Roland Barthes in his work ‘Myth Today’ gives a deeper insight into the understanding of the myth of romantic love done through the disintegration of the work into a number of sections based on the characteristics of a myth as explored by Barthes. The romantic love myth is the most celebrated and upheld and pursued myth in the world.
As Barthes explains, “myth cannot possibly be an object, or an idea; it is a mode of signification, a form” (Barthes 150). According to this assertion, myth is a real thing and not any figment of one’s imagination. Marriage, where the Romantic love myth reaches its utopia, is a celebrated institution that immobilizes the world thereby giving a base for the myth.
In the marriage institution, the couple bears the obligation of nurturing romantic love. The institution is naturalized to the extent that there cannot raise questions as to its intentions (Modleski 50). As Barthes states “Myth is experienced as innocent speech: not because its intentions are hidden but because they are naturalized” (131). In the institution of marriage, romantic love is naturalized in that the couples are supposed to keep each other company and live happily ever after.
According to Modleski, the myth of romantic love conceals the underlying aspects of marriages. The myth covers the underlying turmoil that is present in the marriage institution. The fact that women are actually treated as objects to be purchased or sold out to men is concealed in the myth of romantic love (120).
The overlying tranquility created by the myth of romantic love hinders people from perceiving the intolerable turmoil underneath. The myth of romantic love creates a perception that marriages, which are the nurturing bases of romantic love, lead to everlasting happiness, which is actually not the case as revealed through failures in marriages that lead to the separation of once seemingly happy couple.
The myth of romantic love transforms history into nature in the sense that the institution of marriage is naturalized through comparing it to aspects of history relating to it. For instance, historical contexts of people who endured obstacles and remained with their significant half are over emphasized to give a basis to the idea portrayed in the romantic love myth. This over-emphasizes the possibility of happily ever after marriages, which in most cases are just mirages.
The myth of romantic love supports a false nature including the idea that people can pursue happiness without necessarily being in any relationships. The myth holds that true happiness can only be found when one is involved in a romantic relationship. This creates a sense of oppression as people are forced to live lives that they could have possibly avoided. The possibility that love can come to end or expire between couples who once felt a lot for each other is falsified in the myth of romantic love.
The romantic love myth immobilizes and harmonizes the world. As Barthes states, “Mythology harmonizes with the world” (Barthes 156). This is evident in the manner all over the world people are excited by the idea.
People all over endure a lot, sacrifice a lot and go out of their ways to ensure that they get romantic love. There are those who go to the extent of taking their own lives when they are denied the opportunity to have romantic love. The romantic love myth immobilizes the world as portrayed in the way people want to identify with it for others to view them as ‘normal’.
People who lead lonely and solitary lives are considered to be missing a lot. Barthes states that “For the very end of myths is to immobilize the world: they must suggest and mimic a universal order which has fixated once and for all the hierarchy of possessions” (Barthes 155). Romantic love as conveyed in the manner people uphold it suggests that it has formed a dictate for the world to conform into.
Consumers of the romantic love myth “consume the myth innocently” simply because they do not recognize it as a semiological system. “Semiology is a science of forms, since it studies significations apart from their content” (Barthes 157) People consume romantic love in the institutions such as marriage institutions simply without putting too much thought to it.
Based on the expositions made in the paper as confirmed by Barthes, myth creates a “prohibition for man against inventing himself,” (Barthes 155). In this way, the myth of romantic love blinds man of the existence of any other alternatives to it. By so doing, the myth impedes social change in that it puts itself forth as the only true way of life.
The myth of romantic love prohibits the fact that people can pursue happiness from other ventures and not necessarily any love-related. The happiness that one can derive from casual interactions is not given the chance to develop since the myth of romantic love prohibits thinking outside anything else apart from itself.
Barthes, Roland. Myth Today. The Barthes Reader. New York: Hill and Wang, 1983.
Modleski, Tania. Loving With A Vengeance: Mass Produced Fantasies for Women.
Hamden, Connecticut: Archon Books, 1982.34-150.