Violet Evergarden and the Lost Art of the Letter

Violet Evergarden is set in an alternate universe, but one closely aligned to our own, take place in the months following a war similar to WWI. The action centers on the title character, who works as a transcriber and translator of sorts, helping to develop and type letters for customers. That idea seems a bit foreign one-hundred years later, so I’ll help you get a hold of the communication technology of the time: the telephone had developed forty years earlier and was slowly moving into the homes of the affluent; the telegraph was still in use and in fact, was a heavy communication medium during the war;  and letters, as they had been for so long, remained a vital form of communication over both short and long distances.

With phone calls still a luxury and years until telegraphy would morph into modern wireless communication, the letter held so much more importance than it does now. It’s no exaggeration when characters on the show emphasize how powerful letters can be.

Imagine all the heartfelt letters that didn’t reach their destinations…

The focus in the series, of course, is on how love is communicated through those letters. Episode nine demonstrates as much, partially through flashbacks to earlier episodes as well as mail delivery in current time, showing the impact of messages between parents and children, brothers and sisters, lovers and beloved. Violet is most caught up in the romantic love between her and Gilbert, but a nice montage expresses how other types of love are just as important, and expressed well through the written word.

Just like the rest of the world, I now rarely write letters. Our family will occasionally write one to our sponsor child in the Dominican Republic, but besides that, the last one I remember writing was to a friend when I was a teenager, and that wasn’t even in this millennium!

But there was a time I used to write letters frequently. My dad served in the military during the first Iraqi War, and he would write letters to us weekly. He would go on for pages without really saying a whole lot, because there was little he could actually share, but it was still wonderful to receive the writings from him. I was a young boy and felt so insecure with my dad away at war, and having his letters, written in his particular and stylish handwriting, made me feel a bit safer, a bit more like I knew that he would be coming home. And I think my replies did the same for him.

I’m not the only one to look back with a touch of melancholy—loss art of letter writing has been frequently lamented. Violet Evergarden has me knee-deep in nostalgia, missing it, too, as well as other parts of my youth that have disappeared (mostly also relating to technological advances). And I’m reminded, too, that I should consider how I show my love to others. A text, even a spoken word, can only do so much—the effort and beauty of putting one’s love to paper imbues meaning and emotion that other ways cannot, and so even as we lose our collective memory of letter writing, the love it gives remains irreplaceable.

And what about you? What was the last letter you wrote? Some of you readers are young—do you have any memory of writing a letter? Please share with us in the comments below!

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