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Unconditional Love Between A Parent And Child English Literature Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 2206 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Unconditional love requires the ability to love someone without any conditions or limitations. For parents, this would require them to accept their child regardless of what he or she does and without expecting anything in return. They must be willing to love their child unconditionally; this means to care, protect, and want what is best for their child. For a child, it would require them to love and forgive their parent regardless of whether or not they agree with the decisions that have been made by them. Examples of stories and poems containing the idea of unconditional love between a parent and child can be found in literature from the Elizabethan era (1558-1603 AD) such as William Shakespeare’s King Lear, Romeo and Juliet, “Sonnet 37: As a Decrepit Father Takes Delight,” and Richard Rowlands’ “Our Blessed Lady’s Lullaby.” Similar examples can be found in contemporary literature such as Joy Harjo’s “Rainy Dawn,” and Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games. Regardless of the era, the timeless theme of unconditional love between a parent and child can be found in literature.

“Upon my lap, my Sovereign sits,

And sucks upon my breast;

Meanwhile his love sustains my life,

And gives my body rest.

Sing lullaby, my little boy,

Sing lullaby, mine only joy” (1-5).

This verse signifies that because her son was the most important thing in her life, she would cherish and provide for him as best she possibly could. Similar to Rowlands’ “Our Blessed Lady’s Lullaby,” contemporary poet Joy Harjo used emotional images to describe the birth of her first child in the poem “Rainy Dawn.” Hajro recalled holding her child, named Rainy Dawn, close to her body with unconditional love. She wrote: “I had to participate in the dreaming of you into memory, cupped your head in the bowl of my body as ancestors lined up to give you a name made of their dream cast once more into this stew of precious spirit and flesh” (7-10). The author was overjoyed by the birth of her daughter and was able to give a detailed description of the moments that led up to her birth.

Elizabethan author and poet William Shakespeare used a different writing approach in his poem “Sonnet 37: As a Decrepit Father Takes Delight”; rather than using emotional images, he used literal language to express the love that a parent has for its child. He wrote:

For whether beauty, birth, or wealth, or wit,

Or any of these all, or all, or more,

Entitled in thy parts, do crowned sit,

I make my love engrafted to this store (5-8).

Shakespeare wrote how he attached his love to any one of his child’s positive attributes, such as beauty, rank, wealth or intelligence.

Even though children are oftentimes unable to verbally express how much they love their parent, they are able to show it through affection. They will hug their parent tightly or gaze at them with their loving eyes. Children are not only forgiving, but they are willing to love their parents without expecting anything in return. Rowlands described how a mother felt when she received love from her son in “Our Blessed Lady’s Lullaby.” He wrote:

“When I him in mine arms embrace

I feel my heart embraced,

Even by the inward grace of his

Which he in me hath placed (79-82).”

The mother felt the unconditional love of her child when she held him in her arms and stated that she felt her heart being embraced.

Another example of unconditional love that a child has for a parent comes from Shakespeare’s “King Lear.” In the play, King Lear announced that he would no longer be king and decided to give his kingdom to the daughter who best declared their love for him. The older two daughters began to falsely profess how much they loved their father in hopes of gaining more land. King Lear’s youngest daughter, Cordelia, refused to take part in such an act and affirmed that she shows her love through her good deeds. She said, “Good my lord, You have begot me, bred me, lov’d me; I Return those duties back as are right fit, Obey you, love you, and most honour you” (1.1.98-101). She explained to her father that he raised her and loved her and because of that, she returned her love by obeying and honoring him. Cordelia’s refusal to participate angered her father and as a result, he banished her from the kingdom. Cordelia continued to love her father regardless of his actions. Later in the play, when Cordelia heard that her sisters had taken her father’s knights away and chased him out of town, she began to search for him in hopes of helping him (4.4.26-27). She sent soldiers to find her father and brought him under her doctor’s care (4.4). When they two were finally able to reunite, King Lear, realizing that he was wrong, asked Cordelia to forgive him. He said,

“Be your tears wet? Yes, faith. I pray weep not.

If you have poison for me, I will drink it.

I know you do not love me; for your sisters

Have, as I do remember, done me wrong.

You have some cause, they have not” (4.7.2991-2995).

Cordelia responded by simply stating, “no cause, no cause” (4.7.2996). The King felt that Cordelia did not love him and had every reason take action against him. She responded by saying that she had no cause to take action against him. This showed that Cordelia was able to forgive her father because she loved him. She was loved by her father throughout her childhood and returned the love unconditionally regardless of the circumstances that she was placed in.

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Unconditional love between a parent and child does not always come from a biological parent; it can come from a parental figure as well. In Shakespeare’s play, Romeo and Juliet, character Juliet Capulet’s biological mother had a formal relationship with her and the two were not close. Instead she received unconditional love from Angelica, who was referred to as Nurse in the story. The nurse took care of Juliet since the day she birth and had breastfed her. She had a daughter of her own who was born on the same day as Juliet, but had passed away while in infancy. Since then, the nurse gave all of her affection and care to Juliet and the two shared a close bond like a mother and daughter would (1.3). At the beginning of the story, Juliet fell in love with Romeo Montague at her father’s annual masquerade and feast (1.5). She was unaware that Romeo belonged to a rival family and when she found out she became upset. Despite the circumstances, the two continued to communicate with each other, using the nurse as the “go-between” person. The nurse wanted to see Juliet happy and looked out for her just like a mother would for her child. When Romeo expressed his love for Juliet, the nurse warned him about treating her wrongfully.

