When asked what I thought the greatest love story in literature is, I balked, as
I know little of love and have read only so much literature. So, armed with only
my sophomoric notions of romance and limited literary sources to draw from, I
first settled on Romeo and Juliet. An obvious choice. First love. Doomed love.
Beautiful writing. But this tragedy as the greatest love story? These two
children running amok in their parents’ houses, throwing hysterical fits? If
this is the greatest love, I want nothing to do with it.
What about Anderson’s The Little Mermaid–she sacrificed everything to be with
her love, only to sacrifice her life for his happiness.
This can’t be it, either.
Dante walks through hell and back (and beyond, if you want to get technical),
always thinking of his Beatrice, but I want something that ends happily.
So Jane Eyre is out (Rochester is a grotesque dyspeptic at best). Tess of
D’Urbervilles never had a shot. Nothing by Dickens can even be considered.
That leaves me with Pride and Prejudice–surely the dialogue and plot secure its
position as the greatest love story. But is this satisfactory? Rich man saves
witty woman from poverty, and she in turn saves him from a life of echoing
dullness? No. I love Elizabeth, and Darcy is unforgettable, but even these two
are not epic enough to be the greatest.
And what’s with all the Brits? Isn’t there romance here in the colonies? There’s
Gatsby’s racketeering and yearning for Daisy, which doesn’t work out for anyone,
and we cheer when Holly Golightly chooses not to choose. Can’t mention Humpert
Humpert’s love for his nymphet without someone calling the child protective
services. The Princess Bride came to mind, but I can’t bring myself to elevate
it above a child’s adventurous fairytale.
To be the greatest love story, for me, there must be a meeting of the mind and
body, a conflict overcome not by violence and desperation, a happiness
sustainable not only through its own beauty, but through a kismet of kindred
spirits. In short, I want it all: destiny & free will; adventure without
life-threatening drama; a meeting of the minds, and an irresistible attraction
of the bodies.
What I’m saying is, I want Much Ado About Nothing. Beatrice and Benedict. They
laugh. They spar. They challenge each other’s opinions. They drive each other
crazy. And they love every minute of us as much as we do, whether they admit it
or not. Their happiness is as secure as their own sense of self, and ultimately
where they challenged each other, they complement each other. So, for me, this
is the greatest love story–two people already content, already equipped to live
their lives successfully and fully, finding each other and allowing themselves
to fall in love. Separately, they were exceptional, but together, they are
Shelley aka Chloe, Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences