Sacrificing Relationships in a Valediction: Forbidding Mourning, The Love of My Life, and Eveline

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About this sample


Words: 2853 |

Pages: 6|

15 min read

Published: Aug 6, 2021

Words: 2853|Pages: 6|15 min read

Published: Aug 6, 2021

Most relationships clearly have a broken place. When this happens, and one partner is not ready to give up and walk away, a separation gives a “pause button” so both partners can receive valuable information on whether or not their relationship should continue. Sacrificing relationships in order to do what is best for them can be difficult and upsetting. In the works of T. Coraghessan Boyle’s “The Love of my Life,” John Donne’s “A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning,” and James Joyce’s “Eveline,” the theme of sacrificing relationships are portrayed. 

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T. Coraghessan Boyle, born as Thomas John Boyle, author of “The Love of my Life,” was born in 1948 in Peekskill, New York. A self-described “pampered punk,” Boyle did not set out to become a writer and never dreamed that one day he would have a major in literature. Originally, he wanted to major in music, aspiring to become a saxophone player at the State University of New York at Potsdam. After enrolling in a creative writing course, he began to compose plays and short stories. Boyle continued to write short fiction after graduation, between his daytime job as a high school teacher and his nightly drug-and-alcohol binges. He earned his Master in Fine Arts from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop in 1974, and his Ph.D. degree in 19th century British literature in 1977. The PEN/Faulkner Award, the PEN/Malamud Award, the PEN/West Literary Award, National Academy of Arts and Letters Award - these are some critically acclaimed award that Boyle earned. Most of Boyle’s novels and short stories explore the “appetites, joys, and addictions” of the Baby Boom generation. Also, his fiction explores the unpredictability of nature and the “toll human society unwittingly takes on the environment”. What is meant by this was that Boyle’s short stories and novels were about the unpredictable events that can happen in a person’s life. 

Boyle’s “The Love of my Life” was based off of a real event that took place in November 1996. At the age of nineteen years old, Amy S. Grossberg and Brian C. Peterson were accused and convicted of infanticide, the crime of killing a child within a year of birth. The newborn was wrapped and thrown into a dumpster shortly after a delivery in a motel room (Boettger). Written in 2000, “The Love of My Life” is a short story about two characters, China and Jeremy, who conceived a child during a camping trip, even though both are keen to avoid pregnancy, over the summer before their freshman year in college. The story starts with two high school students, China and Jeremy, who could not separate and the amount of love they had for each other. They “wore each other like a pair of socks”. This comparison means the two characters were together everywhere they went. Both seniors had brights futures - China was to attend Binghamton, and Jeremy was to attend Brown. In the summer, the two main characters planned a trip to go camping. At this point, the focus is on China and Jeremy’s relationship and how strong it seems. Always, they would tell each other “I love you.” There was no feeling like this to them, “no triumph, no high – it was like being immortal and unconquerable, like floating”ю During the camping trip, China conceived a child. She decides to keep the baby; however, she refuses to seek medical attention. Realizing it was too much work if she were to keep the child, she then proceeds to tell Jeremy to “get rid of it,” meaning dispose the baby hoping to never see it again. The next day, Jeremy was arrested, and China would be taken into custody after being released from a community hospital. Towards the end of this story, China testifies against Jeremy in a court case. China had to sacrifice her relationship with Jeremy to help herself get out of the situation, and it was difficult for her to do since she loved Jeremy. 

In his short story “The Love of my Life,” Boyle studies teenage relationships by placing a young high school couple in an intense situation. At the beginning of the story, he plays off of a typical young, high school couple. China and Jeremy, the main characters, are so in love that they cannot stand to be apart. They are constantly together, wearing “each other like a pair of socks”. They also constantly exchange kisses, even if they have only been apart for a few minutes. Both characters have an idealized notion of what love really is, and therefore, they think that the love they have is real. At the end, China realizes that she must sacrifice her relationship with Jeremy in order to defend herself. Boyle reveals the difference between real and idealized love and how love can be torn apart through the chronological order of events. Though it is clear that the topic of this story is teen pregnancy, the underlying themes deal with relationships falling in and out of love. 

