Happy Valentine’s Day, bookworms! In the past, I’ve highlighted literary lovers on The Librarian Next Door, taking time to appreciate the lovely aspects of this particular holiday. This year? Well, this year, I’m going maudlin, even depressing. This year, I’m talking about the doomed and tragic lovers from literature, those who were – quite simply – just not meant to be. Consider it an antidote to all the sticky sweet stuff you’ll no doubt consume today.
- Willoughby and Marianne Dashwood (Sense & Sensibility) – Before you protest, yes, I’m well aware Marianne ends up married to Colonel Brandon at the end of Austen’s novel. But her romance with Willoughby takes up many more pages and is arguably much more interesting. Despite his caddish ways and skirting of propriety, I think there’s sufficient evidence to suggest that Willoughby did truly love Marianne. I mean, yes, he was clearly the bad guy who abandoned a young girl after getting her pregnant, but that doesn’t preclude him from actually falling in love. And, in the end, Marianne gets her happy ending and he’s appropriately miserable with his rich wife.
- Orpheus and Eurydice (Greek mythology) – Ah, poor Orpheus. If only he had been a better listener. Despite his apparently legendary ability to charm anyone and anything, Orpheus didn’t seem to grasp the rules well, since his doomed and tragic romance was of his own making. I’ve read some interpretations that say Orpheus deserved his fate, since he flouted the gods’ will by persuading Hades and Persephone to let him take Eurydice back. I get that. But really – how hard is it not to look back? It’s called trust, Orph!
- Heathcliff and Catherine (Wuthering Heights) – Confession: I don’t understand people who think Wuthering Heights is some kind of great romantic novel. It’s not! Heathcliff and Catherine are horrible people! Their love for one another is selfish and destructive; it literally tears apart their family and everyone they’ve ever cared about. Of course it was doomed! Catherine marries for status, instead of love, and Heathcliff abuses his wife. Frankly, I’m glad they both died unhappy. (You can probably tell, I have some latent anger issues with this novel.)
- Gatsby and Daisy (The Great Gatsby) – Honestly, there have to be easier ways of attracting a woman’s attention, then throwing lavish parties in the vain hope a woman will attend and asking a distant relative for a set-up. But then, Jay Gatsby’s not really a normal kind of guy. With his lies piled one on top of the other, and the inconvenient fact that Daisy is married to someone else, it’s not hard to figure out that Gatsby and Daisy’s relationship won’t last. Of course, jealous and murderous husbands don’t help either.
- Romeo and Juliet (Romeo & Juliet) – Come on! I can’t possibly leave these two off the list. Star-crossed lovers who literally defined “star-crossed” (because it didn’t exist before Shakespeare made it up), Romeo and Juliet were doomed before they even started. I mean, you have to admire their pluck; despite all of the obstacles in their way (warring families, parental disapproval, the whole Romeo-killed-her-cousin thing, etc), those two crazy kids tried to make it work. Still, I strongly believe that they’d both be alive if they had just learned (during the extremely brief courtship and marriage) to communicate. Hey, R – I’m only *pretending* to be dead. Don’t worry. Love, J. How hard is that?
Your turn, literary lovers – which doomed and tragic couples make your depressing Valentine’s Day list?
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