Is is true that opposites attract?
I was inspired to write about opposites while watching the trailer for the Pride, Prejudice & Zombies movie. Loosely adapted from the Jane Austen’s novel, Pride & Prejudice. I have not seen the movie, and my guess is I won’t, not because of the zombies, but because from the trailer, the plot seems a bit of a joke. But, hey, if it gets young people into Austen, it might not be a bad thing after all. Isn’t enough that they have to battle with the societal and individual forces of 18th century Britain ?
Eliza and Mr. Darcy portray the power of opposites in a way that is seamless and relevant to this day. In their tête à têtes we find the seeds of all the things that make relationships between men and women so infuriatingly entertaining. If only we could replicate in our own arguments the wonderful dialogues that come from the juxtaposition of their “opposite” views of the world, and social norms in particular.
Those two characters, more than all other in Austen’s pantheon, work as contrasts. Yet, in the end, they both realized, maybe, they are not so different after all. They were both victims of the same social convictions and trappings of youth and love.
So, if “opposite” for literary characters does not always mean “different” what does it actually mean? what it can actually reveal about romantic relationships? Especially for those of us living outside Austen’s novel.
As readers we are certainly attracted to the endearing cliché stated above: “opposites attract”. Some want for it to be true so badly. For it would be a great. It might be the only, explanation for the irrational decision many people make to be with someone with whom they have nothing in common.
What Do I see when I look at you?
A few posts back I wrote about mirrors and the power they hold over our social and creative consciousness. (I may have an obsession with concepts dealing with duality). But is “opposites” really another way to present the idea of the mirror?
A mirror images looks like you, but is not you. It doesn’t have your essence. That’s way it feels so uncanny and unnatural. It is not you, yet to all intents and purposes wants to replicate your external features and appearance. It can trick you and others, because it resembles you in almost every way. An opposite on the other hand is by definition not you, inside and out. It should look nothing and feel nothing like you.
Where, for me, mirrors are more tools for the characters to work through their individual conflicts, opposites create a powerful image for the reader. Opposites clearly present contrasting images, concepts, ideas, points of view, that slap the reader right in the face.
Some concepts we use daily are great examples of the power of opposites to state what is “us” and what is “not us”. When two people couldn’t be more different we say they are “Polar opposites”. When we are talking about members of the “Opposite sex” we are emphasizing their “otherness”.
If we are not opposites, what are we?
Instead of a relationship between “opposites”, men and women’s romantic entanglements should fall under another category. As I recently reread in one of my favorite non-fiction books, “What French Women Know”, not everything in life should be black/white, love/hate and right/wrong. Stubbornly sticking with absolutes is a sure way to drain out spontaneity and surprises. And in the process, missed what Eliza and Mr. Darcy luckily realized in the end, simply, that we all have a little bit of pride and a little bit of prejudice to work through.
Take off the “opposites” goggles. Let’s embrace this fact: We are all part of a functioning dichotomy, two separate and individual parts of a whole.
What is your favorite “opposites” relationship in literature, film or even in real life?