Is there such a thing as true love?Sam Spade expresses it succinctly in the final chapter of The Maltese Falcon when he tells Brigid O'Shaughnessy he is sending her to San Quentin and gives her...

Is there such a thing as true love?

Sam Spade expresses it succinctly in the final chapter of The Maltese Falcon when he tells Brigid O'Shaughnessy he is sending her to San Quentin and gives her seven reasons for doing so, then asks:

"Now on the other side we've got what? All we've got is the fact that maybe you love me and maybe I love you."

"You know," she whispered, "whether you do or not."

"I don't. It's easy enough to be nuts about you." He looked hungrily from her hair to her feet and up to her eyes again. "But I don't know what that amounts to. Does anybody ever?"

Is there such a thing as true love? Or is it at best only a mutual delusion, a folie a deux?



Expert Answers
stolperia eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Even if you accept that only a "few have seen" true love, that still confirms that it exists, even if only for those few.

I think the problem and the challenge of this question lies in the reality that there is no concrete, measurable definition of "true love" that one can use to evaluate ones feelings about another individual. The emotion or experience called "love" changes as it is influenced by situations and locations and outside factors. That doesn't mean that it is "true" at some point and "false" or "not real" at some other point - it means that it evolves and morphs and adjusts to the people experiencing it and the settings in which it is being experienced.

The true love I feel for my husband of 30 years feels different when I'm sitting across the dinner table, he reading the evening paper and me doing the Sudoku, than when we're in bed with our arms wrapped around each other. The emotion is there whether we're each doing our part to collect the recycling or we're traveling to meet our son and his girlfriend, anticipating watching them try to find their next steps in their relationship.

As the song says, "Love is a many splendored thing" - but it definitely is there!

Kristen Lentz eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I absolutely believe in true love, although maybe not the completely blinded-by-it version in literature like Romeo and Juliet:

Did my heart love till now? Forswear it, sight!
For I ne'er saw true beauty till this night (I.v.54-55)

For me, true love is a commitment to that other person to love them no matter what.  Instead of being blinded by love, a person walks into marriage with their eyes wide open, fully aware that the person they are marrying is just another human being, full of faults, who is going to make mistakes, a lot of them.  I think about the kind of marriage my grandparents had--when they were still holding hands when they were 80 years old and taking care of each other through the good and the bad.

True love absolutely exists, but it only can come to fruition through commitment and sacrifice.  If Sam Spade had gone with Brigid to San Quentin and stayed with her, not just when she was stunning, but when she was sick and her eyes were puffy, he could have found out what love really means for himself.

belarafon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Yes. True love is not only possible, but the ultimate state of comfort and happiness for human beings; the feeling of being entirely in sync with another person, knowing that you love and are loved in turn, is a feeling that cannot be compared with infatuation, platonic love, or even the love of family.

However, I will add a caveat. It is possible to find true love with more than one person. Just because you are in love with one person doesn't mean that you can't be compatible with one of the 7+ billion humans on Earth. This doesn't mean that your love is not "true," but that it is only one "true" love out of an infinite. Given enough time, you will click with any number of people, and even fall in love with some of them. I think that true love is possible, that it is real, and that it is not necessarily confined to a single other person, but can be found more than once.

Lorraine Caplan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There certainly is!  I think that true love is much like self-actualization, making you want to be your own best self, in addition to wanting to make life good for the other.  It is loving, being in love, and liking, all at the same time.  It is not likely to be completely unconditional, but it is non-judgemental, not a state in which one thinks of all the little changes that must be made to the other.   True love is not a folie à deux because we see the other, with all of the flaws, and love, sometimes in spite of, but sometimes even because of.  It is erotic, intimate, and companionable - all simultaneously.  It allows for autonomy, because there is no need for true lovers to be joined at the hip, and it is that autonomy that provides the wherewithal for true love to last.  I recommend it to everyone! 

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

That's one of those things that you can't ever know.  It's sort of like whether we have free will or not.

Here's one way to look at it: I think that the passage you cite isn't really asking whether true love exists.  It's asking whether anyone can ever define it.  I'm about 3 months short of being with my wife (including when we were going together before marriage) 25 years so I'm pretty sure it's true love.  But I can't define love or accurately say how my attitude towards my wife is different than my attitude towards a really good friend.

So I know emotionally that it exists, but I can't define it.

William Delaney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I didn't get all my ideas about love from Sam Spade. I got most of them from painful life experience, and found them confirmed by various writers. Here is a classic quote on the subject:

True love is like ghosts, which everybody talks about and few have seen. --Francois, Duc de La Rochefoucauld


litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator
True love is real, but only to people that have it. Unless you have been in love, you can't understand. You have to know the difference between passion and love though. Passion is usually short lived. If you are lucky, it turns into true love.
Jessica Pope eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Absolutely! There's always some mystery, especially in the beginning. There may  even be mutual delusion. But over time mere infatuation turns into something deeper. True love means knowing all about the person, and loving the, anyway!

user1450001 | Student

I think- Yes definitely there is ! But it is also depend on ones own soul's level. As far as this earth is concerned the highest level of Truth and Love is next to impossible as WHOLE or COMPLETE and so we always feel extreme pain and long for TRUE LOVE. But true love do have a strong existence beyond this world beyond ones imagination.  

sesh | Student

Yeah, It does. But it happens once it seems. You'll feel very special about that person, unlike the others, and the way you respond to him/her will be more altruistic than you do for others. It's about caring, sharing and dedicating. It's always non- judgemental. If there's true love within both parties in marriage, it will be a happy marriage for certain. Because a true lover is always attentive and patient towards the loved one.

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