Saturday, 12 March 2016

Les Mis // my many thoughts on insta-love.

The Raven King comes out a fortnight today. This is not a drill.

I've been walking around for the past two weeks emitting occasional random squeaks of excitement when alone. Not joking. I have never been this excited about a book release.

And by excited, I mean gripped by awful and paralysing fear.

(Me most of the time.)
YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN.

In other news, I finished reading through my book today and started third drafting. I see it both as a painful and disgusting mess, and a masterpiece that I cherish in the deepest facets of my soul. And if you weren't nodding along to that sentence you've clearly never created anything.

On Thursday night I finished reading Les Mis.

I am feeling quite accomplished (I think it's the second-longest book I've ever read) and quite overwhelmed. It was magnificent. It was overblown and over detailed and at times meandering on pointless tangents. It was also beautiful, gripping, and startlingly readable. Sometimes Hugo would take a diversion -- the most notable being a gigantic description of the Battle of Waterloo -- and I'd wonder if we were going to make it out alive. Sometimes he would tell the story with such verve and mastery I was hanging off his every word.

Les Misérables truly is a great book and you should make time for it.

Today we're going to talk about love.

The love story in Les Mis the musical is one of the most flagrant examples of insta-love since Romeo and Juliet


The first time I saw the musical was as a school play, with predictably dodgy acting, and I don't remember Marius and Cosette and Eponine having much of an effect on me. Next time was the film in the cinema, and that time, dang, it hit hard.

At that point I was in the throes of my own Eponine debacle, and I connected to her a lot. I disliked Cosette immensely.

On subsequent viewings, of the film and onstage, and repeated soundtrack listening, I came round to Marius/Cosette quite quickly. Of course, I feel desperately sorry for Eponine, but I also think that A Heart Full of Love is an absolutely beautiful song, and I'm totally willing to suspend my disbelief regarding the whole love-at-first-sight thing. It's a musical, hello!? Everything is intense and sped-up and dramatic. That's how musicals work.

The book was a bit different.

I was hoping that, in book format, we would not have insta-love, and my wish was in one sense granted. Marius and Cosette see each other for, like, a year without noticing each other; she's fourteen and unattractive, and he pays her no attention. Then he's absent for six months, and when he returns, Cosette is fifteen and has become beautiful. (Because that's totally how it works.) Their eyes meet once, they go their separate ways; their eyes meet again the next day, and it's love at second sight.

I was unimpressed.

Like many a modern-day reader, my automatic response to insta-love is


I mean, to quote Elsa, you can't marry a man you've just met!" Love is based on far more than appearances or first impressions; a relationship must be based on personality and common ground. 

And yet: the physical aspects of love cannot be discounted.

I can think of at least three couples, now married, who profess to love at first sight. I can think of many, many others who profess to no such thing, but that does not discount the way it happens for some people. Let us glance through the realms of literature at a famous example or two.

“Oh, she doth teach the tortures to burn bright!
It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night
Like a rich jewel in an Ethiop’s ear,
Beauty too rich for use, for earth too dear.
...
Did my heart love till now? Forswear it, sight!
For I ne'er saw true beauty till this night."

(Romeo and Juliet, 1.5.42-51)

This is potentially the most famous love at first sight. Personally, I think these lines are absolutely beautiful, and, much like in Les Mis, I am fully willing to accept it. (Rom and Jul are my OTP.) Again, however, R&J is a play, and it intensifies the drama into a condensed, three-day affair which, I would argue, is not really meant to reflect real life.

A lot of people give Romeo grief for his instant love, and the fact is based wholly on Juliet's appearance. But think about this:

“You have captivated my heart, my sister, my bride; 
you have captivated my heart with one glance of your eyes, with one jewel of your necklace."

(Song of Solomon, 4:9)

You can argue with Shakespeare, but you can't argue with the Bible.*

If this isn't insta-love I don't know what is. I have recently begun to wonder if I've been too quick to condemn love at first sight in books etc; because the physical aspects of love are very real and they cannot be denied. We are made in God's image, and that doesn't only mean that we are creative, relational and capable of higher thought and understanding. It also means that we are beautiful, like all of creation. And it's all very well to get on well with someone, to be compatible and good together and share a love of cultivating geraniums ... but if you don't, for want of a better word, fancy each other, then that's called friendship. Friendship love is great. It's not the same as romantic love.

