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Comparison Between Two Love Stories: Of Mice and Men and Romeo and Juliet

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 0 0

Love is described as an affection for somebody such as a close friend or partner, or for something as general as a place, ideal, or an animal. Although love is considered a powerful and meaningful emotion, far too often it is frivolously used in society. Love can be used to describe a feeling towards anything as irrelevant as a pen or a chair: "Oh, I love your new shoelaces!" The Greeks, in order to classify love and gain the ability to distinguish between different variants of love, developed four words. Eros (rws), an erotic and sensual love; stergo, a parent-child love; philia (jίlia), a brotherly love; and agape, selfless love where nothing is expected in return. William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet and John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men are both love stories, but while Shakespeare's is concerned with eros, Steinbeck's book is a story of philia.

Romeo and Juliet is a love story, the love being depicted as Eros (rws), a selfish and erotic love. Romeo's love for Juliet is selfish because he desires only to be with her and is willing to reject his own family; as his friend Benvolio comments, "Blind is his love and best benefits the dark" (II i 35). He has a strong infatuation for her, and he will do anything to satisfy his longing for her. Romeo and Juliet are two young people and are children of two different feuding families, the Montagues (Romeo's family) and the Capulets (Juliet's family). Romeo puts everyone around him in potential danger as a result of the passions of the families who are in conflict. Juliet's love for Romeo is selfish as well. Juliet at one point even tells him, "Deny thy father, and refuse thy name" (II ii 36). Therefore, they are both willing to give up their families in order to be with each other. Juliet and Romeo are both reckless and drunken with their love for one another, true indications of an eros form of love.

Also In Romeo and Juliet, the Capulets and Montagues do not understand the depth of the emotion between the two lovers. Eros is a wild and fiery love, and the public cannot fathom how they have a love for each other while the families are in such a state of intense hostility. Romeo and Juliet have the eros love while the families have the total opposite: a burning hatred. The public cannot appreciate it and sees them as fools for acting against their families. Nobody but the two people involved in eros can truly value what their love is. Only the lovers themselves can fully understand their private reality. For instance, the Nurse, who understands respects Romeo and Juliet's love, requests that Juliet marry Paris instead because "I think you are happy in this second match,/ for it excels your first, or, if It did not,/ your first is dead, or 'twere as good he were/ as living here and you no use of him" (III v 235-238). Even Juliet's trusted confidant refused to support Juliet's love because she does not understand the nature of the love itself, because it blossomed out of an immense hate. The nurse would rather have her be with Paris, whom Juliet does not truly love, rather than be with Romeo, whom Juliet loves but is the hated enemy. Essentially, nobody truly understands the love which Romeo and Juliet share.

Of Mice and Men is a love story in which love is depicted as philia (jίlia), because the love between George and Lennie is a brotherly, friendship-based love. George's relationship with Lennie is shown by George's self sacrifice to watch over and protect Lennie after his Aunt Clara's death. George feels less lonely with Lennie around. Even though George uses Lennie as the brawn to set and keep jobs, George shows compassion in the end when he builds the dream in Lennie's head after George has shot him. However, George's patience with Lennie is limited. "I ain't got no people. I seen the guys that go around on the ranches alone. That ain't no good. They don't have no fun. After a long time they get mean. They get wantin' to fight all the time. . . 'Course Lennie's a God damn nuisance most of the time, but you get used to goin' around with a guy an' you can't get rid of him." George doesn't necessarily enjoy Lennie's presence at times because his mental condition has caused them to lose their jobs and be on the run to find new work, but George still needs him. George loves Lennie like a brother or a companion in his life. Philia's indications in this text are the constant inseparability of the pair, and the sense of companionship and brotherhood which these two display amongst the feelings of frustration demonstrated by George.

Just as the public failed to understand the eros love between Romeo and Juliet, they also failed to understand the philia love between George and Lennie in Of Mice and Men. George and Lennie share a mentor-mentee relationship, even though the public assumes the nature of their relationship to be something entirely different. For example, their co-worker Curly is under the impression that the two are homosexual, and therefore explains their travels together. Although, Curly does not make trouble for them because of this, it demonstrates his misunderstanding of philia. For him and others, the love between two male friends is necessarily homosexual, but this is completely reducing what philia really is. Another co-worker, Crooks, assumes that George is just using Lennie for extra money, so nobody truly understands the philial love between the two companions. "'We travel together,' said George coldly 'Oh, so it's ... that way.' George was tense and motionless. 'Yea, it's that way'" (2.80-82). Philia is misinterpreted when it applies to two male companions, but it can be more accurately seen as another unique form of love. Unfortunately for George and Lennie, the public does not understand philial love.

In the final scenes of Shakespeare's play, Romeo and Juliet's love is the exclusive center of their lives, so much so that they are truly self-centered. Their failure to consider anybody but themselves leads to their deaths. This selfishness is a danger of wild eros love because it led to Romeo and Juliet selfishly dying for their eros love. In the ending of the other novel, George and Lennie's philial love was revealed as a brotherly and companionship-based love in which George shoots Lennie for Lennie's own protection, and selflessly sacrifices his relationship for the wellbeing of his companion. Romeo and Juliet die to be with each other, showing the selfishness of their lust and overwhelming fiery love which consumes the two of them, bringing both of them to the grave. They kill themselves for each other purely to be together in their burning love. As for George and Lennie, George shoots Lennie and kills him for Lennie's own wellbeing. Overall, George sacrifices his uniqueness as an individual by giving up his philia love for Lennie.

In Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men, and Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, both texts depict different forms of love, although neither text has the same definition of love itself. The two forms of love present in these texts are philia and eros, which reveal themselves through their misinterpretation by outsiders. Love is a burning emotion, and if true can last forever. However, it cannot be understood fully by the surrounding public, regardless of the circumstances of the relationship. Love can never die if true: if it is not true; then it is not meant to be. Even though the English term for love is sometimes used frivolously and imprecisely, the four Greek words more accurately capture the different varieties of love: a burning love, a brotherly love, a parent-child love, or selfless love between two people.


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