A Union of Crossings
The feeling and power of love affect every human being on the face on this planet, but it is how each individual handles the various dimensions of this complex emotion that creates a unique situation. The theme of love can be found in the chapter in the New Worlds of Literature text titled Crossings. This chapter provides an insight on what happens when two different worlds become intertwined in romance and relationships, specifically the poems Julia and Pocahontas to her English Husband, John Rolfe . Both Paula Gunn Allen, the author of Pocahontas To Her English Husband, John Rolfe and Wendy Rose, the author of Julia , reinforce the idea of how love can be misinterpreted and perhaps blind. The misguided, abused women in these stories illustrate the pains and disappointments of love and how they wish their love could be more profound or passionate.
In this particular poem, the love that Pocahontas has for John Rolfe seems to portray pity more than romantic love in that she watches him and protects him from harm. She does not feel romantic love, but rather a relationship of codependence in that Pocahontas aids John Rolfe. In addition, Pocahontas and John Rolfe are two people from two different worlds who attempt to come together as one. The persona of Pocahontas senses that John feels helpless in her world and the kind-heartedness of Pocahontas compels her to help John Rolfe and come closer to him. Her willingness to aid him is evident in the line: Had I not cradled you in my arms, oh beloved perfidious one, you would have died (Allen 1). Pocahontas cradles John Rolfe in her arms as though he represents a child in need of help or guidance. But, the use of the word beloved signifies that there could possibly be some portrayal of love in her soul.
In addition, Pocahontas displays a type of motherly love instead of romantic love as is evident when she comments, and in my arms you slept, a foolish child, and beside me you played, chattering nonsense about a God you had not wit to name (Allen 22). Motherly instincts compel Pocahontas to guide this child through the harshness of her community. Motherly instincts command Pocahontas to help this child , John Rolfe, to stop playing and realize that his survival depends on Pocahontas. This love might seem to be more to John s benefit than that of Pocahontas in that she nurtures or even protects him.
John is lost in her world, as Pocahontas reveals this lack of knowledge she thinks, How many times did I pluck you from certain deaths in the wilderness+my world through which you stumbled as though blind (Allen 4)? The word pluck is particularly important in this line because it signifies how hard Pocahontas attempts to rescue her dear love from certain deaths. The word pluck , according to Webster s dictionary, is defined as to pull off or out with sudden sharp force. As John stumbles through the mysterious new world, that sudden force that brings him back was Pocahontas. It was her love and concern for him that took away his blindness and also gives their romance a glimpse of hope. But how can a romance co-exist with such noticeable differences in both their lives? The answer to that question can be difficult but in essence, the situation centers on culture. Their worlds are too diverged to become one and in fact, it was John Rolfe s world that caused the death of Pocahontas when on March, 1617, at the age of 21 Pocahontas contracted small pox. Pocahontas gives herself to him in his world but it seems that his culture symbolically was not ready to accept her. This is clearly understood in the following passage:
I understand the ploy and still protected you, going so far as to die in your keeping+a wasting, putrifying death, and you, deceiver, my husband, father of my son, survived, your spirit bearing crop slowly from my teaching, taking certain life from the wasting of my bones (Allen 36).
The word deceiver would most likely imply that their love could never have been, but still they have bond in the form of a child. In essence, when Pocahontas remarks that John took certain life from the wasting of [her] bones (Allen, 43), it is symbolic of the idea that his culture rejected her. This fact alone could represent the destruction of the crossing of roads and symbolize the conflicting cultures. Pocahontas did understand the consequences of being with John Rolfe as is evident when she exclaimed, I understand the ploy yet she still decided to stay with him but Pocahontas could not handle his world nor could John handle her world. Perhaps this love was never meant to be.
The Poem entitled Julia also send out a powerful message about how love can be blind when two different worlds collide. Unlike the story of Pocahontas and John Rolfe, it wasn t race that is the main cause for friction between Julia and her husband /manager, but rather the differences in culture and class. Julia was considered The Ugliest Women in the World or Lion Lady. A similarity between Julia and Pocahontas to her English Husband, John Rolfe is the fact that both Julia and Pocahontas seem to be from two different worlds then their husbands. Julia s instincts tells her that her husband attempts to belong to her world through malice and money (Allen 7). Julia realizes through her dreams that her husband is deceiving her but she refuses to believe it and becomes misguided about her feelings. She hopes that her feelings are not true as is evident in the following lines:
Julia is overcome by doubts and that is the reason why she wants her husband to tell her again those mighty sweet traits he once told her. She doubts him and rightfully so because even in her death she realizes what has happened. She describes what the horrors that her husband is capable of in the following passage:
Oh, such a small room+no bigger than my elbows outstretched and just as tall as my head. A small room from which to sing open doors with my cold graceful mouth, my rigid lips, silences dead as yesterday, cruel as what the children say, cold as the coins that glitter in your pink fist (Allen 40).
All of her doubts become reality at this point in the poem. The small room is in fact the casing in which she is destined to live. Her husband s deceitful ways causes her to bear the burden of this hell. Their love is truly as cold as the coins that glitter in [his] pink fist. In reality, it is those coins that represent Julia s husband s greed. This greed has caused him to deceive her and separate them into two different worlds. She is in her world of dreams in which she keeps persisting her husband to tell her this is only a dream (Allen 59). Julia s husband is in a world of greed as is implied by the coins in his pink fist. Therefore, there can never be a co-existence between these two worlds
In conclusion, clashing of two worlds seems to hinder love, whether it is culture or class. Pocahontas realizes the fact that love seems to be more in the format of motherly love whereas Julia realizes that love never really did exist in her world because it did not exist in the world of her husband. In a world of confusion or lies, the fact still remains that love really never did enter into the world of two confused women, Pocahontas and Julia. Their persistence ended up in tragedy whether it was by disease or by a broken heart. According to these accounts, love can never be in two places at once.
Paula Gunn Allen. Pocahontas to her English Husband, John Rolfe. New Worlds of
Company, Inc., 1994. 93-95.
Paula Gunn Allen. Julia. New Worlds of Literature. Eds. Jerome Beaty and J. Paul
Hunter. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1994. 93-95.
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