*I mean, you can, obviously, and many do, but I'm writing from a Christian perspective.

Now let's take a lot at Marius and Cosette themselves.

“The girl looked up at him and their eyes met.
... Rarely does it happen that a gaze such as this does not profoundly affect its victim. All purity and ardour is concentrated in that magical and fateful gleam which, more that the most calculated oglings of a coquette, has the power to implant in another heart the ominous flower, so loaded with fragrance and with poison, that is called love." (3.6.3)

Marius, it seems, is utterly passive; he is the receiver of The Look, in Hugo's words, “its victim." I have to say I take issue with this. He says “there comes a day when every girl has this look in her eyes, and woe to him who encounters it!", but that is not true. For one thing, not all girls look like Cosette, bewitchingly beautiful, and not all men are the passive victims of women. Whilst I liked Cosette as a character -- she is developed and likeable, unlike her portrayal in the musical -- in her Hugo displays a common trope in nineteenth-century novels: the deification of women.

“The masculine gaze must display even more reverence at the rising of a girl from her bed than at the rising of a star; the very possibility that she can be touched should increase our respect. The down on a peach, the dust on a plum, the crystal gleam of snow, the powdered butterfly's wing, these are gross matters compared with the chastity that does not yet know that it is chaste. A virgin girl is a vision in a dream, not yet become a thing to be looked at. Her alcove is buried in the depths of the ideal. An indiscreet caress of the eyes is a ravishment of this intangible veil. Even a glance is a profanation. Therefore we shall depict nothing whatever of the soft commotion of Cosette's uprising. According to an eastern fable, the rose was white when God created it, but when, as it unfolded, it felt Adam's eyes upon it, it blushed in modesty and turned pink. We are among those who are moved to silence by young girls and flowers, finding them objects of veneration." (5.1.10)


I'm not saying that's not a beautiful passage, because it is, and Hugo is a Great Writer, blah blah blah, but SERIOUSLY?! Girls aren't like that! They certainly aren't today, and I may not have been around in the nineteenth century but I'm pretty sure they weren't then, either.

I'm not saying you don't get nice girls, pretty girls, sweet girls, good girls -- but we're also messy and complicated and contradictory and cruel and vindictive and any number of imperfect things. Not all the time. But we are human. We sin. 

Marius seems unable to accept this -- Cosette is his whole life. Now, of course, love can blind us to the faults of the beloved, and a lover may see his one and only as perfect. This is normal! But Cosette becomes Marius' only reason for living; he forgets to eat, to sleep, to take care of himself; he obsesses over her, despite the fact they've never spoken, and lives day to day waiting for the moment when he'll see her. She is his everything, though he doesn't know her name. All else fades away. According to Hugo, he will literally die without her. This devotion, can it be anything other than religious?

This was the reason that I did not like Book Marius: he was completely passive. Hugo set him up as a Romantic and a dreamer and a Really Intense Feeler, and normally I'm all up for these things (they are my own qualities, after all), but Marius' Really Intense Feelings took control of him. He wasn't passionate in action; he was, in fact, a bit of a weed. (I mean, you'd DIE without her? REALLY?!)

I am all up for defending love at first sight, and I do believe that physical appearance can affect love. But Cosette becomes an idol, and I think this is ridiculous, and unhealthy.

What about sexual love?

I've been talking about Marius' physical love, in that it is love based on physicality; it is based on Cosette's beauty rather than her personality. And yet:

“Two beings composed wholly of chastity and innocence, bathed in all the felicities under Heaven, nearer to the angels than to men, pure, truthful, intoxicated and enraptured, shone for each other in the gloom. To Cosette it seemed that Marius wore a crown, and to Marius Cosette bore a halo. They touched and gazed, held hands and clung together; but there was a gulf they did not seek to cross, not because they feared it but because they ignored it. To Marius the purity of Cosette was a barrier, and to Cosette his steadfast self-restraint was a safeguard. The first kiss they had exchanged was also the last. ...

