Home CommentaryOpinions Note to Shelf: The Downside of Reading

Note to Shelf: The Downside of Reading

by Youmna El Halabi September 10, 2019
Note to Shelf: The Downside of Reading

There are many benefits to reading; benefits that your family, teachers, and local librarians never fail to remind you of. You become well-informed and educated, you improve your vocabulary, and you may also become a better person.

Books make you empathetic and teach you to look beyond what meets the eye. Reading deconstructs this black and white mould one is forced into throughout their life. Moral standards are no longer as simple once you become impacted by the literary world.

However, in every reader’s life, there comes a point where we are plagued with what we call a Madame Bovary syndrome. To those foreign to the concept, it is the constant longing for perfect love, the one you have only read about in books. The Madame Bovary syndrome originated from Gustave Flaubert’s infamous novel, Madame Bovary; the story is about young Emma Bovary and her many lovers. Emma is in search of the perfect romance she spent her entire life reading and dreaming about.

I have come to realize that women, more than men, have a tendency to fall prey to this syndrome. Our demise begins with the false advertisement of Romeo and Juliet, a tale of forbidden love that leads to everyone’s death. Dying for love; quite a repetitive theme authors never fail to raise in their novels.

A great example would be The Great Gatsby; one of the novels that has caused the Bovary Syndrome to manifest in my own life. Jay Gatsby, the roaring 20s’ beacon of hope, the embodiment of the American Dream, is one of the many fictional men readers lust over.

Realistically in today’s day and age, Gatsby would be deemed either a stalker or a pussy. This man quite literally shaped his entire life around his lover’s wishes. His wealth, notoriety, and fictional persona were all ploys to get the attention of Daisy, his love interest. He eventually gets shot, an unsurprising consequence of his reckless and passionate feelings for Daisy.

To a green female reader, Gatsby represents everything she dreams of finding in a man. I would love to think we outgrow such romantic notions, somehow learning from Flaubert’s characters and becoming realists.

But most of us don’t. I certainly haven’t.

Granted, I have a more realistic notion of love now than I had at the age of 15, when everything was as passionate as Wuthering Heights, and everyone as chaste as Elizabeth and Darcy in Pride and Prejudice.

But that sliver of hope still remains; hope that urges me to write down heartfelt letters and send them out into the void. A kind of hope that makes me believe in grand gestures; flowers at my doorstep and candlelit dinners.

Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing I love more than my own independence. But sometimes, just for a split second, I wish to be swept off my feet and thrown into a Jane Austen romance.

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