Good stories, bad relationships

A page from Wuthering HeightsAfter reading that JK Rowling felt she made a mistake in pairing Ron with Hermione at the end of the Harry Potter series, I was interested to see this article in the Guardian looking at the worst couples in literature. The word “worst,” here, inevitably means “best” in many cases – best for the reader, that is. The disastrous love affairs of many of these couples make for exciting, emotional and heart wrenching reading. Take Catherine and Heathcliff, for example. Their relationship is basically a catalogue of disasters, but we love them for it, and feel their heartbreaking regrets every step of the way. Similarly with Anna and Alexi – they were so wrong for each other, and yet so right. You can see it isn’t going to end well, but you root for them none the less. Their rollercoaster ride of a relationship is the aspect of the book that has ensured the book’s continuing popularity. And who could fail to be taken in by the delicious manipulations of Vicomte de Valmont and the Marquise de Merteuil in Les Liaisons Dangereuses. This wickedly deceitful couple get what they deserve, but I have to agree that it probably would have been best for all concerned if they had never met. As a reader, however, I am glad they did.

The Great Gatsbby

Several examples here, though, are of relationships that take the focus away from the main characters finding their true love. Daisy never really loved Tom – she loved Gatsby. Rochester was all but tricked into marrying the mentally unstable Bertha (and yes, perhaps he shouldn’t have locked her up in the attic, but this bad relationship almost condemned him to a life of miserable solitude if not for meeting Jane). And Bridget Jones needed to have her heart broken by the cad Daniel Cleaver before she could see the true love waiting for her in the gentle and kind Mark Darcy. (Incidentally, as I have never read any of Helen Fielding’s columns she wrote about Bridget for the Independent, I had no idea that in that version of the story Cleaver ends up fathering Bridget’s baby. That puts a whole new spin on things).

And then there is Edward and Bella. Mentioning Twilight in the same breath as Anna Karenina and Wuthering Heights sends a bit of a shiver down my spine, but they have been included on this list. The article puts their rocky relationship down to the fact that Edward is a soulless vampire, whereas I happen to think that the problem with their boring “love affair” has more to do with the fact that the pair of them are soulless shadows of proper characters with about as much passion as a damp rag. They are the only couple on this list to have an ending that is not only happy, but that is so sugar coated it would no doubt make even the most diehard romance lover feel a bit sick.


2 Comments Add yours

  1. Anji Dawson says:

    I dont think Daisy never loved Tom and was Gatsby’s soulmate. I think/thought the whole point of the Gatsby /Daisy thing (and the book theme as a whole) was how people can be built up in your mind to become something they aren’t. Gatsby puts Daisy on a pedastle whereas Tom see’s her as she is. Gatsbys character is built up in everyones minds through out the book as this ridiculously wealthy mysterious figure, but in the end you find out his story is actually quite ordinary.
    Thats just what i took from the book though, feel free to disagree.


    1. I don’t disagree – what I meant was that Daisy *thought* she loved Gatsby, not Tom. I think Tom and Daisy saw each other for exactly what they were; a bit selfish, a bit greedy, both of them thinking they knew what would make them happy without actually having a clue. This made her romanticised view of Gatsby even more profound. Tom and Daisy made a horrible couple, but were more well suited to each other.


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