It was the first stage of their love, the stage where physical desire is wholly subdued beneath the omnipotence of spiritual ecstasy, Marius would have been more capable of going with a street-girl than of lifting the hem of Cosette's skirt, even to above her ankle. When on one occasion she bent to pick something up and her corsage gaped to disclose the top of her bosom, he turned his head away." (4.8.1)

I was interested in, and confused by, this. Sexual love, I believe, should stem from romantic love, and of course, I am overjoyed at Hugo's defense of sex after marriage. Equally, it is possible to feel attraction with no love involved; to like somebody purely for their appearance. I'm not saying you should have a relationship with this person -- you definitely shouldn't -- but you can fancy them just because they are, again for want of a better word, hot.

But can you really have romantic love without sexual love?

Again, I want to stress that I'm a Christian and I believe you should wait until after marriage before having sex. But God made sex for us, and we are physical as well as spiritual beings -- “this at last is flesh of my flesh," said Adam, showing that Eve was for him physically as well as emotionally. Therefore, whilst sex is for after marriage, to feel sexual attraction before marriage, for your boy/girlfriend, is the natural course of things.

How, therefore, can Marius and Cosette be existing in this “state of spiritual ecstasy", without even wanting to kiss?

Again, I think it comes back to Hugo's deification of Cosette. With her russet hair and dainty feet, she is a divine being, too revered to be touched. She is a Pure Perfect Virgin, and even the idea that her virginity could be desired would sully it. Take a look back at the passage I quoted: “An indiscreet caress of the eyes is a ravishment of this intangible veil. Even a glance is a profanation."

Excuse me whilst I'm sick.

A woman's worth does not come from what men think of her! Hugo implies that if a man desires her, it “ravishes" her; she is made impure by men's actions. This is not the case! I don't want you to think that I think that Hugo is a misogynist -- he is not, and his treatment of women, especially Fantine, whom as a prostitute society despises, is tender and loving. But, whilst Fantine the Prostitute can be pitied and cared for -- it is not, Hugo argues, her fault that she has to sell herself, but rather society's -- Cosette the Virgin must be worshipped.

Where does this leave us? I am not always out of favour with love at first sight. But I believe that it should be two-way, rather than the Holy Goddess and the Passive Devotee. Ultimately, I like Marius and Cosette's relationship -- which does develop throughout the book -- and I do not sniff at notions of true love, in which I believe. Moreover, I really really don't want to put you off reading Les Mis, which I did properly love, and if you'd like I may do another more general review (would you like that?). But in my reading of male-written nineteenth century novels, the deification of women is a trend I've noticed, and one I'm tired of seeing. I don't think you can put it better than Mulan does:


~***~

That was a bit of a ramble! (And I definitely used the word “sexual" far more than I ever thought I would on this blog.) What do you think? Insta-love: can you get on board, or do you shout KILL IT when you come across it? Have you read Les Mis? What are your thoughts on the musical? Also, on a scale of one to Mount Etna, how excited are you about The Raven King?

~***~

22 comments:

  1. I despise insta love, and I have never been able to get into Les Mis. So excited for the Raven King!

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    1. Well, you know where you stand! XD You should try it again, though, it is a cracking book.

      SAME! ~runs in circles~

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  2. This was a REALLY interesting ramble! We do get stuck on dismissing physical love, but it does play a part in relationships, so it's important to talk about. Thank you so much for sharing your insights!

    I feel inspired to read Les Mis, buuuuut maybe I'll wait until I finish my degree, haha.

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    1. You're welcome, I'm glad someone else found it interesting! XD

      You should! But yes, maybe wise ... !

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  3. I really need to catch up on Maggie Stiefvater things! I'm currently reading The Raven Boys and I absolutely love it! Way different than my first impressions of it a year ago. My mind is having a constant tug of war of either reading The Raven Boys or Lady Midnight...

