It can be said that society is a construct that serves as the core of human civilization. Within and outside of a community, people communicate and interact with each other. It gives rise to many such phenomena as personal identity, politics, and class differences. Moreover, these phenomena also have an impact on each person in particular and society as a whole. The loss was chosen as the topic for discussion.
It is essential to establish what is traditionally meant by loss. The Macmillan Dictionary (2020) states that it is “the state of no longer having something because it has been taken from you or destroyed” (para. 8). Loss is one of the central themes of art, especially of such a branch as literature. The purpose of this analytical essay is to analyze and compare how different authors see and interpret loss.
Loss Is a Thing That Binds People
It is safe to say that all people experience somewhat of loss on their life path. The extent of the loss depends on the person’s character, their perception, the relationship, and the surrounding circumstances. Since it is a thing that is shared by everyone, it unintentionally connects people. Virginia Woolf discusses the topic of loss, as well as other vital topics in The Legacy. It is worth mentioning that different crucial themes are discussed in this work, such as death, jealousy, and stages of love. However, the loss is considered as the central one here. The very beginning of the work tells readers about the loss that occurred in a person’s life.
Gilbert Clandon reflects on his wife’s recent death, who was hit by a car (Biblioklept, 2014). He is then visited by Sissy Miller, who is also grieving and saddened by what happened (Biblioklept, 2014). Moreover, she also experienced loss as her brother committed suicide (Biblioklept, 2014). The loss brings them together, and Gilbert even begins to think that Sissy has a crush on him all this time. Later, the protagonist finds out that Angela had an affair with B. M. (Biblioklept, 2014). It can be said that Gilbert himself may be partly to blame for it as he devoted too much time to work and did not want to have children.
Therefore, Gilbert lost the time he could have spent with his wife, and Angela lost the opportunity to be a mother. Then readers will learn that B. M. committed suicide. It happened due to Angela, who sincerely loved her husband and did not want to betray and go away from him. It can be interpreted as B. M. has lost the desired future. It becomes clear to Gilbert and the readers that B. M.’s tragic act led to Angela’s suicide (Biblioklept, 2014). This chain of events ends with Gilbert learning that B. M. has been Sissy Miller’s brother all this time (Biblioklept, 2014). Loss becomes the trigger that finally unites B. M. and Angela in death and Gilbert and Sissy in life. It not only brings characters together within the context of the plot but other conceptual themes as well. Loss serves as a connecting link that unites jealousy, stages of love, marital issues, suicide, and death.
Dual Perception of Loss
In The Legacy, the loss is presented only as something that has only negative connotations. Other authors partly disagree with this point of view. For example, Graham Greene also explores the topic of loss in The Blue Film. Put differently, he argues that people may perceive loss not only as a tragic event that people may regret for years but a desirable one depending on the circumstances. It can be said that such an opinion is very controversial compared to the conventional meaning of loss. It can be called a dual perception of loss.
In his short story, Graham Greene narrates to readers about Mr. and Mrs. Carter, who went to see the films. Along with Mr. Carter’s wife, readers learn that he had a sexual experience with a young woman he loved more than twenty-five years ago (peter_mclachlin, 2009). It is clearly seen that he still cherishes these memories and regrets that the girl disappeared (peter_mclachlin, 2009). It is what can be called the first or negative side of the perception of loss.
Later, Mr. Carter wishes his wife to die because he believes she is going to criticize him for his past deeds. Through Mr. Carter’s internal monologue, Greene expresses that loss can be desired and even welcomed, which is the second and positive aspect of perceived loss. The very moment when Mr. Carter nostalgically recalls the one night stand but does not want to watch it, not only because of his wife but because it reminds him of lost youth, also represents a dual perception of loss.
Loss as Something Always Greater Than It Is
Conventionally, people perceive loss as an irreversible deprivation of something without any contribution in return. However, Italo Calvino shows readers that the loss is always something more than it is, namely the exchange, in The Memoirs of Casanova (“The Memoirs of Casanova,” 2008). He continues to develop the idea of dual perception of loss discussed in The Blue Film. Through five short stories based on personal experience, the author conveys to people that they should always look for something positive in whatever happens in their lives. In his work discussed here, a loss is closely related to love, which confirms that it is always only a part of something else. Every short story Italo Calvino has written tells what people get when they lose something and vice versa.
The story of Cate and Ilda shows that by becoming a soul mate for two partners, a person loses their real identity and becomes just a host for two alternating roles (“The Memoirs of Casanova,” 2008). The story about Dirce and Irma narrates to readers that a breakup with one partner always leads to a new meeting because it is an endless cycle of human interactions (“The Memoirs of Casanova,” 2008).
The described relationship with Tullia tells that a missed opportunity in the past always returns in the future (“The Memoirs of Casanova,” 2008). The story of Fulvia is about that a forced loss will always be eternal memory for someone. Throughout all five short stories, the protagonist meets and breaks up with people; it is described as a never-ending cycle of gain and loss. Together, these plots symbolize Ouroboros that is a metaphor for eternity and the cyclicality of nature. Therefore, the author also encourages readers not to be afraid of future losses as it is a natural and inevitable part of life.
This work explores how different people perceive such a phenomenon of human life as a loss. Examples include three works, namely The Legacy by Virginia Woolf, The Blue Film by Graham Greene, and The Memoirs of Casanova by Italo Calvino. It was found that each of the writers perceives and explains such a thing as loss in their own way. Woolf sees it as something that can bind people both in life and death since everyone has experienced a loss at least once.
Greene perceives the construct of loss as duality. According to him, it could be either an unwanted happening that brings sadness or something desirable that can make a person happy or relieved. Calvino’s perspective on the concept of loss is the most complex of the three. He does not see loss as a single or isolated phenomenon that only takes away, but rather as an integral part of the exchange or the natural exchange itself, which always gives something back.
Biblioklept. (2014). “The legacy” — Virginia Woolf. Biblioklept. Web.
Macmillan Dictionary. (2020). loss. Macmillan Dictionary. Web.
peter_mclachlin. (2009). “The blue film” by Graham Greene. LiveJournal. Web.
The memoirs of Casanova. (2008). Web.