staff Writer

As promotion for the final -thank goodness- installment of the Twilight movies begins to infiltrate my life, I have to wonder why I must continue to endure the franchise. Why was the book series popular in the first place? The answer is quite simple and perhaps less cynical than I would suspect from myself. People enjoy forbidden love.

I will spare you an analysis of the poorly construed pro-abstinence propaganda of which Stephenie Meyer has so often been accused. Instead, I’ll turn to the overwhelming theme of forbidden love in Twilight. Bella herself recognizes this element of drama in her relationship with Edward, comparing them to the central romance of “Wuthering Heights,” much to the chagrin of the reading world. Bella, at the beginning of the series, is a human. Edward is a vampire. Thus, they are separated by ethics, species, and ultimately time as Edward will live forever while Bella grows old and sad and dies.

Though I will not repeal my harsh criticism for the young adult novels, and yes I have read all four books, I will admit that, I too, am susceptible to forbidden love. Though I neither Team Edward nor Team Jacob, I am all for love affairs filled with difficulties. “Anna Karenina” sits on my bed, and at page 158 of 754 I can assure you that I am not reading the novel for love of the verbosity of Russian prose. I continue to read because I ache for Anna, a woman who falls inconveniently in love and must face the social and emotional consequences of her desires.

But the appeal, for me at least, must go deeper than sympathy or empathy. For instance, I was nearly appalled with my love for Vladimir Nabokov’s “Lolita” when I read the novel last spring. How could I justify enjoying reading about a man in his thirties lusting after his preteen stepdaughter? I couldn’t justify the relationship and I realized I wasn’t supposed to. Rather, I gave in to the seductive language of Humbert Humbert.

“I looked and looked at her and knew clearly as I know I am to die, that I loved her more than anything I had ever seen or imagined on earth, or hoped for anywhere else,” Humbert Humbert says of his darling “Lolita,” and I melt reluctantly. As many hail Nabokov’s novel as one of the masterpieces of modern literature, I am relieved to know that I am not alone in my enthrallment with such an all-consuming passion.

If the history of literature has proven our fascination with forbidden love, it is time to ask why do we continue to turn to forbidden love? Wouldn’t it be more fulfilling and gratifying to read about a normal guy and a normal girl who date with minimal turbulence and eventually get married and live happily ever after? I say no, absolutely not. Bring on the interracial, the homosexual, the star-crossed, maybe even the interspecies romance.

When I open a novel, I don’t want to read something simplistic because life is not simplistic. Even a heterosexual couple of the same race and same socioeconomic class and same species is going to have a relationship fraught with complications. So literature must reflect that. No, the obstacles that a real life couple must overcome will not often involve sucking her blood to save her and the mutant baby. But conflict in literature heightens the consequences, the passion, and, ultimately, the reader’s enjoyment.

The Elm

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