    Oh Les Mis... One of my friends is utterly obsessed with it and I feel the need to read it, but I'm already drowning in responsibility as it is. And big books just scare me. XD Just look at The Order of the Phoenix, it's been 3 years and I'm still not done with it.

    I really like this post! Coincidentally, the topic of the different types of love we see in literature has been floating around in my head for the past couple of weeks. It's really interesting to see someone else's thoughts and I totally agree with what you said about physical love. It's really given me a lot to think about.

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    1. You do! That's so great, I'm glad to hear you've been converted ;) Ugh, you're going to be able to read all four without waiting, you lucky thing! But what's Lady Midnight?

      You should! You must! You shall! But THREE YEARS FOR OOTP???! I literally cannot book that down (well, maybe not quite literally, but you get me)! It was my fave last time I read them! Maybe you should start the series again to get your momentum going. (That's always my advice in any situation: just reAD ALL OF HARRY POTTER.)

      Thank you! I'm glad you appreciated it. I hope your thinking goes well :)

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  4. **INTENSE SCREAMING BECAUSE GANSEY'S FATE IS FRIGHTENING**

    BUT WOW I KNEW IT WAS COMING OUT IN TWO WEEKS BUT I DIDN'T REALLY *REALIZE* IT UNTIL YOU WROTE IT DOWN AND THEN I WAS LIKE, 'AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH."

    MMMM. Les Mis is a good musical, and I love the whole "faith" aspect of it, but it still stands behind Phantom on my favorite musicals list. lol. (Also, in my opinion, Michael Ball is the only guy who's played Marius in a way that doesn't make me want to shove him off a barricade. HIS VOICE THROBS.... Actually, if you can find the Symphonic version of it, with Michael Ball, Anthony Warlow (!!!!!) And Philip Quast as Javert, you really, really should. Anthony Warlow is the king of Broadway and his voice is insane and powerful and amazing and *faints* He's very hawt.)

    mmmm. I do actually believe in insta-love, just because... my Grandpa (Or Nono as we called him.) literally saw my Nona from across a cafeteria and went, "I'm gonna marry that girl." and he did, and they were happily married until he passed away.

    However, I think guys tend to get love at first sight more often than girls, and that's just something I've noticed.

    But I dunno, I think if God's created you TO BE with someone your whole life, then love at first sight makes sense, because your *souls* match. But I don't really think insta-love is real more than once. I have a hard time believing someone can "Fall in love" in the Christian sense of the word, more than once....

    I have no idea if that makes sense, but whatever, I'mma post it ANYWAY. :)

    (Also, WOW, congrats on reading the whole les mis book. like seriously, if I'm ever lost at sea I could use that book as a raft, it's so big.)

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    1. SAME, TRESKIE, SAME. I AM JUST EXISTING I AM NOT LIVING I'M JUST IN A STATE OF WAITING WAITING WAITING OH GANSEY MY GANSEY----

      It is a VERY good musical, my fave in fact! I love Phantom but ... Les Mis, man! I will look up said version it does sound hawt. But I love musical Marius! Book Marius was laaame but Marius in the musical seems to have actual conviction about what he's fighting for. And Empty Chairs ...... !

      Really? That's so cool! Yes, that's how it happened (at beach barbecues, rather than in cafeterias) for two of the couples I cited. Although, interestingly, it was the woman both times who thought “that's the dude I'm goan marry" ... and she did! But I agree, it makes sense that it would be the man more often? I think?

      Interesting. I kinda disagree, like just for myself I'm 17 and have been in love once and am not going to marry that person (that would be a plot twist!) so if I AM going to get married (which I hope I am) I'll have to fall in love at least another time. I have a hard time believing that there's only one person you could marry in the world. But yes, if you have that “that's the one I'm going to marry" moment when you see someone, that should not happen more than once or that'd be a bit awkward ...

      Thanks! I know, it is hefty XD

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  5. Very interesting post, Emily. I've never read Les Mis, but I recently watched the 2012 movie version which I had never seen before. I'm going to say that's my favorite movie adaption so far. Of the Marius and Cosette section, I thought Marius was the most interesting of that group of characters. For some reason, I've never really cared for Cosette one way or the other.

