A short story review of ‘Love is a fallacy’
By EG Manilag, Staff Writer
Max Shulman’s Love is a Fallacy is a short story which is comedic and simultaneously a deep masterpiece. Its cleverness and humour in introducing logical fallacies and the basics of how love works is very entertaining as well. This review has spoilers—read the story if you don’t want to miss out!
In this first-person narrative, the author himself is the main protagonist. The plot of the story generally revolves around an arrogant and condescending boy genius who declares himself in these grandiose words:
“Cool was I and logical. Keen, calculating, perspicacious, acute, and astute—I was all of these. My brain was as powerful as a dynamo, precise as a chemist’s scales, as penetrating as a scalpel. And—think of it! —I only eighteen.”
He also describes his roommate at the university, Petey Bellows, “dumb as an ox,” and Polly Epsy, the girl of his dreams, as “beautiful,” and “gracious,” but not intelligent. On that he says,
“Intelligent she was not. In fact, she veered in the opposite direction. But I believed that under my guidance she would smarten up.”
Additionally, Polly is Petey’s girlfriend, and this irritates Max the most. However, because of a special “raccoon coat” which he possesses, everything changes—the tables turn since Petey is blindly obsessed with the coat that Max has.
“I’d give anything for a raccoon coat. Anything!” says Petey. Max guesses that he can bargain the coat to Petey to date Polly, and strangely, it works. Petey is reasonably hesitant at first, however, Max’s manipulative powers convince Petey to exchange his girlfriend for the coat—it seems that his lust for the raccoon coat was much stronger than his love.
On their first date, Max tries to shape Polly the way he wants her to be—smart—and uses the teachings of logic as a clearly logical man himself. Condescendingly, he teaches Polly about logic and logical fallacies, thinking he would change her for the better and smarten her up. Unfortunately, in the final wave of the story as their dating progresses, events take an unexpected route as Max’s plan completely backfires, leading to a satirical fin.
The story is a worthwhile one. It tells us that love is not defined by logic, as love is emotional, and we can see that in Max’s actions. He tries to use logic to win love and doing so is a logical fallacy.
What comes to my mind regarding this story is a famous line from Otis Milburn on the TV series Sex Education. Milburn says, “Love isn’t about grand gestures, or the moon and the stars. It’s just dumb luck. And sometimes, you meet someone who feels the same way. And then, sometimes, you’re unlucky.” What he said couldn’t be more correct. Love is simply just dumb luck—however, love is not false.
Ultimately, love is a fallacy in its functions, but it is not a fallacy per se. It is a fallacy in its functions because in romantic relationships, love usually takes the good and disregards the bad, even if the bad outweighs the good. Although love has fallacious characteristics, love is not a pure fallacy—love is more than that. Just because it’s blind, random, and unpredictable doesn’t mean it’s wrong.