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What is love? The age-old question arises once more. In truth, a universal definition has not been agreed upon, but generally one can define love as “an indication of adoration” or an “an ineffable feeling of intense attraction shared in interpersonal and sexual relationships.” Love can be directed towards kin, a lover, oneself, nature, or humanity- but regardless that love in an emotional sense is eternal. Some fall into love, and some claim they fall out. Love should be endless, lasting, and pure, but half of the time that love ends up being a sham. There is solid record of this false love- love that is meant to look pure- in the famous writings The Lottery and To His Coy Mistress.
In the case of To His Coy Mistress by Andrew Marvall, a not-so-gentle gentleman is trying to woo a “coy” young lady with claims of love. This poem is strewn with hyperbole to the point that it becomes exactly the opposite of love. When there is such over exaggerated praise, it starts to lose the real meaning of the message. If you take a look at lines 13-18, you can see the obvious amplification:
“An hundred years should go to praise
Thine Eyes, and on thy forehead gaze;
Two hundred to adore each breast,
But thirty thousand to the rest;
An age at least to every part,
And the last age should show your heart.”
How can it be remotely possible to spend thirty thousand years on observing a woman’s body? It seems to me as if he is just telling her what she wants to hear as long as he gets what he wants- which is to get into bed with her. The fallacy is even more apparent once line 20 ends because the mood switches immediately from “loving” to a grotesque, dark tone. The speaker goes on about how if she doesn’t lose her “long preserv’d virginity” to him, then the only way she will lose it is in her grave to the worms crawling inside her. How can that be a portrayal of love? The mere thought of that is absolutely grim. What it really does is negate all of the sweet, exaggerated things he mentioned in the first third of the poem.
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The way the speaker articulates how he wants to have sex with her is just violent. If a man truly respects a woman and loves her, why would her woo her using an analogy to raptors and cannon balls? To me it seems like he wants to sexually be in command of her. He’s well aware of her virgin status, hence the title “Coy” mistress instead of plain mistress, yet his idea of her first experience with sex is rough sex. When he says he wants to “roll [their] sweetness, up into one ball…through the iron gates of life;” The speaker’s basically saying he wants to brutally tear through her hymen while they make love like “birds of prey.” Throughout this entire poem, there is not one mention of what’s to come in their future, further suggesting that his only intention with her is to have sex and get on with his life. Repeating the idea that they need to “seize the day,” manipulates and traps this poor girl into his dark plans of seduction. If one loves someone, he/she should look at the other’s benefits as well, and it’s clear that the speaker truly couldn’t possibly love his “coy mistress.”
Instead of the “love” one has for their significant other as in To His Coy Mistress, in the case of The Lottery by Shirley Jackson we look at the love one has for their kin. In this story, a town holds an annual “lottery” where the townsfolk’s love for tradition outweighs the love for their own family. Every person, whether it be child or elder, draws slips from an old box; whoever picks the marked slip gets brutally stoned to death by their own family and friends, then forgotten about. The whole notion is absolutely peculiar. These people conduct the lottery every year, perform the stoning on their own loved ones, then allow themselves to go home and eat noon dinner. It’s completely emotionless and nonchalant. When Tessie arrived late to the lottery, she simply said, “[Nearly] forgot what day it was” to a friend, and they both “laughed softly.” In a situation where ones husband or child could die within the next hour, it doesn’t seem sane that two women can joke about the situation. To these townspeople, the lottery is just another thing to do, something to get out of the way. Shortly after Tessie’s late arrival, Mr. Summers tranquilly says “guess we better get started, get this over with, so’s we can go back to work.” Again, the tone of everyone is so blasé.
It is instinct that in any species a mother’s main role is to protect her offspring- evidence of nature and love. But when Mr. Hutchinson’s name was called in the lottery, his wife Tessie was willing to sacrifice their daughter’s life for hers. How can she love her daughter yet be able to let her die? The lottery creates a strain between family and tradition, and the love for tradition wins. What’s even sadder is that the children take part in the yearly occasion. Before the actual lottery takes place, “some of the other boys… selected the smoothest and roundest stones…and made a great pile of stones in one corner of the square and guarded it against the raids of the other boys.” The lottery becomes a sort-of game to the children, where they are seeing who gathers the most stones. The parents have passed on to their children the idea that the lottery isn’t that serious. If parents supposedly love their children, they should try to instill positive messages, not destructive things like this. It’s almost like telling your child that it’s okay for you to join in on killing another human being. That is not loving your child; it’s hurting him/her.
In conclusion, even though these stories are of completely different topics, they still had characters that were supposed to be giving love to each other. In “To His Coy Mistress,” the gentlemen to the young lady, and in “The Lottery,” the townsfolk to their own family. This false love is absolutely revolting. I can’t imagine being serenaded and told that I was loved, only to find out that the man only wanted to have sex with me. In the case of “The Lottery” I know that my mother would never imagine letting me die for the sake of her own life, a mothers sole responsibility is to protect her young. But no matter how shocking and sad these observations are, we see them everyday in real life. Whether it’s an abusive father molesting his child, or an unfaithful husband sneaking off to distant hotels with other women, it’s the same concept: the authenticity of love is turning into a sham.