    For the most part, I could do without instalove. Very rarely it works for me.

    I CAN'T WAIT FOR THE RAVEN KING!! I'm sincerely concerned for Gansey's well-being.

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    1. I really like the film. Eponine affected me the most time, but I do love musical Marius. Cosette, though ... you have to read the book if you ever want properly to like Cosette!

      Same, but when it does ... ! <333

      ARAAGHHHH!!!!!!! So sincerely! D: D:

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  6. Les Mis is one of my favorite things in the history of the world, so this made me SO HAPPY.
    "You can argue with Shakespeare, but you can't argue with the Bible.*" - killed me. Though I don't argue with Shakespeare much, either <3

    ANYHOW. I agree with everything you said about the deification of women in Victorian novels. It was actually a *thing.* One of the prime examples (though it was actually written later) is Dracula. I find Dracula fascinating because we have Lucy, our stereotypically Victorian maiden ideal, who gets *ravished* by being turned into a vampire. And then we have Mina, who is smart and brave and kind of ahead of her time. She also gets *tainted* by Dracula, but she's able to overcome it to be far more awesome than basically the rest of the characters. In a way, it's like Stoker is pitting the Victorian zeitgeist against what he feels is a strong female character, and still somewhat failing.

    But you see it over and over again, my friend. In Les Mis, I was always so invested in the Valjean/Javert debate (and then the Enjolras and Grantaire comparison/contrast), that I basically ignored Marius and Cosette. However, I've also loved the musical for over a decade (ulp, makes me sound old), and I prefer Marius there, for the reasons you mentioned. Cosette is more of a character in the book.

    As for love at first sight - I'm a definite skeptic. But then, unless you count my unswerving devotion to certain songs or fictional characters, I've never been "in love" with anything. So I'm not a good test subject, lol. But instalove in books drives me batty - especially YA. Two teenagers who fancy each other and THINK they're in love make sense to me, on a psychological level. But when we readers are supposed to accept that they're in "everlasting love" in two seconds . . . Call me when you find unicorns, the sky falls, and dinosaurs living in the center of the earth, author. :) Even as a teenager, I never thought I was "in love" with people I just found attractive. There has to be more of a connection. Can people form instant connections, or recognize "kindred spirits," to quote Anne Shirley, maybe. I might buy that. Combine it with attraction, and we might have the closest thing to instalove. But I still think it's a dreadful mess in 99% of books.

    And now that I've hijacked your post with an epic-length comment, *applauds* you because I thought this was a great review of Les Mis, really well thought out and written, and a fascinating subject :) And what's the longest book you've read, by the way?

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    1. Same! And I'm glad it killed you (odd as that is to type!). I too am rarely to be found arguing with Shakespeare XD

      I've not read Dracula! But, wow, the *ravished* sounds like everything I cannot be bothered with in older books. I'm interested to hear about Mina and Stoker's subversion of stereotypes. I would like to read the book at some point (if only because it's such a major forerunner of the paranormal/horror genre).

      I do love musical Marius, because he actually cares about the revolution and his friends, whereas in the book he turns his back on politics as soon as meets Cosette and returns to the barricade only because, rather pathetic specimen that he is, he's convinced he needs to die without her. Before reading the book I was so excited for my favourite bits, for example Empty Chairs at Empty Tables, but that scene didn't even seem to happen! Marius was not at all affected, and I guess, in truth, he was never very good friends with the others in the first place, except for Combeferre. So yeah, book Marius didn't go it for me.

      I was interested in Grantaire/Enjolras, though, I really liked that. Enjolras made me quite sad, though. He was such an idealist and I guess he represented Hugo's ideals, and there's a bit where he makes this speech about the nineteenth century and how progress can only continue, and in the twentieth there'll be no war and no hunger and no suffering, and I just thought, what what Hugo say if he knew the truth? If he could see the World Wars, Stalin's Russia, Mao's China? If he could see the Middle East today? I guess Enjolras/Hugo were looking for heaven on earth, which isn't going to happen.

