When Two Become One:
Expanding the Self
to Include the Other
“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. ”
—Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806–1861), English poet
The best-known love story of modern times may be Erich Segal's (1970) Love Story. In this 20-million-copy best-seller, Oliver Barrett IV is a Harvard ice-hockey jock born into family money. The great-grandson of the man after whom a colossal dormitory and several other campus buildings are named, Oliver is ambivalent about his family's in-your-face Harvardism. Moreover, he positively loathes being programmed into the Barrett tradition: “It's all crap” as he unambiguously puts it. Jenny Cavilled, on the other hand, is a sarcastic Radcliff music major with gorgeous legs (by Oliver's account). Her mother's death in a car crash left her to be raised by her roughhewn, big-hearted, pastry-chef father (whom she lovingly calls “Phil”) and welcoming neighbors in Cranston, Rhode Island.
Oliver and Jenny meet in the Radcliff library. From the word go, she calls him “preppie”; he calls her “snotty Radcliff bitch. ” A few dates later, however, opposites have attracted, and Oliver utters those immortal words: “I think … I'm in love with you. ” Despite initially telling him he's “full of shit, ” the couple soon marry, though without the blessing of Oliver's father, “Old Stonyface” (“Marry her now, and I will not give you the time of day”).
At their do-it-yourself wedding, Oliver and Jenny stare blissfully into each other's eyes, while she recites a sonnet from Elizabeth Barrett Browning: