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Love in Literature

By Linda Ulleseit
February 3, 2020

HAPPY FEBRUARY–THE MONTH OF LOVE.

Valentine’s Day, whether you love it or hate it, dominates this month much like the theme of love dominates literature. Love is a powerful emotion, one that drives many other powerful emotions like hate, greed, and grief–all of which are also popular themes in literature. Romantic love, of course, has its own genre in literature as well as its own holiday. I would go so far as to say, though, that every novel ever written has love at its core in some form.

Forbidden love pits characters against odds that seek to destroy their relationship. A classic example of this type of love is Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare, which features love between warring families. One of my favorite books with forbidden love is Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough. You know from the beginning that falling in love with a priest is not going to end well. In Young Adult literature, Cinder, by Marissa Meyer, is a futuristic Cinderella story. As you know by now, my novel The Aloha Spirit comes out in August of this year. In it, the main character falls in love with her husband’s relative. 

Family love inspires stories of relationships between parents and children, or between siblings. Everyone knows that family relationships can be tricky, and that makes a great foundation for a story. A classic here is One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabrial Garcia Marquez. The twists and turns of the Buendia family over seven generations spotlight every aspect of family. The Joy Luck Club, by Amy Tan, also deals with generations of family. In Young Adult literature, Wonder by R.J. Palacio, features a loving family dealing with a disfigured son’s growth from shame to hero. Different types of love can appear in the same book. In The Aloha Spirit, Dolores marries into a large Portuguese family in Honolulu. Their support system gives her strength.

Unrequited love goes a step beyond forbidden. In this case, the love may not be forbidden. It’s just not returned. The most famous example here is Gone With the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell. In this novel, everyone pines for someone they cannot have. The Young Adult novel Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins, has Peeta loving Katniss while her attention is constantly on something else. This is a popular theme in YA literature, so I’m going to give you another one–Looking for Alaska by John Green, where Miles’s crush on Alaska only worsens the usual pressures of growing up. In Aloha Spirit, the only unrequited love is what I mentioned above in forbidden love. In a very large family, the nephews are often the same age as their uncles, like Alberto, in love with his uncle Manolo’s wife. 

Friendship may be the first love outside family that young people experience. Associated with strong bonds as well as betrayal, the love between friends can lift up a character or drive them to despair. A classic example is Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, where a band of unlikely friends have to work together to save the world. In Young Adult literature, the bond between whiz kids in The Mysterious Benedict Society, by Trenton Stewart, develops as they solve problems to save the world. In Aloha Spirit, Dolores relies on her friendships with Maria and Ruth to give her strength as she deals with her problematic marriage.

WHAT OTHER TYPES OF LOVE DO YOU SEE IN THE BOOKS YOU READ? HAVE YOU READ ANY BOOKS THAT DON’T HAVE LOVE IN SOME FORM CONTRIBUTING TO THE MAIN THEME?

Linda Ulleseit
Written by Linda Ulleseit

Linda Ulleseit writes award-winning heritage fiction set in the United States. She is a member of Historical Novel Society, Women’s Fiction Writers Association, and Women Writing the West as well as a founding member of Paper Lantern Writers. Get in touch with her on Instagram (lulleseit) and Facebook (Linda Ulleseit or SHINE with Paper Lantern Writers).

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