      I do love the Anne Shirley idea of kindred spirits! Although I think Montgomery totally plays with it -- how Anne thinks that because Diana is so beautiful, with the black hair and violet eyes Anne always wanted, she's also a romantic and a dreamer etc like Anne, whereas actually she's a lot more mundane -- I mean that in the nicest possible way, of course! -- thinking for example of Avril's Atonement and the baking powder competition XD

      I'm so glad you hijacked the post, thanks for such a long comment and for the follow, Rebekah! I'm really glad you liked it. And ha, I was wondering if anyone would pick up on that and ask! XD It's A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth.

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    2. I liked the whole Grantaire-Enjolras dynamic partly because it contrasted the ultimate idealist withe the skeptic/realist, even though they both had to eventually make a stand (and die for it). Enjolras is a bit of a John Lennon type, isn't he? (Well, the really Victorian version).

      I actually loved the book Dracula. It's better if you try to cleanse your mind of every bit of modern interpretations of the story though. Similar to Shakespeare, if you can go in just to read and experience it, you'll get a lot more out of it.

      <3 You're welcome :)

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    3. Ha, you could say that about him XD

      I would really like to read it at some point!

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  7. All your shrieking about The Raven King. Now I want to go read The Dream Thieves. But I've got so many books I have to finish first!

    That Mulan gif. Yes!

    I love what you're saying here, and it's super great for discussion purposes. (Do you know how hard it is for me to write discussion posts? My brain just dies on me.)

    So the insta-love, I'm not normally into it. I mean, to me love is a choice and commit, and that's not something a person ought to do on some whim (not saying that they won't. . .). BUT I would definitely agree with let's say crush-at-first-sight? Does that make sense? Like there's for sure attraction and probably some chemistry, but it's not fully developed. There's still room to grow and build, or to devastate and walk away. It's not fully committed, I guess? Because that happens.

    I do agree with what you say about sexual love and romantic love. The first ought to be a result of the latter. If it's just the first, then it's lust, not love. If someone has only sexual love for someone, then it's lust. Which is why I think so many people are angsty against insta-love. Because a lot of people think of love as sexual love, therefore insta-love can only mean lust since, come on, who actually gets to know someone with one glance? But there is a difference. And romantic love grows, you know? It grows from attraction to love, and after marriage there's sexual love, although it will probably be felt beforehand. But it would be weird if it didn't come to that, as in Les Mis (which I know nothing about beyond this post. . . don't disown me!). God did create it and He created it for us (obviously under the right conditions, gosh I say obviously, but I'm speaking from a Christian standpoint, although, to me generally speaking it just seems smarting to wait until after marriage. . .). It's just the natural growth of romantic love. And I think you're right about the reason why Hugo talks about it, the way he does. It's the deification of women. Which brings me to my next point.

    WHAT IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE?! I remember reading Othello and it made me so upset that Desdemona was portrayed as basically a goddess. It seems like that would be really stressful for women during that time. To be expected to act like objects of worship? To be perfect? I mean, in most nineteenth, eighteen century literature women are either the definition of perfection or women are the devil. Guys say that women are hard to understand now, but they were seriously confused a couple centuries ago. Even today, there are people who think that I'm "perfect." I'm one of the "perfect" children from the "perfect" family, and it drives me insane. Whenever I say or do something that doesn't line up with their opinion, their opinion doesn't actually change. They just get this look on their face that says they're confused, something in their brain isn't computing properly. It doesn't correlate with what they *think* they know (they know nothing). What's worse is these are people from church, people who ought to know better than to put humans on pedestals. Sometimes I feel like (I hope I'm wrong) I get it from my Dad too. All I hear is "you're such a blessing," "you're so beautiful." Which is fine. He's my dad; he's supposed to say nice thing, right? But when it's all I ever hear? I don't know. I'm ranting now. Sorry.

    But we women are humans too. We got souls just like everyone else, and souls have no gender. There's no gender differentiation in souls. Souls are all the same.

    Okay. I shut up now.

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    1. YOU SHOULD! YOU MUST! IT IS REQUISITE!

