Catasauqua Press

Friday, February 21, 2020

Public Library of Catasauqua: Examples of famous love stories to read for Valentine’s Day

Wednesday, February 12, 2020 by The Press in Columns

Some of us were lucky enough to have read and studied in school some of the world’s greatest tales of love and intrigue.

At the top of just about anyone’s list would be William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet.” Not as often taught, but close behind, might be Nathaniel Hawthorne’s treatment of forbidden love, “The Scarlet Letter.” It would be hard to find two more enduring tales of passion and its ultimate tragic consequences.

The years — make that centuries — have not dimmed the memory of any of those star-crossed lovers. From feuding families are the lovers Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet. From a repressive society are the passionate Hester Prynne; her unfortunate husband, Roger Chillingworth; her paramour, the Puritan Minister Dimmesdale; and the child, Pearl.

Nor is the literary importance of either novel any less today than yesteryear.

Those of us who were very lucky to have been required to read Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” learned much about the social considerations and pitfalls along the road to marriage.

If we were very, very lucky, we were introduced to the Russians and their darker portrayals of love and the consequences of bucking society’s morals and norms so brilliantly expressed by the celebrated Boris Pasternak and Leo Tolstoy in “Dr. Zhivago” and “Anna Karenina,” respectively. The Russians are more reminiscent of Hawthorne than Shakespeare.

Many popular, contemporary American novels of love lost, gained and lost again are also universally acknowledged for their content and style.

“Gone with the Wind” by Margaret Mitchell sets the love story of Scarlett and Rhett in the old South and the Civil War. “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald tells the story of the obsessive love of Jay Gatsby for Daisy Buchanan and is the most taught book in American education.

Not so much as great literature but certainly for sheer emotion, there are the very popular Nicholas Sparks novels, especially “The Notebook.” And, teenage love may be no better remembered than by John Green’s “The Fault in Our Stars” and Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight” series, the first so tragically and the latter so uniquely.

Right about now, you have probably noticed that, with the exception of the novels of Jane Austen, the truly great love stories that have stood the test of time are not especially “and they lived happily ever after” stories. You may well ask: What do the experts have to say about romantic love, about being in love, specifically about being in a happy, healthy, loving relationship?

Two works come to mind. In 1992, John Gray, Ph.D., psychologist and certified family therapist, published the blockbuster, best-selling “Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus.” Considering the title, is there any hope for us mere mortals?

Perhaps psychoanalyst Eric Fromm summed it up best in his groundbreaking 1956 work, “The Art of Loving,” when he said, “Love is the only sane and satisfactory answer to the problem of human existence.” Yes, indeed.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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