9 Love Lessons Literature Has Taught Us

by Shmoop

1. Be Brave! Be Bold!

Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand

Just tell your crush that you love them! Don’t automatically assume that your crush won’t like you because of a certain feature or quirk that you deem to be “ugly” or “uncool.” If your sweetheart is worth your time, they’ll love you no matter what.

And, for the love of pizza, if you’ve got a way with words, don’t give them to someone who is trying to win your crush’s heart. Be brave! Be bold! Chase love down like it’s the last bus of the night!

Consider how scared the magnificent Cyrano is of telling Roxanne that he loves her. He thinks his large nose automatically takes him out of the game of love.

“LE BRET

Speak to her

Speak, man!

CYRANO

Through my nose? She might laugh at me;

That is the one thing in this world I fear” (I. 602-604)!

2. Variety is the Spice of Life

The Canterbury Tales: The Miller’s Tale by Geoffrey Chaucer

This story (found in the spicy Canterbury Tales) offers several lessons in love. For example, don’t believe anyone who tells you to tie a bucket to your ceiling and get inside of it, because they probably want to get with your spouse.

And, if you are trying to compete for the affections of a certain someone, don’t be too cavalier with your booty, or you might get prodded by a hot poker.

Perhaps the biggest lesson this story offers is that there are many versions of love, and sometimes a girl (or guy) needs a little variety in her life.

Here, our narrator tells us that some folks love money, some folks want a real lover, and others want romance.

“For some folk wol ben wonnen for richesse,

And som for strokes, and som for gentillesse”

(278-279).

3. Never Say Never

Emma by Jane Austen

Never say never to love. Emma, our lady hero, claims she will never marry. She prefers being the matchmaker, thinking of her town as a miniature Shakespeare play that she can control:

“There does seem to be a something in the air of Hartfield which gives love exactly the right direction, and sends it into the very channel where it ought to flow.

The course of true love never did run smooth—

A Hartfield edition of Shakespeare would have a long note on that passage” (9.25).

However, when she realizes that she loves Mr. Knightley, it’s no high school flirtation – she’s in it to win it, and will even compete against her best friend to get her man.

“Till now that she was threatened with its loss, Emma had never known how much of her happiness depended on being first with Mr. Knightley, first in interest and affection” (48.1).

4. Long-Distance Is Rough

Antony and Cleopatra by William Shakespeare

Long-distance relationships are tricky, especially when you are the ruler of a country and your honey is the ruler of another powerful country across the sea.Passion, power, jealousy, and lust form one explosive cocktail that ends in tragedy.

Mark Antony is one of the three rulers of the Roman Republic. Cleopatra is the Queen of Egypt.

Take a look at how this power couple copes with the blows of love:

ANTONY

“Egypt, thou knew’st too well

My heart was to thy rudder tied by th’ strings,

And thou shouldst tow me after. O’er my spirit

Thy full supremacy thou knew’st, and that

Thy beck might from the bidding of the gods

Command me” (3.11.56).

Antony’s love for Cleopatra forces him to follow her. She is the commander of his actions, even in the political and military arenas of his life, because of his overpowering love for her.

Cleopatra is one lovesick puppy, going over every detail about Antony in her mind. She even thinks about the horse he rides:

“CLEOPATRA

O Charmian,

Where think’st thou he is now? Stands he or sits he?

Or does he walk? or is he on his horse?

O happy horse, to bear the weight of Antony!

Do bravely, horse; for wot’st thou whom thou mov’st?

The demi-Atlas of this earth, the arm

And burgonet of men” (1.5.19).

5. Don’t Change for Love

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

Sometimes we feel like we have to change everything about ourselves in order to be cool enough to date a certain lady or dude. But, really, trying to be someone else will only lead us down a dark and spirally path of pain and torture. Plus, in the process of trying to be different, we hurt cool people like Joe Gargery.

Here Pip learns of how Joe has loved him, even though Pip has turned a cold shoulder to his brother-in-law:

“By degrees she led me into more temperate talk, and she told me how Joe loved me, and how Joe never complained of anything – she didn’t say, of me; she had no need; I knew what she meant – but ever did his duty in his way of life, with a strong hand, a quiet tongue, and a gentle heart” (2.35.40).

6. Love is Like the Sea

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

Our ability to love changes with every person we encounter and love. Love is an art, and it changes as we change.

Don’t take it from us, though – consider the words of the greatest love philosopher, Janie Crawford:

“Love ain’t somethin’ lak uh grindstone dat’s de same thing everywhere and do de same thing tuh everything it touch. Love is lak de sea. It’s uh movin’ thing, but still and all, it takes its shape from de shore it meets, and it’s different with every shore” (20.7).

7. Love Should Free You, Not Imprison You

Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison

Don’t lose your head to love. Love that overwhelms you and makes you forget who you are isn’t healthy or good. You’ve got to love yourself no matter what.

Take it from Guitar Baines who counsels the heartbroken Hagar in Song of Solomon:

“Love shouldn’t be like that. Did you ever see the way the clouds love a mountain? They circle all around it; sometimes you can’t even see the mountain for the clouds. But you know what? You go up top and what do you see? His head. The clouds never cover the head. His head pokes through, because the clouds let him; they don’t wrap him up. They let him keep his head up high, free, with nothing to hide him or bind him” (2.13.306).

8. Money Can’t Buy Me Love

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Obsessive love sucks, making us unable to do anything but think about a certain someone nonstop. Poor Gatsby. Try as he might to win back the love of his life, she won’t commit.

All the money and VIP rooms in the world won’t entice her, but that doesn’t stop him from trying to throw more and more beautiful things in her path.

He hadn’t once ceased looking at Daisy, and I think he revalued everything in his house according to the measure of response it drew from her well-loved eyes. Sometimes, too, he stared around at his possessions in a dazed way, as though in her actual and astounding presence none of it was any longer real. Once he nearly toppled down a flight of stairs” (5.112).

Why does Gatsby love Daisy anyway? Is she even nice to him?

9. Love is a Weapon

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling

The ability to love others is the greatest skill, tool, or gift anyone can have – it protects us. However, love requires trust, belief, and hope – all of which can be hard to muster when the going gets rough.

When Voldemort tells Dumbledore that he’s seen the world and has come to the conclusion that magic is far more powerful than love, Dumbledore tells him that he’s been looking in all the wrong places. Later, Dumbledore tells Harry,

“You are protected, in short, by your ability to love! […] The only protection that can possibly work against the lure of power like Voldemort’s!” (23.154)

One thought on “9 Love Lessons Literature Has Taught Us

  1. A most beautiful, suspenseful duet of opposites thrown together in the persons of Greta and Dayne, were-cat and sorcerer. I’m not toofamiliar with this paranormal genre, but Ms Winters provides all the necessary exposition without drawing attention to it. I enjoyed the focus being primarily on just two people who aren’t quite sure of each other’s feelings and motives. Ms Winters didn’t go for the epic sprawl of army proportions, just a simple, yet compelling stage-play format I found extremelyrefreshing. Beginning with a brutal discovery, the implied danger provides plenty of fuel to sustain the character-driven, cat and dog dance that guides the reader masterfully through emotions, suspicions, and deductions that just don’t let up. Erotic and funny, KEPT kept me reading in one sitting. If you’re looking for a quick, satisfying read, I recommend KEPT.

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