      That's my fave song ever XD

      I'm glad you like it! I'm always a bit nervous of discussion posts because I think I'm going to have no argument, but they normally go down pretty well. This one was just like an essay I might write (with a few more gifs, perhaps).

      Yesss, that is an important distinction. You have to make the choice. You never get the stories where the person thinks they've fallen in love and then realises they haven't! I have heard a story from someone whose friend met this guy and he came to up to her and was like “God's told me I'm going to marry you!" and she was like “I think not" and that was that XD

      I very much enjoyed those two big paragraphs! I sense I have opened something deep inside you that had to come out?! XD

      It's so hard to draw the line between lust and aesthetic appreciation, though, in my opinion. That's not just me, right?! Marius' insta-love is definitely not lust, because of the whole I Can't Touch Her She's Perfect thing, but obviously I don't agree with that, either.

      It would be so stressful! And I'm so sorry that you are, by the sound of things, similarly stressed. I can't say I particularly relate, at least not from a looks POV, but I understand what it's like to be from the “perfect" family! (My dad is on the ministry/preaching team so, yeah, I'm a church kid through and through.) I'm now thinking of this quotation I saw recently, I can't find it, but it was about “you're beautiful" not being the first compliment to give a woman, because it's not the thing that defines her.

      Whilst attempting to find it I did find this TFIOS quote:

      Hazel: Why are you staring at me?
      Augustus: Because you are beautiful. I enjoy looking at beautiful people, and I decided a while ago not to deny myself the simpler pleasures of existence.

      I guess that's what I was saying about the lust vs appreciation thing. Hence my Pinterest board Humanity, which could be renamed Pretty People ... I don't know. It's a tough area.

      Thanks for commenting! Also, Ashley, you are remarkable and unique and a wonderful writer, and a great friend to me and, I'm sure, many others, and you are also imperfect and have a shedload of sin in your life that I can't list because I don't know about it but I know it exists, and you are also beautiful but that is not what defines you. And if you bring all these aspects together do you know what does define you? Jesus. Which automatically means you're pretty cool.

      I shut up now also.

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    2. Yes, you did. :)

      That is such a hard line to walk. Lust vs. appreciation. Because there is a difference. It's okay to say that someone is beautiful or handsome. I mean, some people are obviously good looking (um, to the point that I don't even bother telling them?) God made them that way. He makes all of His creation beautiful and humans are no exception. We just can't cross that line to where we are making physical beauty all-important. Physical beauty is not the essence of a person. Because, we're souls. My frizzy hair and freckles are not me The database of my mind that knows 2+2 and how to drive a car is not me. It's my soul. It's the being inside that connects with God. And our physical appearance cannot compare to that soul God has given us each. There's nothing wrong with physical beauty and admiring it. It just holds no meaning for heaven. Does that make sense? And as you say, appearances do not define a person.

      Gah! Yes, I'm from that "perfect family." We've always been in church, my parents are leaders in church and some of us "kids" have often helped out too. Our pastor's wife has actually thanked my dad for our family? Multiple times. It kind of irritates me. Once I sat in my little sister's class (she's like thirteen) and the topic was sibling relationships. The instructor was talking about sibling arguments, then she looked at us and was said, "Not that you guys ever fight." We looked at each other and almost laughed. We were like, "Um, yes our family does fight sometimes. We're just normal." She was genuinely surprised to hear that.

      People baffle me, Emily. They truly do.

      And I am one of them! Maybe that's why I don't always understand myself. . . Hm. *shrugs*

      You're right about that telling a woman that she's beautiful. I mean, from just anybody, she probably doesn't care what just anybody thinks (I don't). But personally, when I hear it from one person all the time, I get the feeling that they think my purpose in life is to be looked at. And it is not. I can't stand those old movies/books where the guy says "You're too beautiful to be doing -insert general hard work-" or "Just stand there and look pretty." Just because someone is pretty doesn't mean they are useless. We are not useless, okay world?

      Maybe I'm ranting again. Eh, oops.

