Saturday, June 13, 2009


jealousy--a major dramatic emotion producing anxiety and possible fear of loss of status, a romantic commitment, or ability; concern about ability to maintain a status quo, triggered by the presence of rivals or potential rivals; insecurity over anticipated loss of a tangible thing once securely owned.

With the possible exceptions of guilt and grief, jealousy remains a significant dramatic motivational force, emphasizing a character's insecurity and triggering responses that contribute to deeper dramatic holes for the character in whom it resides. One of the more plausible and enduring cases of literary jealousy is grounded in the unquestioned attraction between Heathcliff and Cathy Earnshaw, later to become Cathy Linton in Wuthering Heights. Even though she loves Heathcliff, Cathy sees Edgar Linton as a step toward a social status she aspires to. Heathcliff's loss of Cathy to Edgar provokes a plausible if melodramatic train of causality that plunges into the supernatural. Jealousy as a motive in mystery and detection novels needs no justification as a motive.

Novels set in college/university settings frequently use jealousy as a driving force applied to members of a particular academic department, and novels with medical backgrounds may bring jealousy and or rivalry between doctors and administrators or doctors in similar or competing departments.

From reading the journals of the gifted short story writer, John Cheever, the reader learns of his jealousy of the meteoric success of fellow writer Irwin Shaw who admired Cheever and continuously sought his company.

The jealous individual fears the loss or diminution of something--including a personal relationship--already possessed; envy is the result when one character covets a quality or ability or relationship possessed by another.


Kate Lord Brown said...

Makes me think of our talented Mr Ripley.

lowenkopf said...

That's a good take,Kate, and a coincidental one. I've been considering Ms. Highsmith and her work a good deal of late.