Love and Criticism: Is There Any Relation? by Nancy Huntting
Part 2 -
Love & Criticism Have the
Same Purpose: To Like the World
purpose of criticism, Mr. Siegel showed,
is to value things and people truly -- a critic, he said, “makes a good
good, a bad thing look bad, and a middling thing look middling.”
Early in the play "Look Back in Anger," Jimmy is criticizing all three
"We never seem to get any
further, do we? A few more hours, and another week gone. Our youth is
away. Do you know that? Oh, Heavens, how I long for a little ordinary
enthusiasm. Just enthusiasm -- that’s all. I want to hear a warm,
voice cry out hallelujah. Hallelujah! I'm alive!"
wants to like things, and he wants his
wife to encourage that. He's asking for something Alison herself hopes
for, but she feels stabbed, and tries to hurt him by speaking in a
way of his relation to a woman he cared for in the past.
[to Cliff]. "Madeline . . . she
was his mistress. Remember? When he was fourteen, or was it
Alison. "He owes just about
meant a lot to Jimmy, and he tells
why a few minutes later: “to be with her was an adventure. Even to sit
on the top of a bus with her was like setting out with Ulysses.”
Mr. Siegel explains what Jimmy is hoping for in these sentences, which
Within every person
there is a notion
of self that is complete, though what it is, one doesn't know.
is looking to things outside of oneself to bring it out, the self which
is deeper, more entire, more beautiful than the self at any one moment.
If we meet some person who cares for us, who understands us, who can
what we feel -- be for it, be against it if need be, but in terms of
-- then there is a chance for ourselves to be complete. [The Right Of
But Alison Porter is hoping
something will happen
to finally prove once and for all, her husband is a brute. Later, as
tries to describe to her friend Helena why she and Jimmy are having
we see her cruel and irritated disdain -- his past, the people he cares
for, his relation to the world, are interferences to her:
[to Helena]. "It isn't easy
to explain. It's what you would call a question of allegiances . . . .
Not only about himself and all the things he believes in, his present
his future, but his past as well. All the people he admires and
and has loved. The friends he used to know, people I've never even
-- and probably wouldn't have liked. His father, who died years
Even the other women he's loved. Do you understand?"
Helena. "Do you?"
Alison. "I've tried to. But
can't bring myself to feel the way he does about things."
of the most moving scenes in the play
shows how much Jimmy is yearning to be known by his wife and others. He
speaks about what he felt years before, as his father was slowing dying
of the wounds he got in the Spanish Civil War, and he then, age 10, was
the only person with him every day for months:
"He would talk to me for
hours, pouring out all that was left of his life. "
understand Jimmy more deeply; every person's
past matters, is tremendously meaningful. But Alison hasn't been
3 she has decided to leave Jimmy, and
her father comes to take her back home. This is a high point in the
-- for we see the stiff, conservative Colonel Redfern, the opposite of
her husband, tell his daughter that he and her mother were wrong; they
shouldn't have been against her marriage. To Alison’s further shock, he
says Jimmy is right, that he's honest, and:
"Perhaps you and I were
the ones most to blame."
Alison. "You and
Colonel. "I think you
after me a little, my dear. You like to sit on the fence because it's
and more peaceful."
father's criticism helps Alison to change,
along with tragedy: she loses the baby she is pregnant with.
by this, she becomes less arrogant, and the play ends with her
to Jimmy, with a much greater desire to understand.
essay, “On a Person's Not Being Known,”
Mr. Siegel writes:
[I]f someone is to know
us, we must
feel that that person sees us as representing reality. . . . if we feel
that someone sees us in a confined way, in a cozy way, only, we do not
feel we are understood. . . . we want to be seen as a moving assemblage
of light and shade: we abhor being “summed up.”
Melanie Ward, who could have a
quality, and also be a tough manager, was finding after the birth of
little boy, Douglas, that she and her husband David Ward were more
and she told her consultants she'd asked herself, “What happened to the
good feeling we had for one another?” David Ward, she said, “feels I
get excited about the world, and that I don't have a steady interest or
care for too many things.” When her husband wanted them to go out
and see things together, she insisted on staying home and she would
get stony or scornful. The Wards were also affected by what couples
the country are, worry about having enough income.
asked Melanie Ward if she wanted to put aside
her husband: “Have you hoped David Ward mean less to you? Could he get
very angry because you want to keep him at a distance, yet still have
do what you want him to?” Melanie Ward wrote in a document for her next
consultation that, as she thought about this question, she saw, “I do
to keep my husband at a distance. [And I'm seeing that] I've wanted to
manage him and my son, by insisting that things be done my way.
felt extremely important doing this, while despising myself for being
and unfeeling to what a person deserves.”
spoke to her about how strong the desire
in a woman is to feel she is better than the man she's married, and the
urgency of her having good will, which Mr. Siegel described as “the
to have something else stronger and more beautiful, for this desire
oneself stronger and more beautiful”:
Do you hope to respect your
husband, or do you have some other hope? If you see something like a
in him, do you use it to have contempt, or do you truly hope to respect
him more and place the weakness in such a way that you have more
for the whole world, and see the deepest thing in another person?
the assignments Melanie Ward did that
broke through the spurious superiority she'd been cultivating, was
about her husband what Eli Siegel asked in the poem “Ralph Isham, 1953
and Later” -- one of the most important questions ever asked about a
She tried to describe her husband's
his own father, and she told us it had her see how much it mattered to
David Ward that he be kind and think deeply about his father, who he
been so angry with in the past, and that she wanted to encourage
What was he to
There, there is something.
have such a renewed love for David,”
she wrote in a document to her consultants:
Melanie Ward's life shows that when
can meet and study Aesthetic Realism -- one of the tremendous,
results will be real love, critical and kind, between men and
and I see how
beautiful and necessary
it is to choose good will . . . . [He], like myself, is a relation of
and unsureness, hope and uncertainty, the known and unknown . . . . I
how much I need my husband and the good effect he has on my life .