A Life Of Passion
“Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all” (Alfred Lord Tennyson In Memoriam: 27, 1850:). This quote is talking about how important it is to have experienced love. Even if it brings pain in the end, the love that is felt for another person is an amazing experience and something that can never be duplicated. In the novel The Passion by Jeanette Winterson Henri and Villanelle are both passionate characters yet their contrasting personalities lead them to have different perspectives on passion; however as their lives begin to intertwine and the novel comes to a close their views on passion become more alike as they deal with the realization that they will never be with the one they love.
Henri gives us an insight to his personality when he discusses where he came from. He describes the individuals in his village as a “lukewarm people”(7), giving the impression that there is not a lot of excitement or adventure driving the people he is around. He continues by saying, “Not much touches us, but we longed to be touched”(7), implying that they live a monotonous life yearning for some form of passion to give life more meaning and excitement. This is what Henri wanted to avoid, he didn’t want to be lukewarm like the people around him. When the army came to recruit Henri said,” it was a brave band of us who laughed and said it was time we saw more then the red barn and the cows we had birthed”(6), so Henri looked at it as a chance to escape his boring life and see more then just his small village.
Another big reason for Henri joining the army is his admiration for Napoleon Bonaparte. For example when Henri talks about some of his time in Boulogne with Napoleon he say’s, “He woke before us and slept long after us, going through every detail of our training and rallying us personally”(19), this exemplifies Napoleons enthusiasm and passion for life, a passion that Henri was looking for. Henri continues by writing, “He stretched out his hands towards the Channel and made England sound as though she already belonged to us. To each of us. That was his gift. He became the focus of our lives”(19), Napoleons gift was making all of them feel important and that they were doing great things, even if their job was just preparing chicken like Henri. Henri’s dreams of being a drummer in the army did not materialize just like many of his other expectations. However in spite of this and his difficult living conditions Henri still followed Napoleon because he thought that if he was around someone that had passion then he would fill the empty void and finally truly care about something. We know that Henri did not like to be around people with a lack of fervor. Henri gives one example of his village priest and uses heat as a metaphor for passion again when he states, “He was a good man, but lukewarm. I would have preferred a burning Jesuit perhaps then I would have found the extasy I need to believe”(12). Henri is suggesting that he needs to be around someone with passion to buy into what they are telling him. He also becomes angry when his mother tells him that she does not question things anymore and has begun to accept things for what they are, no longer having the enthusiasm that Henri had admired so much prior to leaving for the army. In the whole first chapter Henri simply praises people that have intense feelings for things in their life, or life in general, yet does not speak about anything he personally cares for. Until meeting Villanelle Henri’s passion was to simply be around someone who was passionate, like his leader Napoleon.
Villanelle on the other hand has a very different upbringing and personality then Henri, causing her to think of passion in a different manner. In a book full of interesting characters, the strangest might be Villanelle. A bisexual Venetian woman who works in the city’s casino, and is also the only girl in