You know, I always thought that Barb’ry Allen got a bad rap. I mean, why should a girl marry a guy she doesn’t love simply because he’s pining away for her? Why would she want to spend her life with someone that weak? Why should she pretend to love him?
If you recall the old ballad, a guy is literally on his deathbed because he is in love with Barb’ry Allen, but she doesn’t love him. He sends someone to get her to come to him as he’s dying. Well, she goes, but she’s really slow about it. When she gets there, she doesn’t offer any false hope of her love to him but simply states the truth that he is dying and begins to laugh.
Now, let’s think about that scene for a moment. Here’s a guy who is so weak that he can’t go on without her love, so he simply lies down on his bed and literally pines to death. She’s slow about getting there, but she did go. She did honor his request. But, should she have run to his side? I don’t think so. To do so would have been dishonest on her part. It would have offered him false hope. When she arrives, she sees a man too weak in gumption to go on living because someone doesn’t return his love, so she begins to laugh. Instead of laughing, should she have told him to get his behind up out of bed, get a job, find someone new, and get on with his life?
As the ballad goes, after she laughs at him, he dies and she goes home. Apparently, others find her hardhearted and chastise her for not returning his love. She sees his coffin and has regret for being unkind to him and asks for a grave to be dug next to him and she dies from regret. In the cemetery, a rose grows from his grave and a briar from hers.
Now, in reality, folks were more concerned about this weak man’s feelings than Barb’ry Allen’s honesty and forthright. Why should she be made to feel guilty for not returning his love? Would those folks want to be with someone so weak that he just dies from emotion? I don’t think so. She was harangued into dieing from regret; she was made to feel guilty for honoring her own feelings. Then to add insult to injury, even in death Barb’ry Allen is shamed by others who allowed a briar to grow on her grave.
She is made out to be unfeeling, but she has a lot of feelings for what others think of her. I realize that Barb’ry Allen is a ballad from another place and another time, but I’ve always felt that she was the victim who was swindled out of her life by a weak man and judgmental acquaintances. Her story needs to be rewritten.