Have I Ever Loved?

“He thought of how she who lay beside him had locked in her heart for so many years the image of her lover’s eyes when he had told her that he did not wish to live.”

“Generous tears filled Gabriel’s eyes. He had never felt like that himself towards a woman but he knew that such a feeling must be love.”

“A few light taps upon the pane made him turn to the window. It had begun to snow again. He watched sleepily the flakes, silver and dark, falling obliquely against the lamplight. The time had come for him to set out on his journey westward. Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.”

I choose this last paragraph because to me it really showed Gabriel understanding the meaning of love and realizing that he was not in love. Gabriel is gazing out of his hotel window, watching the falling snow and reflecting on his wife Gretta’s recent confession about her childhood love, Michael Furey. Earlier in the story, Gabriel had been intoxicated by Gretta’s preoccupied mood, which reminded him of their courtship, but her outburst of sobbing had seemed to undermine his self-assurance. This quiet moment of contemplation portrayed Gabriel’s hushed acceptance that he was not Gretta’s first love, and that in fact he has never felt love at all. The blanket of snow suggests this sense of numbness in Gabriel’s character he is literally frigid to emotion. The snow does not fall only outside of Gabriel’s window, but, as he envisions it, across the country, from the Harbor of Dublin in the east, to the south in Shannon, and to the west. In other words, everyone, everywhere, is as numb as he is.

I believe that for someone to come to terms with the fact that they have not experienced love can be detrimental. When you have been living your life especially being married and you find out that your wife has loved another man more than you it makes you want to question your self-esteem. When you find out that a man has killed himself and that your wife is so distraught and you turn it around and know that you have not felt that feeling so you must not be numb would cause anyone to become numb. This passage here is very instrumental in showing the emotional rollercoaster one goes through when discovering the truth about “love.”

2 thoughts on “Have I Ever Loved?

  1. cmcodd6

    In response to a combination of this and Rebecca’s post, it’s interesting how the man that works to please everyone is the one who is disappointed. In spite of all the dynamics of this family party, Gabriel seems to be the only round character, the only one who develops throughout the little party “snapshots”. And in his developments it becomes apparent that in the time he spends keeping the family together and worrying about other’s opinions of him, he doesn’t even realize conflict between him and his wife. Shannon mentioned that Gabriel “had been intoxicated by Gretta’s preoccupied mood”. He becomes so preoccupied with other people’s emotions that he forgets to pay attention to his own, leading to his epiphany that “He had never felt like that himself towards a woman but he knew that such a feeling must be love” and that he did not feel that way towards his wife.

    Living in a city it becomes difficult to take the time to realize one’s own emotions and needs. Gabriel represents the city dweller that looks so far ahead and beyond and forgets about what is right in front of them. Becoming so caught up in one’s surroundings can have negative effects on the personal self. Gabriel loses his sense of self in his obsession of taking care of others.

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  2. nikki

    I’d like to expand on the thought that someone realizing they did not experience true love can be detrimental. In today’s society, we usually think about women getting their hearts broken, and it being a tragic thing. However, for Gabriel, when he so happily discusses their courtship, and then Gretta admits he was not her first true love, it seems almost earth-shattering for Gabriel. It is important to see in this part of the story that though Gabriel was so confident about their relationship, he also had a sensitive side that shone through extraordinarily here. Though Gabriel was not the most confident person during the story, he proves at this point that he needs to feel loved 110%.

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