“But first, let me tell ye, if you should lead her

in a fool’s paradise, as they say, it were a very

gross kind of behavior, as they say; for the

gentlewoman is young. And therefore, if you should

deal double with her, truly it were an il thing to be

offered any gentlewoman and a very weak dealing (2.5.152-167).

She told Romeo that Juliet was young and that she should not be led into “fool’s paradise.” She also stated that it would be immoral for him to lead Juliet on. The nurse cared for Juliet and did not want to see her get hurt.

A modern-day example of love between a child and its parent figure can be found in the The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins. In the story, character Katniss Everdeen’s father passed away tragically at a young age. As a result, her mother became severely depressed; she was no longer able take care of Katniss and her younger sister Prim. Katniss gave up her role as teenage girl and became a parent figure to Prim and caretaker for both her and her mother. She loved her sister dearly and took care of her because she did not want her to get taken away to a community home. Katniss kept Prim and herself looking presentable for the public and would plaid her mother’s hair (Collins 27). This was done to prevent the members of the community from noticing that Katniss’ mother was unable to care of her children. Katniss said, “At eleven years old with Prim just seven, I took over as head of the family. There was no choice. I bought our food at the market and cooked it as best I could and tried to keep Prim and myself looking presentable” (27). Although Katniss did not cook well, she would buy food at the local market and attempt cook it as best as she possible could for her family (27). When food sources would run low, Katniss would risk her life by hunting in the District 12, a dangerous area that was forbidden to the public (Collins 5). Katniss did all of this because she loved her sister and her mother dearly and cared for their well being.

A parent who loves their child will want what they think is best for them. In the poem “Sonnet 37: As A Decrepit Father Takes Delight,” Shakespeare wrote, “Look what is best, that best I wish in thee: This wish I have; then ten times happy me” (13-14). The author stated that he wished nothing but the best for his child and that if his wish were to be granted, he would be ten times happier in his own life. Sometimes decisions that are made by a parent may not necessarily be favorable for their child. In the story Romeo and Juliet, Juliet’s father Lord Capulet threatened his daughter about what would happen if she did not marry Count Paris (3.5). Like most fathers, Capulet loved and adored his daughter Juliet. He took pride in her and wanted nothing but the best for her, which is why he became upset when she refused to marry Paris. Capulet felt like he knew what was best for Juliet and thought that Paris would make her happy. At that time, the nurse, who was initially supportive of Juliet’s marriage to her lover Romeo, changed her mind about the matter. She knew that Juliet’s love for Romeo was genuine, but suggested that she marry Paris instead in order to protect and save Juliet from her father and the terrible consequences of her secret marriage (3.5). Lord Capulet and the nurse loved Juliet and wanted what they thought was best for her.

Parents oftentimes make sacrifices in order to protect and save their loved one. In the The Hunger Games, Katniss made the decision to sacrifice her life when she volunteered to participate in the dangerous Hunger Games in place of her younger sister Prim. The Hunger Games was a television game show that if won, would allow Katniss and her family to have a large house and money. When Prim’s name was selected to participate in the Games, Katniss shoved her sister away behind her and quickly went on stage to take her place (20). Katniss did not allow Prim to volunteer for the Games because she loved her dearly and could not bear to see her get harmed. When she watched herself on television, she noticed the desperation in her voice and fear that she had when she thought her sister may be placed in danger. She said, “You can’t miss the desperation in my voice as I shove Prim behind me as if I’m afraid no one will hear and they’ll take Prim away. But, of course, they do hear” (46). When Katniss prepared to leave far away to participate in the Games, she continued to worry about her mother and sister and began to make plans on what they would do while she was gone (35). Katniss loved for her mother and sister unconditionally and was willing to risks her life to not only save her sister Prim, who looked at her as a parent figure, but to gain food and shelter for the family.

There is no greater love than that of the unconditional love between a parent and child. It requires a parent or a child to love, be forgiving, and caring, despite one’s actions or beliefs. Regardless of the era, the timeless theme of unconditional love between a parent and child can be found in literature. Both the Elizabethan and Contemporary era contains stories and poems that involve unconditional love between a parent and child. For example, in the Elizabethan era story King Lear, Cordelia searched for her father to help him even though he robbed her of her inheritance and banished her from his kingdom. In the Contemporary era story The Hunger Games, Katniss nurtured and provided for both her mother and her sister when her mother became severely depressed and was unable to care for them. When a parent loves a child or vice versa, they want what is best for them. However, it is important to understand that unconditional love may not always be reciprocated. One can always wish and hope that the love is returned, but should never depend on receiving it.


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