The Bible speaks of love as a set of attitudes and actions that are far broader than the concept of love as an emotional attachment. Love is seen as a set of behaviors: “Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm; for love is as strong as death, it’s jealously unyielding as the grave. It burns like a blazing fire, like a mighty flame. Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot wash it away. If one were to give all the wealth of his house for love, it would be utterly scorned.” (Song of Solomon 8: 6-7)
Setting the quote beside Faulkner’s A Rose for Emily, we see their differences stand out in stark contrast. The love as it exists in the story is very different from the love that the Bible talks about. In fact, they are polar opposites. While the love that the Bible talks about is steadfast and willing to fight, in does so in a manner that is reasonable and upright.
The Bible speaks of an ideal love that is lucid, even as it enduring and powerful. The love that is portrayed in Faulkner’s story is a destructive obsession that drove the main character to commit murder. Emily’s deep loneliness stems from a childhood deprived of a loving home. Emily did not want for material things, but there was no warmth in her home. And she grew up longing for a genuine connection with another person. That is why she fell madly in love at the first man she had met. (Faulkner, 2002)
Looking at Emily’s story, I wonder if she really fell in love. Can love ever spring from a place of fear? While I cannot fault Emily for it, she was desperately afraid of being alone. She was willing to embrace the illusion of love, and hold on to it nail, tooth and claws. And when the man she wanted did not return her feelings, Emily did not let him go. Rather than face the truth and move on, Emily killed the man she “loved,” and carried the secret to her grave.
I think that reflecting on the love that the Bible talks about is important. Indeed, true love fights and is enduring and passionate. But love should always bring out the best in us, not drive us to madness like what happened with Emily. We all fall into the illusion of love, because like Emily, most of us are so afraid of being alone. But love in its purest sense can never come from a place of fear. In such cases, love mutates into a dangerous obsession that can drive us to commit desperate acts.
True love is always self-sacrificing. When you are in love, the welfare and happiness of your loved one always comes first. There is no room for revenge or spite for those whose hearts love deeply and purely. It will fight for true love and let go if that is what is necessary to make our loved ones happy.
Bible. Song of Solomon. 8:6-7. NIV.
Faulkner, William. “A Rose for Emily.” Literature: The Human Experience. 8th ed. Ed.
Richard Abcarian and Marvin Klotz. Boston: Bedford, 666–672. 2002.