In a film called The Snake Pit, wherein Olivia de Havilland portrayed a mental patient, she demonstrated a difficulty loving, based on her relationship with her mother and father. Her mother was indifferent, and though her father was loving, when he sided with her mother, she grew angry with him. Then, when he died of innocuous causes, she felt guilt. She compared another man, named Gordon, to her father; and when he asked her to marry him, she felt a sick feeling, on account of that comparison to her father.
Eventually, she married a man named Robert Cunningham. She was fond of him; but after she fell mentally ill, she felt a passionate love for her doctor, which was more likely than not reciprocated. Yet she chose the love for Robert, because that was what was deemed normal and healthy. She said at the end of the film, when Robert asked her how she finally got well: “It was because I finally stopped being in love with Dr. __.”
Now, is this because letting go of those feelings allowed her to return to the state the world expected her to be in, or is it because the love for her doctor actually was an unhealthy one? I, for one, will never know.
Compare this tale to Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell (a book which, no doubt, will be featured in many more essays of mine). Look specifically at the story of Strange and his wife, Arabella. She was fond of him, surely – yet there was that comment about his long nose and his questionable disposition, which may have simply been made in jest, or which may have hinted at something less than true love. Then, after she returns from the hellish world of the gentleman with the thistle-down hair, consider her fondness for no one in the world but Flora Greysteel. Some might argue that this was because of Flora’s own connection to Strange; but personally, I think it was on account of a longing for what’s called “true love,” which Flora always longed for, too, but never found.
At the end of the book, when Strange is trapped in the darkness with Mr. Norrell, it’s said that he doesn’t ask Arabella to come with him – and that she doesn’t offer to go. Again, the meaning is ambiguous. Perhaps Arabella simply realizes she can’t do him any good; or perhaps she is actually in love with Flora Greysteel, and wants to remain with her for a few years longer.
Most people would say that’s ridiculous. But, you never know.
So – to sum it up. Olivia de Havilland, in The Snake Pit, chose the love that the world expected her to feel, because that’s what helped her to be “sane.” Then, in Jonathan Strange, Arabella promised to wait for Strange until he returned from the darkness, though I honestly believe that she would have rather been with Flora Greysteel.
Which leads us to the question: Is it possible to find true love in this strange modern world?
That’s all for now. In humble appreciation for your attention to my rambling thoughts, I say to you, “Merci.”