This week’s Top Ten Tuesday – hosted by The Broke and the Bookish – is all about romance! Obviously….with Valentine’s Day this was a must. Everyone is thinking about love and romance (or lack thereof).
Now, everyone knows a couple that isn’t going to last. Maybe one, the other, or both individuals involved are immature; or maybe the circumstances aren’t right; or maybe they just aren’t well suited for each other; or maybe their family and friends are against the relationship….or countless other reasons. It’s just clear that the romance is doomed to fail.
There are a lot of these romances in literature too….so here are my top ten “doomed to fail” literary romances.
- Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare. Obviously I had to start with this classic example of these starcrossed lovers who were doomed from the start.
- Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton. Ethan and Mattie’s romance is tragically doomed, not only because Ethan is already married, but also because he is noble and good. As much as we want him to have an affair with Mattie, we also know that it will absolutely destroy him.
- O Pioneers! by Willa Cather. How could I make a list of tragic romances without mentioning anything by my beloved Willa. I was tempted to choose My Mortal Enemy (I mean, how can you get more tragic than – “I could bear to suffer….but why must it be like this, alone with my mortal enemy?). However, I quickly realized that O Pioneers! was a much better example of a “doomed from the start” romance. Marie and Emil both possess the innocent purity of youth and the hopefulness of the American Dream….destroyed too soon by reality. Add a dash of adultery and a tryst that ends in a double murder and you’ve got yourself a doomed romance.
- The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Yet another classic example of a doomed romance. Young love turned sour, adultery, death….The Great Gatsby has it all.
- Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. This is probably the only book on the list where the couple is married for longer than a few days in the course of the story. Yet, their romance is as painfully tragic as the rest. Haunted by Rebecca the love between this couple is unable to grow, and instead is choked down….and I won’t say anything else for fear of spoiling….but just know everything goes to shit.
- 1984 by George Orwell. I guess everyone is reading 1984 this year….which sure, it’s a great work….but I think Brave New World or Handmaid’s Tale are a little more applicable…. Regardless of politics, however, 1984 possesses a tragically doomed romance. Due to the all pervasive government and Orwell’s strict adherence to realism, our lovers never stand a chance to break out from society.
- The End of the Affair by Graham Greene. Merely from the title you know this romance isn’t going to work out. Throw in World War II and God and our lovers are infinitely doomed to tragedy.
- Lanark: A Life in Four Books by Alasdair Gray. Our protagonist is afflicted by dragon-scale. A disease that hardens his skin to protect himself from pain – a reflection of the way he hardens his heart to protect himself from the pain of love. So clearly, his romance will be doomed to fail.
- A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray. While the romance doesn’t fail til the last book, you know in the first that nothing will turn out well. Maybe it is because Gemma is a self-centered, spoiled brat….or maybe it is because societal pressure….or maybe it is because of a terrible magic….whatever the case you know this one won’t last.
- The Vegetarian by Han Kang. Yet another adulterous affair that will never blossom into something real. Pair that with a strange mental disorder and strict Korean gender roles and it’s clear nothing but tragedy will come from any romance in this book.