Duff Brenna once said, “All literature shows us the power of emotion. It is emotion, not reason that motivates characters in literature.” To me, this quote means that it is emotion that causes characters to make decisions, not reason. I agree with this quote because characters in literature do what they feel is right at the time, not what they feel is logically right. In William Shakespeare’s tragedy Romeo and Juliet and John Steinbeck’s novella Of mice and Men, the characters demonstrate how emotion can overpower reason.
In Romeo and Juliet, this statement is proven right. As the characters make decisions based on emotion, many literary elements are intertwined by William Shakespeare. Conflict is not only a literary element but also is a theme that is used throughout the whole playwright. For example, the passion of hate causes the Capulets and Montagues to constantly fight and feud. This External conflict interferes with Romeo and Juliet’s love and causes them not to tell their parents about their marriage. They have to constantly meet in secret and them not being able to see each other causes more major conflicts. For example, they feel so deeply for each other that they feel that they cannot live without the other.
These strong emotions lead to many misunderstandings and eventually the death of the two “star crossed lovers”. If Romeo and Juliet were thinking within reason, they would have told their parents about their love and possibly may not have committed suicide. The death of Mercutio also causes problems between the characters. When Tybalt kills Mercutio, Romeo feels vengeance and anger towards Tybalt. If Romeo would have been thinking realistically, he would have told Prince Escalus about the killing and Tybalt would have gotten in trouble. Instead, Romeo makes a rash decision and kills Tybalt and later faces the consequence; being banished from Verona.
In Addition, Shakespeare also uses the literary element of Characterization in Romeo and Juliet. After Tybalt dies, Capulet feels that he has the responsibility to lift the spirits of his family. He quickly arranges to have Juliet to marry Paris, a man whom she does not wish to marry. When Capulet does this, he follows his own feelings and doesn’t reason with Juliet. After his actions, Capulet is looked upon as harsh, ridiculous and insensitive. Additionally, when Romeo kills himself on impulse, characterization is used. As soon as Romeo sees that Juliet, the woman that he is deeply in love with, he feels that he cannot live with out her and commits suicide. As a reader, I thought that he could have gone on with out her but he kills himself anyways. Romeo is looked characterized as immature, irrational, and impractical.
Conflict is also an effect of characters acting based on feeling, not reason in the story Of Mice and Men. For example, although Lennie is not the brightest bulb in the box, he should have had enough reasoning skills and know not to touch a woman’s skirt. However, his feeling of desire and attraction to touch the red skirt causes the woman to tell the police on Lennie and Lennie and George are “run outta weed”. After they are run out, they face having to move to a new ranch, and hopefully having no one find out the real reason why they left weed. Another example of a conflict is Curley’s wife. She has an internal conflict. She wanted to feel happy and content with her life and she rushed into the marriage with Curley. In the end, she was unhappy and lonely because she was often times left alone all day while Curley worked or at night when the men went into town.
The literary element of characterization is also used in Of Mice and Men. For example, when Lennie is run out of weed, George decides to go with him because he really cares about Lennie. He disregarded anything that he had in Weed and left. In this case, it is good that George followed what his feeling said because Lennie would have not been able to survive with out the help of George. As the bond between Lennie and George strengthens, George is characterized as accepting and tolerant. George also acts on feeling when he decides to kill Lennie himself. George does not want to put Lennie through the pain of dealing with Curley. George cares so much for Lennie that he puts him out of his misery right away instead of taking the risk of trying run away or move on to a new ranch with Lennie. George is looked upon as mature and understanding after his actions.
In conclusion, in literature, characters are driven by the power of emotion, not reason. In William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, many characters are shown as following their emotions instead of reason. Sometimes the outcome was good, and other times, the outcome was not so good. In my opinion, when characters follow their emotions and do not reason, the author is trying to show the reader the good and bad consequences that can occur if there is no reason behind the actions that we make.
Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare- the book/playwrightOf mice and Men by John Steinbeck- the novellawww.sparknotes.com
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