A guest post by Mercedes M. Yardley.
What’s the draw to love and murder? Why does it add such spice to our favorite stories?
I sat down to write a tale. A love story. Not a romance, because that’s something completely different, but a story with love and heart and something a little special. Then I threw in a heavy dose of murder.
Well, “heavy” might be misleading. I based the story on it. Two broken people who find each other and fall madly, cosmically in love, and crisscross the country on a murder spree. Kissing. Dreaming. Whispering their secrets to each other. Wiping blood spatter from their faces and slipping in pools of it, leaving red footprints behind them.
Pretty much your typical love story, I suppose. With blood lust and, hopefully, sympathetic characters.
I’m not alone in this. In February, this month of love and hearts and cupids with arrows, I’ve been reflecting on the love-and-murder relationship, and the way it goes hand-in-hand.
Take Romeo and Juliet. Take, also, its unofficial sequel: West Side Story. What would these stories be without the murders or Tybalt and Mercutio, Riff and Tony? Think about Kind David and Bathsheba. And moving away from romantic love into the area of platonic love, what about Of Mice and Men? Can a greater love story really ever be told? And murder is right in the heart of it. Without murder, that story would be a charming little tale about two good buddies. Sweet and fairly wholesome, but certainly not intricate or memorable.
What makes it that makes the chaos compelling, I wonder? Love and death, romance and murder, they go together so beautifully. Why, even Valentine’s Day is somewhat loosely based on love and death. We’re told many versions of the story, but one of the most popular is that Saint Valentine dared marry young couple in secret at a time when marriages were illegal. As punishment, he was thrown into the dungeon. The story goes that he fell in love with the jailer’s beautiful daughter and smuggled her notes signed “From your Valentine.” Or that, while imprisoned, he received notes and thank you cards from the young couples he had married. Eventually, the most popular theory says, he was beheaded for his crimes.
Crimes of passion. You’ve heard the term. And perhaps that is why death and love are so tightly bound together. Nothing can end a love like death can. It’s the most brutal ending to the most intense and fiery of desires. Edgar Allan Poe famously write about his young bride who died tragically. In his poem “Annabel Lee” he even went so far as to claim that the angels of heaven, driven mad with jealousy, murdered his bride. Passion against passion. Love and the greatest anti-love there is. It’s like a volcano and the ocean coming together and destroying everything. A thing of terror. A thing of beauty.
The intensity demonstrated by linking together such polar opposites as adoration and murder is nearly unfathomable. Love is supposed to conquer all, but death does the same thing. All you need is love. Love makes the world go round. But the only thing you can depend on is death and taxes. Anais Nin tells us that love never dies a natural death, but death spares no one. Take the two biggest conflicting forces, set them at war in a story, and watch the sparks fly. You may love the sparks. They may be deadly. But they’ll be beautiful.