      Thank you very much. For that last paragraph. Or next to last? Whatever, you know what I mean. Like really, thank you. That Jesus is the one who defines me. I'm kind of defiant. So with other people trying define me, I think to myself that I define me, not anyone else. That's when the brakes in brain jar my thoughts and I have to step back and remember. "They" are wrong and so am I. Jesus defines me, I have to let Him. He is the only one who can make my life worth anything. I tell myself this to remember. Jesus defines me and no one else. But I feel like I'm only hearing this from myself? So it's very good for someone else to tell me that also. It's a nice affirmation. I'm not just lying to myself. So yeah, thank you. I feel a lot better.

      You happen to be a pretty cool friend too. ;)

      And I hope you like very long comments. *cough*

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    3. I do like very long comments, I do!

      That does make sense, I think that's a good way of explaining. As #1 bae CS Lewis put it, “You don't have a soul. You have a body. You are a soul."

      Gah! Genuinely surprised? That is so annoying. At least you have your siblings, though, who I'm sure completely understand your feelings on this topic. (There are four of them, right? What is their age range? I'm just really nosy, sue me.)

      I feel like we spend most of our time talking about how you/I/Teresa Ruskin/Matthew/Corrie/Peril don't understand themselves. Puts me in mind of a song called Literature Lovers: “Me, I am just like the books upon my shelf, you have never read my cover, I have never read myself." I am my unread books!

      WE ARE NOT USELESS. I found the quotation I was talking about (I'm just a fount of quotations today!):

      “i want to apologize to all the women
      i have called pretty.
      before i’ve called them intelligent or brave.
      i am sorry i made it sound as though
      something as simple as what you’re born with
      is the most you have to be proud of
      when your spirit has crushed mountains
      from now on i will say things like, you are resilient
      or, you are extraordinary.
      not because i don’t think you’re pretty.
      but because you are so much more than that” ~ Rupi Kaur

      You are very welcome. I get that. We can spend so much time shouting “I AM NOT DEFINED BY A MAN!" that we forget that we actually are, he is just also God! I find it really liberating though, that I don't define myself? Because I'm a bit rubbish, I wouldn't want to be in charge of my own life and all my decisions! It's a lot better to pass the helm to somebody else!

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    4. Oh, I love that CS Lewis quote! Why didn't I use it? It would've made things so much simpler. :/

      Yep, my siblings feel the awkward pressure too. We tend to communicate with externally polite smiles that say, "Can you believe this person?" because we are not snarky at all. No. Not us. (Yes there are four of them. Gosh, Emily, you are nosy. Tbh, I've difficulty keeping up with their ages? They hit a certain age and then they never grow older. For instance, I've convinced myself one of my brothers has been sixteen for the past three years. . . But the youngest is 11, and I'm the oldest at 24. Yeah, I'm an old lady in blogger years.) How many siblings do you have?

      True. Everything we talk about seems to cycle back to this! It is interesting though People see us from the outside, but not normally the inside. We know ourselves from the inside, but not the outside. Only God can know us inside and out.

      I LOVE THAT QUOTE! I might have to write it somewhere. *grabs pen*

      EXACTLY!

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    5. Not snarky. Not ever. I have three siblings. And 24? ~wipes brow~ You've got one foot in the grave ...

      “We know ourselves from the inside, but not the outside." That's a great way of putting it. It's so weird to consider that you will never actually see your face; only in a mirror or a photograph. Or the fact that you can never really replicate your expressions; even if you try in the mirror, my smile/laugh/myriad of weird faces are never going to be the way they are when I'm reacting to something. So I'll never know what face other people say. (And I make weird faces ALL THE TIME. It's worrying.)

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  8. This is a really interesting discussion. I haven't read the Les Mis books, but I have seen both film versions. One thing I like about the Geoffrey Rush and Liam Neeson version is that Cosette was not only first attract to him, but his ideals since she listened to his speeches, so it wasn't just about physical or sexual affection, but about something of him as well.

    storitorigrace.blogspot.com

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    1. Thank you! I had no idea that that version existed but it sounds great! I love Geoffrey Rush. I'll have to have a look for it :)

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Thanks for commenting! :)