Classic Romantic Gestures
By Megan Powell, Hannah Spruce, Michael Calder, Lucy Carr and Dani Basina
With the comedown of Valentine’s Day, the classics team have devoted this feature to filling your romantic heart with some of the most memorable romantic gestures found in classic literature. It is worth noting that the notion of romance was defined differently at the time of these classic novels, with the gestures appearing very differently to expectations today. Be it Mr Darcy’s letter to Elizabeth or Heathcliff showing love through exhuming Catherine’s grave, the range is evident and we have decided to focus on some of our favourite gestures for some recommended reading for this week of love. Despite the difference in action, it is clear that love is an imperative theme that has been reproduced throughout literature, showcasing the power of the emotion and the need to follow your heart, as well as the numerous ways that romance can be depicted.
Jamaica Inn by Daphne Du Maurier
After the death of her mother, the unassuming Mary Yellan finds herself embroiled in a life of scandal and moral complexity while living with her aunt and uncle at the infamous Jamaica Inn. Mary forms a friendship with her uncle Joss’ younger brother Jem, who does not represent the traditional literary hero. Mary’s proximity to dangerous individuals, despite her courage, leaves her vulnerable to the male characters in the novel. Despite the less than romantic circumstances, Jem teaches Mary how to survive in this masculine environment and ultimately overcomes his moral conflicts in order to save her. There are no grand romantic declarations but instead, Jem’s care is rooted in the actions and sacrifices he makes to protect Mary.
Jamaica Inn is a novel which questions appearances; both Mary and Jem grow during the novel without compromising on their core values. Jamaica Inn is far from a romance novel but the affection between Mary and Jem is very grounded, despite their chaotic surroundings, and feels genuine without exaggeration.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
While Charlotte Bronte’s seminal project, Jane Eyre, may display an array of contentious romantic notions which pervaded the Victorian landscape, the novel thematically engrains romanticism within love immemoriam, soulmates and a destined bond. In their earliest moments, Jane and her employer, Mr Rochester, sense a connection. They are irrevocably drawn towards each other, but are separated by social norms and circumstances.
When Jane discovers that Rochester has already married, they must sever their ties and continue with their lives, but Jane Eyre and Rochester are a fated match, no matter the circumstances that befall them.
It can be seen, not so much within a gesture, but a moment of reconciliation. After their long separation, the pair reunite under strained circumstances but settle into an immediate ease and comfort. It is a revealing moment in the tragedy surrounding Jane Eyre and her unending search for acceptance and constitutes the realisation that an undeniable connection will prevail.
Persuasion by Jane Austen
The majority of Persuasion tells the love story between Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth through a lens of loss and regret. The novel is a lovers to haters to lovers narrative, filled with longing stares, frosty interactions and a lot of repressed feelings. However, when Elliot and Wentworth finally confess their buried-but-ever-constant adoration for each other at the end of the novel, it is all the more satisfying. Wentworth’s declaration of love to Anne in letter form is a beautifully written outpouring of affection. Since, at this point, he doesn’t know whether Anne still returns these feelings, the honesty and vulnerability of his declaration is apparent. If you have never read Persuasion, it’s worth reading just for this half-a-page of prose. When the narrator states “such a letter was not soon to be recovered from,” I felt that.
The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
The author often values their work as they value their life. Thus, when the Master finishes his masterpiece but is negatively accepted by critics he starts questioning and doubting his purpose. This uncertainty follows with his voluntary entry into a psychiatric ward.
Margarita is an unhappily married woman who becomes the Master’s lover and their separation is no easy task for both. The love between them is being challenged when the Master gets accepted in the ward. Margarita is drawn to do the unspeakable to save the love of her life – sacrificing her soul to the devil.
The novel includes many intriguing themes as those of good and evil, love and faith. The most beautiful representation of a loving gesture in the book, however, is exactly Margarita’s sacrifice for her one and true love – the Master.