Who hasn’t heard of Romeo and Juliet?
This tale, the most famous play by the most popular English playwright, is perhaps the most widespread work of literature in the English language. Almost everybody loves it. Why? Because it tells a story of forbidden love between the youngest members of two families that are equally powerful but can’t stop fighting against each other. Yet, these two teenagers decide to defy the rules of their houses and their state just to practice their own freedom. This is why we find the tale so fascinating: it’s about how the young decide to raise the middle finger to social conventions in order to practice their own free will and fulfill their desires. By the end of the play, however, the forces of chance and the nasty feud between their families leads the protagonists to their own demise. Nevertheless, as an audience, the ending of the tragedy makes us ask ourselves, why does society forbid certain kinds of love? Is there really any sense to this type of social norms? Well, the following books also lead us to ask these questions.
Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
Falling in love with a handsome army captain doesn’t sound like such a bad idea. Unless you’re the wife of an aristocrat from pre-industrial Russia. Tolstoy’s lengthy novel delves deep into the darkest side of love, marriage, and freedom. It presents the contradictory lives of characters who yearn to live freely but become oppressed by the rigid and contradictory structures of their archaic society.
The Music, Yukio Mishima
Sometimes we can’t remember the events that marked our lives, even the most profound of our romances. What would happen if you got involved in an affair so forbidden that, after repressing your mind, it completely numbed your sense of pleasure? This is what happens to Keiko, a beautiful Japanese maiden who’s forgotten the affair that changed the course of her life and who uses psychoanalysis to put the pieces of her memory together. Could her past be so dark that it justifies how dull her body has become?
Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf
The brilliance of Woolf’s novel comes from how she manages to entwine two apparently disconnected lives through the power of chance, as well as by going deep into two parallel streams of consciousness. Mrs. Dalloway portrays not one but two forbidden affairs: one between two women and another one that’s out of wedlock. Woolf’s narrative makes us reflect on how the “high” moral standards of Britain in the twenties were only a fiction that repressed people from their own happiness.
Jayne Eyre, Charlotte Brontë
Work should never be mixed with romantic relationships, specially when you’re employed as a house governess by a dark gentleman with so many mysteries that he could fill a whole attic with them. The relationship between Mr. Rochester and Jane Eyre is bound to fail from the start: why would anyone date their employer? Besides the secret he hides only makes him a much less eligible suitor. Is a relationship worth the destruction of everything around you?
Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov
The relationship of Humbert Humbert, a man who’s almost 40 years old, and pre-teen Lolita is one of the most stomach-churning affairs in the world of literature. A love that is only a product of abuse of power, this forbidden relationship depicts why sometimes the worst thing that could ever happen is a man getting his wildest dreams fulfilled. It’s the kind of novel that makes you think why social norms exist, as it reflects on the twisted thoughts and paths a man’s mind goes through until becoming a perverted and unaware predator.
Ah, the intricacies of romantic love. Do you believe there's something that should really restrict it?