Each of us, at least once in our lives, should experience what Italians call “the thunderbolt.” In English, the phenomenon is called “love at first sight."
It kills appetites, over-rides concentration, usurps sleep. It is both frightening and exhilarating, particularly the first time it happens and when it happens, by definition, it is always unexpected.
When Tucker Lightfoot Clairborne first lays eyes on Genevieve (Jenny) LaBelle, he is impaled on her beauty. When she sees him for the first time, she is swept up by what is literally a force of nature.
Both are upset with themselves. Love was not in the plan. But then again, do any of us “plan” to fall in love?
Ah, but what to do with this tsunami of emotion inundating the careful, detailed efforts to escape their respective pasts and move on to a better place? Suppress it. Deny it. Cover it with a stiff cloak of manners and etiquette and polite conversation always conducted in the protective environment of a public place.
But just as hubris wrongly and routinely proclaims human engineering can withstand the might and majesty of nature, so also is it impossible for Tucker and Jenny to tamp down the fires illuminating the chimera of life together. And why not? Isn’t the 19th century American West a mammoth petri dish of reinvention? Do not the hordes crossing the Mississippi believe what lies ahead is a promise land in the biblical sense? They do and it is.
When Tucker and Jenny permit thoughts of romantic entanglement to subsume their plans each asks of themselves if a scion of Virginia nobility and a whore from Louisiana can ever live and love a lifetime together. The answer is always the same. Why not? “No one out here cares about the past. We only care about the future and this is the person with whom I want to share it.”
So if there is no one else objecting to the union of these lovers how then to explain what comes to pass?
To paraphrase Ezekial, what good is hope “when the fault lies within us...?