I suspect a demand for real change in power relations will occur only if women … come to understand that their need for romances is a function of their dependent status as women and of their acceptance of marriage as the only route to female fulfillment. I think we as feminists might help this change along by first learning to recognize that romance reading originates in very real dissatisfaction and embodies a valid, if limited, protest. Then by developing strategies for making that dissatisfaction and its causes consciously available to romance readers and by learning how to encourage that protest in such a way that it will be delivered in the arena of actual social relations rather than acted out in the imagination, we might join hands with women who are, after all, our sisters and together imagine a world whose subsequent creation would lead to the need for a new fantasy altogether.
The essential difference between novel and romance lies in the conception of characterization. The romancer does not attempt to create “real people” so much as stylized figures which expand into psychological archetypes. It is in the romance that we find Jung’s libido, anima, and shadow reflected in the hero, heroine, and villain respectively. That is why the romance so often radiates a glow of subjective intensity that the novel lacks, and why a suggestion of allegory is constantly creeping in around the fringes. Certain elements of character are released in the romance which make it naturally a more revolutionary form than the novel. The novelist deals with personality, with characters wearing their personae or social masks. He needs the framework of a stable society, and many of our best novelists have been conventional to the verge of fussiness. The romancer deals with individuality, with characters in vacuo idealized by revery, and, however conservative he may be, something nihilistic and untamable is likely to keep breaking out of his pages.
Romance feeds on obstacles, short excitation’s, and partings; marriage, on the contrary, is made up of wont, daily propinquity, growing accustomed to one another. Romance calls for “the faraway love” of the troubadours; marriage, for love of “one’s neighbor.” Where, then, a couple have married in obedience to a romance, it is natural that the first time a conflict of temperament or of taste becomes manifest the parties should ask themselves: “Why did I marry?” And it is no less natural that, obsessed by the universal propaganda in favor of romance, each should seize the first occasion to fall in love with somebody else.