Love: How Is It?

Amrita Sarkar English 1B 19th September 2012 Love: How Is It? Life has lots of emotions: happiness, sorrow, guilt, frustration, love, and so on. Love is the one emotion which brings in huge changes in our lives and a different kind of emotion begins with it. How can we describe it? Describing love is very hard because in every phase of life, characterization of love can be varied. In childhood, through romantic films and stories, we started to get feeling that love is passionate and when people will be going through it, life would be full of happiness.
In adulthood, people’s perception about love might change. Those who are fantasizing about love realized that it is not only about physical attraction but also about relationship, responsibilities and companionship. When ages grow, some people become optimistic about love, some become pessimistic and some of them are on a way to rediscover love. Definition of love can be changed not only with one’s maturity level but also with his/her cultural values.
In Raymond Carver story – ‘What We Talk About When We Talk About Love’ – the main protagonists Mel and Terri, and Jhumpa Lahiri’s creation – ‘Going Ashore’ – soon to be married couple, Hema and Navin, had enough knowledge about love but they could not still fully realize it. So, they are on their ways to discover the essence of love. Mel-Terrie and Hema-Navin, all four are mature persons. Individually they all previously experienced love. In ‘What We Talk About When We Talk About Love’, Carver described that Mel and Terri had unsuccessful marriages in the past. Terri’s marriage with Ed was abusive.

But Terri claimed that Ed was possessive but loving husband. As a proof, she said about Ed, “He beat me up one night. He dragged me around the living room by my ankle”. Even with this aggressive behavior toward her, Ed “… kept saying ‘I love you, I love you, you bitch’” (Carver 722). On the other hand, Mel and Marjorie also had a bad marriage. After they ended their relationship, there was no feeling left other than hatred toward each other. Mel expressed his feeling by saying, “There was a time when I thought I loved my first wife more than life itself. But now I hate her guts…” (Carver 725).
In ‘Going Ashore’, Navin also went through short-term relationship in the past. But his fiance, Hema, was in a strong, long-lasting relationship with Jullian. Hema was dedicated to the relationship for a decade, but Jullian failed to give her a secure life. Hema’s insecurity about her position in Jullian’s life and her urge for stability were the reasons to end their relationship. She declared to Jullian, “I’m engaged to be married” (Lahiri 626). After rocky relationship in the past, now everybody is in a new phase of life, but it seems two couples could not connect with each other.
Hema and Navin, like many other Indian couples, were going to get married on their parents’ will. Hema was brought-up in western culture. She could not make her mind to marry Navin by such an old approach. She was self-conflicted and her conflict was evident in this quotation, “she refused to think of it as an arranged marriage, but knew in her heart that that was what it was” (Lahiri 625). She did not bother to wear engagement ring. When people asked her about it she promptly answered, “I don’t have one. ” (Lahiri 634).
Hema and Navin’s marriage looked as if they were with each other just for search of stability and companionship in life. Heme was unsure about their marriage even when Navin was planning for their honeymoon and future. Taking decisions about future are required involvement of both partners. They two were so unknown to each other that they could not read each other’s mind. Carver, on the other hand, described Mel as a cardiologist by occupation but he was clueless and emotionless about love. Mel and Terri were married for five years, but they had not been discovered essence of love and companionship.
Mel thought that “real love was nothing less than spiritual love” (Carver 722). He also considered that if “something happened” to his partner, then “the other person, would grieve for a while, you know, but then the surviving party would go out and love again, have someone else soon enough” (Carver 725). In contrast, Terri was fantasizing about her past and wanted to convince other that her ex-marriage was also blissful and passionate. She portrayed Ed’s aggression as love and said to others that, “… he loved me” but “In his own way maybe…” (Carver 722).
It seems very strange when two people were in bonding like marriage but they talked about their ex, how much they loved them, scope of future new relationship, and their failure to understand one another. These incidents indicated that how much they were detached to each other. Bonding between them was very fragile. In most relationships across the globe, one element is very common – male dominance. The stories about these two couples were also not different. Both characters, Mel and Navin, were highly educated. They were financially stronger than their spouses and were controlling their relationships.
In a party at their place with friends, when Mel said to Terri to “Just shut up for once in your life”, it expressed his supremacy in their marriage. Mel verbally abused Terri in front of guests, but she did not protest. In the ‘Going Ashore’, Navin was also controlling in taking mutual decisions. He was contemplating for a baby all by himself and cancelled their honeymoon plan at Goa. During those plans, he did not care to know about Hema’s wishes. From portrayal of characters and incidents, we got an idea that in Mel-Terri’s relationship, Terri was more dependent on her spouse.
She was still abused verbally by Mel. But Hema, a PhD scholar and a lecturer at Wellesley College, was more independent. She had total control over her life. Her decade-long relationship with Jullian makes her stronger. At the age thirty seven, when biological clock was ticking away, her parents wanted to see her get settled and she also wished for it. Hema belonged to Indian society where arrange marriage is very common. So, she agreed to go for her marriage by her parents’ choice. From Carver’s description, we did not get any indication about Terri’s education background and job status.
Mel’s attitude toward her showed that her character was weaker than Hema. Jhumpa Lahiri’s “Going Ashore” portrayed its characters whose origin was in India but they were immigrants to America and adopted western culture. In India, people have different values than we find in America. Indian culture believes that person should sacrifice for relation. People in India are motivated to reform themselves to strengthen relationship and to respect it lifelong. Hema and Navin were getting married by knowing each other only for few months. In between her wedding with Navin, Hema was attracted to Kausik at Rome.
Their bonding was great but they did not commit to each other because of family values. Family was very important to Hema – that was why she asked her parents to find a suitable groom for her. Thus, Hema’s parents found Navin for her and she also believed that Navin was probably a suitable guy for her too. In Indian culture, marriage is an institute which also creates bonding between two families. Hema and Navin were taking risk to know each other and to spend their lives together by getting married for the sake of their families.
In contrast, Mel-Terri was started dating when Terri’s was still married to Ed. And Mel ended his marriage with Marjorie, despite the fact that they had two children. Their family bonding was very feeble. Mel had not even understood value of selfless love and stable relationship. When two people were deeply in love with each other, he thought this emotion was hilarious and phony. Through the representation of ‘What We Talk About When We Talk About Love’, we feel pessimistic about love but ‘Going Ashore’ is hopeful about new beginning.
Jhumpa Lahiri and Raymond Carver also give us different views of love that changes with cultural background. In American culture, people give emphasis to their sentiments rather than family values. Lahiri shows us different angle of relationship. But both stories show us that dominance toward women is present in every part of globe and in every form of relationship. After reading these stories, we get different views of love, from which I realized that we should respect our partner and care for their thoughts.
We, also, should give them equal space for healthy and better future relationship. Both the stories, ‘What We Talk About When We Talk About Love’ and ‘Going Ashore’, show us new direction and help us to review our bonding with near and dear ones. Works Cited Carver, Raymond. “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. ” Making Literature Matter. 5th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2012. 721-30. Print. Lahiri, Jumpa. “Going Ashore. ” Making Literature Matter. 5th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2012. 622-46. Print.

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