Essay on Helena's Definition of Love From a Midsummer Nights Dream

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University of Richmond
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Argumentative essay
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The theme of love in literary works is approached differently by various artists. One approach is despair by which the protagonist wishes for a love that can never be his or hers. Some artists approach it a weapon of destruction by which the protagonist suffers or dies while other artists approach it as a feeling that brings hope and peace to individuals. Shakespeares theme of love often affiliates with tragic events that often result in the death of the protagonists. Love can be described as a binding factor that brings people together and promotes harmony. However, people approach it differently and include expectations which make it difficult to benefit from it fully. The various perceptions are what influences Helenas view of love in A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare. She views love as a construct which is arbitrary in nature, and its expression tends to differ between genders (Shakespeare n.p.). Several literary works depict love similarly to Helenas viewpoint. Desirees Baby by Kate Chopin and I, Being Born a Woman and Distressed by Edna St. Vincent Millay presents male dominance and women having the ability to determine their position in love and relationships with respect to Helenas points of emphasis on love.

Helena is among the major characters in the play. She is also obsessed with Demetrius such that she puts emphasis on the unpredictable nature of love and the associated excesses (Shakespeare n.p.). Helena is fully aware that she is embarrassing herself when pursuing Demetrius but persists with the chase with the hope that the feeling will be reciprocated. From her view, she will still pursue Demetrius even if Demetrius mistreats her. She tells herself that love is blind and that Hermia is beautiful as her and hence Demetrius shift in feelings lacks a logical explanation. Demetrius had shifted from loving Helena to loving Hermia. The unpredictability nature is also exhibited by the two men attraction to her which is induced by the love portion. The interactions between her and the men illustrate that love may be influenced by man through magic such that it becomes blind, and illogical instead of being real. Love is viewed as a simple analogy that does not include the deep involvement of the trait of the characters which is exhibited by the weakness of Demetrius and Lysander. It is viewed that Helena can easily love Demetrius the same way as she loves Lysander as revealed in the conversation between Egeus and Lysander in Act I (Shakespeare n.p.).

Helena also includes the gender differences when it comes to demonstrating love that appears to displease women (Shakespeare n.p.). Women are viewed to lack the power to chase the people that they desire when compared to men who are free to pursue whomever they want. Women are left to hope that the men that they desire will notice them soon enough. Helena breaks the norm of being pursued by which she pursues Demetrius instead of being pursued by him. She chases him into the woods with respect to her feelings and hence making her the pursuer. Helena compares herself with Apollo by which his feelings for Daphne made him chase her into the woods (Shakespeare n.p.). However, Apollos intentions were chauvinistic in the sense that he wanted to rape Daphne instead of wooing her and comprehending whether Daphne feels the same or not. She uses the example of Apollo to illustrate the violence that men have always projected on women with respect to the norm on the pursuer and the one being pursued. Helena explains that chasing Demetrius makes her assume the role of Apollo, however, the individual who exhibits violence is Demetrius who explains that he will assault her if she does not stop chasing him. The woman, in this case, has to wait for the man she desires to pursue her and she has lived in constant fear of violence from men when she resists their advances (Shakespeare n.p.).

Helena believes that, for women to resist the violence and the norm on love, they have to combine forces. Helena is disappointed with Hermia and feels betrayed after Hermia joins Lysandra and Demetrius. The view is that the friendship between women should be stronger when compared to the love from men which is relatively uncertain. Helena and Hermia were friends from childhood, and hence she felt betrayed with Hermias involvement with the men. Nonetheless, due to the portion from Puck and Oberon, Helena wins back her love, Demetrius, while Lysander marries Hermia (Shakespeare n.p.).

Desirees Baby aligns with Helenas view that men have the choice to pursue whom they want to pursue as the women wait patiently to be loved. Armand loves Desiree from the time that she sees her such that he woos her and manages to take her in as his wife. His feelings and behavior seem to dominate Desiree in the sense that she is afraid whenever Armand exhibits any form of aggression. In other words, her happiness is determined by Armand. According to the story, When he frowned, she trembled but loved him. When he smiled, she asked no greater blessing of God. But Armands dark, handsome face had not often been disfigured by frowns since the day he fell in love with her, (Chopin 244). Also, when Armand noticed the change in the baby, Desiree had no choice but to leave as per Armands instructions (Chopin 245). The view is that women have no way when it comes to the continuity of marriage by which men determine whether a relationship is supposed to exist or not. Desiree has to obey his decision and hence explaining her departure. The story includes an unexpected ending by which Armand, who was extremely racist and subjected the blacks into hard labor, realizes the mistake he had done. He was the one with the African gene and not Desiree (Chopin 247).

The sonnet, I, Being Born a Woman and Distressed by Edna St. Vincent Millay, depicts the defiance of the norm that men are the ones who have a say when it comes to love and relationships. However, despite following different approaches on the place of women when it comes to love and relationships, Millay shares with Helenas view regarding gender equality when it comes to love. At the beginning of the poem, the speaker explains that she is a woman through natural means and not as per her choice in addition to the view that he is troubled. She approached the society at a time when women were viewed to be trivial and weak. In the third and fourth lines, the speaker explains that she is troubled because she desires a man who is close to her but the society expects her to behave like a lady and hence refraining from her desires. It is quite natural for her to admire the mans physical appearance and experiencing the lustful urge to be intimate with the man. The urges overwhelm her and the societal stand on women such that she is unable to control herself and becomes weak by which she becomes intimate with the man (Lines 4-5). Nonetheless, the speaker explains that she will never love the man despite her desires overpowering her rationality. The speaker states, Think not for this, however, the poor treason Of my stout blood against my staggering brain, I shall remember you with love, or season My scorn with pity, (Lines 9-12). From the speakers view, the passion between her and the man was a one-night stand and hence no reason for them to be intimate in the future. It can be viewed that the woman, in this case, has the choice of determining what she wants when it comes to love and relationships. She determines whether the intimacy should continue or not and hence not subjecting herself to the norm of men being the pursuers.

As stated earlier, Desirees Baby by Kate Chopin and I, Being Born a Woman and Distressed by Edna St. Vincent Millay presents male dominance and women having the ability to determine their position in love and relationships respectively with respect to Helenas points of emphasis on love. Helena views love to be illogical and blind particularly as it can easily be manipulated by man through magic. Helena also includes the gender differences that appear to displease women. The difference subjects women to men such that men are the ones who determine relationships and are free to woo whomever they please.

Works Cited

Millay, Edna St. Vincent. I, Being born a Woman and Distressed [Sonnet XLI]," from Collected Poems. Copyright 1931, 1934, 1939, (c) 1958 by Edna St. Vincent Millay and Norma Millay Ellis. Reprinted with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of Holly Peppe, Literary Executor, The Millay Society.

Chopin, Kate. Desirees Baby. Complete Novels and Stories (The Library of America, 2000), pages 24247. (c)2000 Literary Classics of the U.S., Inc. Originally published in the January 14, 1893, issue of Vogue and collected in Bayou Folk (1894).

Shakespeare, William. "A Midsummer Night's Dream By William Shakespeare". N.p., 2017. Web. 23 June 2017.

Shakespeare, William. William Shakespeare's A midsummer night's dream. New York: Infobase Publishing, 2010.


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