Author of “A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning,” John Donne was born in 1572 in London, England during a period of theological and political unrest for both England and France. He was known as the founder of the Metaphysical Poets which also included George Herbert, Richard Crashaw, Andrew Marvell, and John Cleveland. The term “Metaphysical Poets” was a term created by Samuel Johnson, an 18th century English essayist, poet, and philosopher, and were known for their ability to startle the reader and coax new perspective through “paradoxical images, subtle argument, inventive syntax, and imagery from art, philosophy, and religion” using a conceit (Jbenka). Growing up in a family of Roman Catholic faith, Donne experienced the religious discrimination of the Anglican majority in England against Catholics. He studied at Oxford and Cambridge Universities in his teen years; however, he did not take a degree because to do so meant subscribing to the Thirty-nine Articles, the doctrine that defined Anglicanism. At the age of 20, he studied law at Lincoln’s Inn. Two years later, after his younger brother died in prison, Donne gave in to religious pressure and joined the Anglican Church. He wrote most of his “love lyrics, erotic verse, and some sacred poems” in the 1590s, creating two major works: Satires and Songs and Sonnets. Donne secretly married Anne More in 1601. Disapproving of the marriage, Donne’s father-in-law briefly had Donne imprisoned. Donne wrote the poem “A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning in 1611, just before he left for a long trip from his home in England to France and Germany (Shmoop Editorial Team). It was then published in 1633, two years after Donne’s death, in Songs and Sonnets. This poem is one of Donne’s most celebrated and most significant poems in which he declares his ideal of spiritual love which transcends the ordinary and inferior love of others that is based on physicality (Changizi). Donne probably composed his four “Valedictory Poems” in Songs and Sonnets while married to Anne More but separated from her as a result of his frequent travels. These poems present love as intense and passionate even tender at times - an emotion strengthened by the separation of the speaker from the woman he loves. 

In “A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning,” Donne writes upon the occasion of him parting from his wife for an extended period of time. The poem comforts the speaker’s lover at their temporary parting, asking that they “separate calmly and quietly, without tears or protests”. Though they are going to part due to circumstances, their love will remain pure and true. In the first five stanzas, Donne states that the souls of Donne and his lover are united by a love that is spiritual in nature. The last four stanzas conclude the physical separation between Donne and his lover. Since the separation does not change the oneness of their souls, Donne states that there is no cause for mourning. To support his argument, he gives two comparisons. The first support is that their souls do not separate but undergo “an expansion,/ Like gold to airy thinness beat”. His second support states that even if their souls are logically two, they are united like the feet of a compass. His lover’s soul is the “fixed foot” that occupies the center of an imaginary circle. If Donne’s soul, the other foot of the compass, moves outward, his lover’s soul “leans and harkens after it”. The exploration of this metaphor results in one of the best known conceits in English poetry. The feet of the compass functions as the “objective correlative” for both souls. 

John Donne’s poem “A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning” uses many metaphors and allusions to show the power of love between the himself and his lover and how strong it is. Although Donne is leaving, he believes their love is strong enough to withstand the separation. The love between himself and his lover are compared to various symbolic things, like gold that can stretch thinly without breaking and twin compasses. Like gold, he believes the one soul they have will stretch, and it will take the place of the distance between the two. Compasses assist sailors in navigating the ocean, and metaphorically, they help the two lovers remain linked no matter the distance. Also on the compass, no matter how many times the moving foot goes around the circle, the two legs are eventually joined again. 

One of the most influential and innovative writers of the 20th century, James Joyce was the author of the short story “Eveline” in his collection Dubliners. Joyce was born in a suburb of Dublin. He attended a Jesuit school, Belvedere College, and University College, Dublin. After graduation, Joyce had moved to Paris. After 1904, he returned back to Ireland for a bit of time. He lived in Trieste with his later wife, Nora Barnacle, and their children. During World War I, the family lived in Zurich, moving to Paris after the war, and then to the South of France before the Nazi invasion. Joyce passed away while living in Zurich. Joyce’s first publication in 1907 was the poetry collection Chamber Music. When Joyce sent Ezra Pound, who helped support Joyce financially, a revised first chapter of Portrait, along with the manuscript of his short story collection Dubliners, Pound arranged for Portrait to be published in the modernist magazine The Egoist between 1914 and 1915. His short story collection, Dubliners, had been delayed by years of arguments with printers over its contents, but was also published in 1914. 

