Literature is full of memorable couples and their successful (or not-so-successful) pursuit of one another.
Romeo & Juliet. Anne & Gilbert. Jane Eyre & Mr. Rochester. And many, many more.
Who hasn’t sighed with satisfaction when Almanzo Wilder finally slipped a ring over Laura Ingalls’s finger after years of Sunday drives—not to mention that dastardly Nellie Olson trying to steal Almanzo for herself in These Happy Golden Years?
Or what about Beatrice and Benedick from Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing? While much witty banter flew back and forth—including more than one choice insult—our pair finally discovered their mutual attraction and decided life together would be more stimulating than life apart.
The path of true love doesn’t always flow so straight, however. As I mentioned in a previous post, I remember being bitterly disappointed that Jo didn’t marry Laurie in Little Women.
Romance is a key component in many stories. Where would Robin Hood be without his Maid Marion? Jamie without his Claire? Wesley without his Buttercup? Let’s face it: part of the reason we read a story is to find out who gets the girl! I’m no exception. I’m a sucker for a good love story, and there are several characters whom I simply adore.
My favorite couples in literature have their struggles.
Misunderstandings, trials, and difficulties plagued their relationships which only serve to make their stories more interesting.
A literary couple who learned to work together
First up is Shasta and Aravis from The Horse and His Boy. Yes, yes, I get that the love story is completely secondary to C.S. Lewis’s main adventure of escaping to Narnia—only a line or two is mentioned at the very end of the book when they marry. But I like the way their mutual admiration for one another grows. At first, sparks fly. And not in a lovey-dovey kind of way. They fight. A lot. Much of it has to do with their differences. While Shasta thinks he’s only an insignificant person, Aravis is high born, a Tarkheena in the very best of Tashban society. This discrepancy in their social standing causes a lot of conflict. What I really enjoyed reading was how they learn to capitalize on one another’s strengths, and cover one another’s weaknesses. Now that’s teamwork!
Another favorite would have to be Kate Sutton and Christopher Heron from Elizabeth Marie Pope’s YA historical fiction The Perilous Gard. No class struggle here. While both are noble-born, they instead have character traits that annoy one another to no end. He finds her stubborn. She finds him uncommunicative. He tries to protect her from their mutual and terrifying enemy. She insists on waltzing into danger. He’s quick to understand the trouble they’re in, but it’s her muddling determination that finally rescues them both. The high point of their subtle yet satisfying romance was when Kate finally realizes that, despite his complaints and criticisms, Christopher truly loves her and sees her as his equal and ideal match.
Misunderstanding from the beginning
Finally, who can begin a list of famous literary couples and not include Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy? No one…that’s who.
Yes, Elizabeth & Darcy are at the absolute top of my list for amazing couples whose hate/love/love?/LOVE relationship kept me turning the pages in both excitement and despair. Like Meg Ryan’s character, Kathleen, in You’ve Got Mail, every time I read this book I think: THEY’RE NEVER GOING TO GET TOGETHER!!!!!
Both of them make assumptions about the other’s character. Both of them allow pride to keep them apart. Both of them think they have the moral high ground. It takes a tragedy for them to finally see each other with the eyes of true love.
There you have it. And as I was compiling my list of literary couples, I realized that all of them had one thing in common: their personalities, strengths and weaknesses, and their assumptions were completely in contrast with one another. But love bloomed when they embraced their differences. That, I believe, is the key to any long-standing relationship.