Love refers to that feeling of deep affection or a warm emotional, personal attachment felt for another person. It could also include sexual desire arising from the strong affection that is felt by people in a romantic relationship. But is its occurrence just natural or is it dictated and shaped by time and place? Can its absence or presence be determined by one’s surrounding?
Love in the Time of Cholera perhaps to a greater extent depicts love as a naturally occurring phenomenon. It is however easier for one to readily infer that rather than being a universal constant, it is shaped and dictated by time and place. This cannot sound any more contradictory. In examining the relationship between two of the main characters, Fermina and Florentino, much insight is gained to this effect. The two fell in love at a relatively tender age, as was the case in most ancient civilizations or present societies. Escolastica, Fermina’s aunt, helped the two lay grounds for a secret relationship that blossomed and was largely successful (Bloom 16). During that time, she could help them exchange love letters. They also expressed their love for each other in every possible way they could think of, or as circumstances could allow. However, things took a different twist when Lorenzo Daza, Fermina’s father, forced her to stop seeing her boyfriend. She objected to this development, a stand that made him move away to a different city, to stay with his deceased wife’s family. He simply despised Florentino. Following this, the distance between the two love birds became a challenge to the relationship, although they still continued communicating through telegraph (Bloom 25).
The role played by time and place in shaping love is clear here. This is evident when she returns and loses interest in her long time boyfriend. Could distance then not have moved them adrift emotionally? Could things have been any different if they had not been living in different places for such a long time? Interestingly, upon her return she meets Dr. Urbino who begins to court her (Bloom 120). Her father persuades her to accept his hand in marriage, and the wealth that would come by this union seems to be enough incentive. One wonders if there is any love in this marriage, before or after.
Urbino and Florentino do not belong to the same class. The former is wealthy; he is a medical doctor who is devoted to modernity, and science. Cholera eradication and promotion of public works are his main commitments. He is rational, well organized and he seems to greatly value his reputation and importance in society (Bloom 118). This earns him respect from Fermina’s father who, expectedly, despises Florentino. Could this have played a role in persuading Fermina to leave him and instead open the door for Urbino? If this is true, then one wonders if truly love is a universal constant. Such a dilemma is however eroded when one reads on, for Florentino still swears to stay faithful and wait for his soul mate, despite the marriage. Although temptations and his promiscuous nature get the better of him, he still makes sure Fermina never finds out. Later after the death of Urbino, he proclaims his love for her anew. She is at first reluctant to his advances but eventually remembers the love she had for him. Could this be true love?
The nature of Urbino’s love is in complete contrast to that of Florentino and his boldly archaic romantic love. The doctor was never a faithful husband as is learnt from his confessions to Fermina later in their marriage (Fahy 43). One wonders if true love would let anyone be unfaithful. Looking at the circumstances critically, Urbino’s love may not have been spiritually chaste like Florentino’s was, but this also complicates the latter’s devotion as it catalogs his several trysts and some possibly genuine instances of true natural love. Fermina finally recognizes Florentino’s maturity and wisdom, a very positive factor in the blossoming again of their love at old age.
Largely, Love in the Time of Cholera seems more like a story emphasizing the enduring power of genuine love (Fahy 60). A manifestation of this is Florentino’s exceedingly romantic attitude toward life and his determination in trying to recover the treasure of a sunken shipwreck. In the story, the society believes Urbino and Fermina are happy in their union, but the truth of the matter and situation is not as ideal. In broader sense, myriad forms of romantic love, both depraved and ideal are exhibited.
In Anna Karenina, Anna is the wife to Alexie Karenin. Whereas Anna is passionate, beautiful and educated, Karenin is cold and passionless even as a government official. His home life is colored by his limp dispassion that serves as the backdrop to his wife’s rebellious undeterred search for true love at any cost. He thinks everything in his life should be handled as a matter of duty. That is how he viewed his betrothal to his wife. He only thought it was time to marry so he naturally chose an appropriate girl whom he just thought suited her. She happened to be Anna. Nothing is built or founded on love here. He only appreciates her as a mother and wife. Even his interaction as a father with Seryozha is void of considerations for her emotions (Tolstoy & Moser 179).
The central governing principle of the life of Anna is that love is the strongest of all things, and it such supersedes duty. She is wholly committed to this particular principle. The powerful nature of her commitment is depicted when she turns down her husband’s request that she stays with him just to maintain mere outward appearances of a marriage and family so intact and peaceful. In the advanced stages of her relationship with Vronsky, she is much worried that perhaps he loves her no more, but maintains her company only out of duty. More often than not, people subscribe to and accept social conventions out of duty. For example, others would remain in relationships for the purpose of convenience, but Anna rejects this in totality. This is what leads to her exile from civilized society in the later part of the novel. Her emphasis is that one should follow their heart alone, and this she does herself. By comparison, she seems self-centered and unlike Levin, she does not readily embrace the ideal of living for God and general societal good-willed gesture (Tolstoy & Moser 100). Her point is that even in matters of love, one should follow their heart and do as it desires, not for others. This insistence to live according to the dictates of one’s inner self and hear makes her a pioneer searching for passion and independence in a largely male-dominated society. Important to note is her role in Karenin’s life, for after her departure, he slid into stagnation and occultism (Tolstoy & Moser 211). There is an indirect suggestion f how much he needed her, perhaps.
Having examined some of the main characters in Anna Karenina and Love in the Time of Cholera, some inferences can be drawn as regards love. In the latter, it is brought out more as a naturally occurring phenomenon that can neither be altered by time or place. This is more confidently stated considering the fact that Fermina and Florentino, lovers in their youth, still end up together in old age, even after so much has happened in their lives. Although readers of Anna Karenina would be split on such a conclusion, one’s stand would depend on who wins their hearts more: Anna or Karenin? However, the former would influence more readers to agree that indeed, time and place cannot shape love if it does not in the first place occur naturally.
Bloom, Harold. Gabriel García Márquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera. Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishers, 2009. Print.
Fahy, Thomas R. Gabriel García Márquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera: A Reader’s Guide. New York: Continuum, 2008. Print.
Tolstoy, Leo, and Hans Moser. Anna Karenina. Leipzig: Philipp Reclam, 1800. Print.