James Joyce’s “Eveline” reflects how Eveline felt between her life at home rooted in the past and the possibility of a new life abroad being married to Frank. At one point, Eveline seems content about leaving her tough life declaring, “She must escape! Frank would save her,” yet at the next moment she feels concerned about fulfilling promises to her mother who had passed away to “keep the home together as long as she could”). By holding onto the letters that she had written to her father and brother, Eveline reveals her inability to let go of her close bond with her family, despite her father’s abuse and her brother’s absence. Eveline hangs onto the more pleasant past memories and imagines what other people would want her to do or what will do for her. In her eyes, Eveline sees Frank as a rescuer, saving her from her situation at home. She places herself between her duty of being at home and taking care of her family and her future and new experiences. With the two options, Eveline is unable to make a choice on whether or not she should stay home or leave with Frank, her lover. The threat of repeating her mother’s life shifts Eveline’s choice to leaving with Frank and embarking on a new phase in her life. When hearing a street organ, Eveline remembers another street organ that had played on the night before her mother’s death. Eveline then tells herself to not repeat her mother’s life that was full of “commonplace sacrifices closing in final craziness,” but she does exactly that (Joyce 5). Despite the fact that Frank will drown her in her new life, the real cause of why Eveline decides to stay and not follow Frank onto the ship is because of her reliance at home. Difficult and upsetting, she sacrifices her relationship with Frank to take care of her family at home. In the short story “Eveline,” the relationship between Eveline’s past and her future was explored by examining her attitude to her life in Dublin. Joyce was interested in this relationship because like Ireland, which had a habit of looking into the past and holding onto it, it needed to progress to bring it up to the present time. He was also interested in seeing Ireland “bring itself into the modern world”. The Dubliners had faced many difficulties at the time. 

In “Eveline,” Joyce portrays Eveline’s existence as “dull, uninspiring, and even oppressive” with her father as the main focus on the idea that the older generation should “cast off” if the New Ireland wants to change itself. The good aspects of the older Ireland depicted in “Eveline” were Eveline’s mother and her older brother Ernest, although both had passed away and gone from her life. To start a new life in a new country was the best way for Eveline to “shake off the musty old air” of Ireland. “That was a long time ago”, and everything has changed, yet Eveline sits and casts her mind back to the happy time from her childhood. One of the possible reasons why Eveline did not want to leave her home because of the “nostalgia for old Ireland” that was represented by her childhood memories, even though those family members had passed away. Another possible reason would be that Eveline wanted to fulfill her duty to take care of family at home. Although, due to Joyce’s masterwork at writing, it is hard to tell exactly the reason why Eveline had decided to stay at the end of the story. 

In the works of T. Coraghessan Boyle’s “The Love of my Life,” John Donne’s “A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning,” and James Joyce’s “Eveline,” the theme of sacrificing the relationship between themselves and their significant other were portrayed. Although, in each work, there are many differences. In “The Love of my Life,” China realized that she had to defend herself and get herself out of the trouble she was in, even though Jeremy was “the love of her life”). In order to do so, she had to change the story and testify against Jeremy in their court case. China told her lawyer that he “acted alone,” and she also took a polygraph graph. Jeremy was shocked, upset, and confused on why China would do this. 

In the poem “A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning,” Donne had to sacrifice his relationship with his lover for him to continue what he needs to do. His lover was also upset, and the process was difficult for both him and his lover. In “Eveline,” Eveline sacrificed her relationship with Frank, and Frank, at the end of the story, was confused and also upset. It was difficult for Eveline to make the decision to stay instead of going with Frank. There were many differences in each work even though the main theme for all three works were love and loss and how sacrificing relationships to do what is best for them is difficult and upsetting. In Boyle’s short story, both main characters, China and Jeremy, had committed a crime of infanticide. If both had avoided this, China would not have to testify against Jeremy, sacrificing their relationship along the way. In Donne’s poem, Donne writes about his departure from his wife. Even though he is separating from his relationship, he does not want his lover to get upset over it because their souls are united as one, and they will always be together. He sacrificing their relationship because he has to leave for a long trip. In Joyce’s story, Eveline had to stay back with her family because she felt like she had a duty to take care of her family. By sacrificing her relationship, she will be able to fulfill her duty that she had promised to her mother who had passed away. Even though these three works have a common theme, there are more differences than similarities between the works. 

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To summarize, T. Coraghessan Boyle’s “The Love of my Life,” John Donne’s “A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning,” and James Joyce’s “Eveline,” all have the theme of sacrificing relationships to do what is best for them. In Boyle’s work, China had to sacrifice her relationship so she can get herself out of the mess she was in. In Donne’s work, he had to sacrifice his relationship because he was going on a long trip away from his lover. In Joyce’s work, Eveline sacrificed her relationship with her lover so she can fulfill her duty to take care of her family at home. All relationships get to the point where they need to hit “pause” before they continue. By doing so, each partner will be able to find out whether they should progress or end their relationship. 

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Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

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Sacrificing Relationships In A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning, The Love Of My Life, And Eveline. (2021, August 06). GradesFixer. Retrieved April 13, 2024, from
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