I stumbled across this at my university yesterday:

PB040184Doors leading into Lockhart Hall

I found this to be incredibly compelling. I’m not sure what inspired someone to write the words “Hate” and “Love” on the tops of these double doors. Probably it is much the same as what inspires people to write on bathroom walls (Westwood? Want to chime in here?). It’s a beautiful form of expression and it is really fascinating how a person may choose one thing over another to write when they leave their mark on a wall. What is especially interesting to me, in this particular case, is the way in which these two words are written.

Hate and love are powerful words that we attach a lot of meaning to. We tend to overuse them and also to dramatize them for maximum effect. Although we can look these two words up in a dictionary, their significance is usually meaning-specific to the user. A dictionary definition of two such powerful words is not satisfactory for most, and it also leaves us with plenty of open-ended questions regarding the essence of “hate” and “love.” It’s still worth looking at what the dictionary has to say, however.

The Canadian Oxford English Dictionary defines hate as “feel hatred or intense dislike towards.” It defines love as “an intense feeling of deep affection or fondness for a person or thing; great liking.” Passion and intensity are integral to these two concepts—or these two words, depending on your perspective of what exactly these things are and what context we are discussing them in—but there is also a certain vagueness and ambiguity to them. In one way, perhaps this adds to the mystery of the question of what exactly these two things are; in another way, perhaps this simply highlights the unknowability of hate and love.

Trying to pin down hate and love is futile. What interests me about the above photograph is how the writer has chosen to portray each of the words. Hate is scrawled in an almost hasty fashion and then underlined. Love is in bigger, bolder letters—as though more deliberately written—and it is followed by two exclamation marks.

The “quickness” of the writing style seems to convey a sense of lurking urgency and suppressed emotion for Hate, but the fact that it is underlined demonstrates that the writer was intent on using that particular word to express themselves. Love, on the other hand, appears larger and more relaxed, as though trying to reach as many people as possible by grabbing their attention. It precedes the playful double exclamation marks and fills up the entire space above the door, whereas Hate is cramped and crowded to one side. This suggests that Love retains the cliched “conquers all” feeling that Hate, in this instance, does not.

There is a reason why we do anything, even if we are not aware of the reasons why we do it. The person who wrote these two words on the doors may or may not have been conscious of the implications behind the way that they wrote each word and their placement above the door (which says something in and of itself: the eyes are drawn upward, suggesting that Hate and Love are beyond the realm of human knowledge, and they are also positioned on a moving part of the door, indicating that they are both fluid, flexible constructs).

Regardless of their intentions, much can be read into what appears to be a very simple couple of words scratched onto the doors. What are your thoughts about the meaning of graffiti? What do you intend when you write on walls?

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5 thoughts on “Analyzing Everyday Rhetoric: Hate and Love

  1. To me I see two different writing styles, and the boldness might even be two utensils. This may not be just somebody writing something and then it’s contrast, but may be what comes commonly with graffiti… response. I rarely write any original graffiti myself, but often find myself unable to resist scrawling a quick response when I find it.

    Posted on November 6, 2009 at 6:33 pm
  2. I’m almost certain that they are two different authors as well.

    Posted on November 9, 2009 at 12:24 pm