I have previously had to say untoward things in defense of the honor of a woman in love. As unpleasant as that was, so pleasant it is now to dwell on the man who assaulted her honor, to detail his crimes & formulate his indictment. He is the first of the lovers of that story to realize love has made him into an adulterer. It is not clear whether the end of his marriage or the failure of his affair has persuaded him that love affairs are temporary, or that love is a fickle master.
But this man who worked & lived with his wife now descends into the bohemian life of newspapermen – restaurants, nightclubs & nightclub girls, casinos, debts, & old acquaintances. Does he think only the pleasant is the good? He suggests that buying & selling pleasure is the truth of pleasure, which indicates its precariousness…
The thing that causes his rebellion seems to be the exclusive nature of erotic love. Promiscuity is a matter of self-defense then. It allows him to look at lovers, because it shows one part of love, that which spurs inquiry into what is worth loving.
He sees three women – Lulu, a club girl with a penchant for tragedy, who invites jealousy & even murder because she refuses to return the love of her suitors. She hides her suffering, but it makes her proud: Her lover may have departed her & died, but she remembers him. The good is a matter of the past. Love turns from promises to memories. But it is still used as a standard, & judges other love unworthy. Lovers can hardly live with the feeling of worthlessness that attends on love.
Ling, also a club girl, becomes his lover. Now we see that the man is a beloved. She likes to be chased & wants to be caught – his vulgar ways hold more promises than warnings for her, for their love is unlawful – but when she falls in love with him, she is shocked to learn how cold & detached he is. He is not displeased to be loved, but it does not persuade him to hold faith. Lovers are not inherently lovable. Beloveds turning into lovers lose their charm perhaps.
Jing-wen falls in love with a Japanese man & incurs her father’s wrath, who remembers the war. What does love care about that? But the woman is a devoted daughter, so she endures all, & does not even kill herself. Her father hides his shouting by playing opera. She corresponds with the man who wants to marry her for years. The man now sees the kind of endurance that can attend on love, patient, understated, & daring.
The sequel to In the mood for love. The protagonist seems as presumptuous & prepossessing as he seemed restrained & gentle previously.