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  • Love: “The Gift of Death”
  • Linda Greenwood (bio)

John Caputo explains the function of deconstruction in this manner: "Deconstruction gives old texts new readings, old traditions new twists. It urges that regularizing structures and normalizing institutions—everything from literature to democracy—function more freely, more open-endedly" (18). In the same way, J. R. R. Tolkien gives reality a "new twist" by writing in the form of myth. His mythology deconstructs the world around him, turns it upside down, and presents it in an entirely new light. It becomes a world in which faith without faith becomes faith, hope without hope becomes hope, and myth becomes more real than reality. The catalyst for this freeplay of words and meanings, the element that allows things to turn around and reverse themselves, is love. Love defines the ultimate use of deconstruction, and love allows myth to invade the reality of this world and become fact. In Tolkien's work, love motivates faith to reach beyond the boundaries of the known, to rekindle hope in the midst of the uncertain. Love turns death into a gift and transforms defeat into victory. This force of love permeates The Lord of the Rings and deconstructs the very world that it surrounds.

C. S. Lewis tackles the nebulous definition of love in The Four Loves, explaining that there are three elements of love: "Need-love," "Gift-love," and "Appreciative love." All of these characteristics interact in the four different types of love. Three of the loves are natural and include Affection, Friendship, and Eros, while the fourth contains traces of the divine and comes from something outside of the natural order. Lewis uses the more archaic definition of Charity to define this transcendental love, or "Divine Gift-love." In order for Charity to be effective, it must cease to be transcendent and work within the natural order of love. Lewis explains; "the natural loves are summoned to become modes of Charity while also remaining the natural loves they were" (133). It is when Charity is allowed to transform the natural loves that the impossible becomes possible and the limited becomes limitless. Death to the finite inclination of natural love allows love to become infinite and its possibilities to become endless.

Jacques Derrida also speaks of love as the fuel for deconstruction. In an interview called "The Almost Nothing of the Unpresentable" he explains that the work of deconstruction is performed in two phases. First, it dismantles the structure of a work by overturning the hierarchy that the work supports, thus allowing the work to affirm the opposite. Second, deconstruction reverses the polarities that have been set in place over [End Page 171] time. Instead of leaving this reversal alone, however, where the newly constructed hierarchy would repeat the same traditional scheme, deconstruction forms an entirely new concept, which incorporates both the trace of the old and the pattern of the new. Derrida points out that this process "never proceeds without love" (Points 83). It is a love that transforms from within rather than being imposed from without by a set of rules and regulations. "The movements of deconstruction do not destroy structures from the outside. They are not possible and effective, nor can they take accurate aim except by inhabiting those structures" (Grammatology 24).

Derrida continues to explore this idea of love in his book The Gift of Death. In his discourse, Derrida looks at "infinite love (the Good as goodness that infinitely forgets itself), sin and salvation, repentance and sacrifice" and the Christian themes that revolve around the gift of death that infinite love (Charity) is able to give. He explains that what saves this discourse from being ideologically charged is that there is no need of "the event of a revelation or the revelation of an event," but all that is needed is the possibility of such an event occurring, as he says, "the possibility of religion without religion" (49; my emphasis). In other words, the possibility of myth, whether it is Christian or pagan.

Tolkien employs both types of myths. In doing so, he takes elements of ancient Northern literature and pictures of the Christian myth and interweaves them to create something relevant...