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Love and passion have a lot in common; however, there is a thin line separating the two and this distinction only comes out through the actions taken by the involved parties. There has always been a conflict between love and passion because many people do not love; they are only passionate and as the confusion sets in, people become lost and finally despair for they do not get what they expect.
The raging conflict between love and passion comes out clearly in Shakespeare’s play; Othello and Yasunari Kawabata’s book; Snow Country. While in these two works there are people who are truly in love, others are just passionate even though they assume or pretend to be in love. This paper explores four characters viz. Othello and Desdemona from Othello, Shinamura, and Komako from Snow Country. Why do these people make decisions that they make?
Love vs. Passion
In Othello, Othello is passionate about Desdemona whilst she is in love with him. Shakespeare richly explores the conflict between love and passion. As aforementioned, it is hard to differentiate between love and passion as they all come in the name of love. Othello confesses his love for Desdemona while his actions negate these claims. He says, “…I love the gentle Desdemona” (Shakespeare 29).
This is only lip service and as the old adage goes, actions are stronger than words; Othello’s actions speak loudly against his words. By virtue of its selfish nature, passion tramples over love and the two cannot coexist. Love is long bearing, patient, and understanding among other virtues. On the other hand, passion mimics love for some time and eventually resorts to its self-seeking nature.
After confessing his love for Desdemona, ironically, Othello goes on to kill her. Othello simply married Desdemona to achieve his own good; love seeks for the common good of everyone, not an individual. Othello is passionate with marrying Desdemona because for one; he would brag it to his friends, and satisfy his ego. If only he truly loved Desdemona, he would not even thought of killing her.
To show how far love is from Othello, he uses unfounded hearsays to accuse his wife and takes no time to investigate the matter. He hurriedly concludes that Desdemona is having an affair with Cassio simply because Lago thinks so. He justifies his claims by saying, “She turned to folly, and she was a whore” (Shakespeare 480). Love is not jealous and it does not accuse the loved especially in absence of substantial evidence.
Moreover, even if the loved is surely in the wrong, love brings forgiveness through mutual understanding; it does not bear finger pointing and death. Due to lack of love, inflamed with passion, Othello kills Desdemona. On the other side, Desdemona loves Othello and this is why she marries him and sticks with him even after her father tries to terminate the marriage by contesting it before the Dukes.
The conflict between love and passion continues to be manifested in Kawabata’s book, Snow Country. As Shinamura gets to know Komako well, it is evident that he cannot love. He is only passionate, passionate about his personal desires. As the story opens up, the reader learns that Shinamura is a “bored individual who lives a life of idleness” (Kawabata 8).
Actually, the reason why he comes to Snow Country is to kill this boredom and rediscover his ‘self.’ Therefore, it follows that he only accepts Komako as a ‘tool’ of satisfaction, not as a loving partner.
At one point, he forgets that Komako is a girl and in one moment, he calls her ‘a good girl’ and immediately tells her, “You are a good woman” (Kawabata 21). This is disturbing; Shinamura is only interested in the ‘woman’ in Komako, not anything else, not even a loving relationship. He is only passionate about her to achieve his goal of rediscovering his ‘self’ and killing boredom.
This is the reason why when Komako demands to know the meaning of such contrasting titles, he cannot offer a valid answer. Instead, the author notes that, “He had not dreamed that she was a woman who would find it necessary to take offense at such a trivial remark, and that very fact lent her an irresistible sadness” (Kawabata 27).
Of course, passion unlike love is not considerate; consequently, Shinamura could never imagine that his insensitive remarks would hurt anyone. On the other hand, Komako is in love with Shinamura and this is why, “she never let him out of sight at the resort…stumbled into his room all the time drunk and mumbling non stop…“ (Kawabata 46 & 49). It is only true love that could labor this much, not passion.
Love and passion are mutually exclusive; they cannot coexist. In presence of love, passion fades away. On the other side, passion negates any understanding of what true love is. Love runs deep into the soul and berths in the depths of heart; however, passion is superficial and self-seeking, resting on the surface of the heart to satisfy its desires, which in most cases are selfish.
Othello does not love Desdemona; if only he loved her, he would never thought of killing her. Nevertheless, because his ‘love’ for her is based on passion, he smothers her to death; this is jealousy and selfishness. His decisions are based on jealousy and indecision, made in haste, because he lacks love. Love is long bearing and does not accuse falsely; on the contrary, passion does this and does it with zeal and precision.
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Shinamura is another passionate culprit who does not understand what true love is. This may explain why he is bored and ‘lost.’ he is so insensitive to Komako that she wonders what she is not doing right. He does not care and after realizing that Komako is not a professional geisha, he falls for Yuko despite the fact that he tells Komako she is a ‘good’ woman. No one can have both love and passion simultaneously. Where love is, passion melts away and where passion is, true love shy away.
Kawabata, Yasunari. “Snow Country.” New York; Vintage Publishers, 1996.
Shakespeare, William. “Othello.” Furness, Horace. (Ed.). Philadelphia; J.B. Lippincott Company, 2005.