Culture defines love. What would our romantic ideals be if Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams hadn’t covered the screen in honey in The Notebook? How about our realistic outlook on love if Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon Levitt hadn’t tortured us for 95 excruciating loveless minutes in 500 Days of Summer?
Our take on love and heartbreak go hand in hand with whatever stories resound the most with us as a generation. But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t pay attention to what the classics can teach us about relationships. Many of the great works of literature have moments that illustrate love’s different faces.
Helen and Paris
Forget The Notebook and the cute romantic demonstration of writing her a letter everyday for a year and building her a dream house. Step aside, Ryan Gosling, make way for Paris. The ultimate romantic badass stole Helen from King Menelaus, which brought about war between Troy and Greece, the deaths of thousands of people —including Troy and Greece’s greatest warriors, Paris’s brother Hector and Achilles (a freakin’ semi-immortal demigod), along with most of Paris’s family. Talk about love that overcomes every obstacle, even armies and a decade long conflict.
Elizabeth Bennett and Fitzwilliam Darcy
Pride and Prejudice
By Jane Austen
The most famous “will-they-won’t-they” story in literature, Pride and Prejudice has inspired generations of love-thirsty men and women with it’s tale of “opposites” attracting. The main characters, Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy, spend years disliking each other because of their apparent differences. Elizabeth judges Darcy negatively for his seemingly excessive pride, but as time goes by, they eventually overcome their flaws and fall in love (thank God). It’s a story of people growing as individuals to eventually find happiness in the arms of another, and once you find yourself in a good relationship, you realize just how true that insight really is.
Ekaterina “Kitty” Shcherbatskaya and Konstantin “Kostya” Levin
By Leo Tolstoy
The obvious answer in regards to great literary couples in this book would’ve been Ana Karenina and Alexei Vronsky, but there are actually two great couples in the novel, and Levin and Kitty are just as interesting as Ana and Vronsky. Levin, a character that resembled Tolstoy in real life, spends a great deal of time heartbroken after Kitty rejects his marriage proposal, an event that causes him to have an existential crisis. Although they eventually get together and marry, what ensues is a very realistic, yet incredibly sweet portrayal of marriage. We listen to Levin’s doubt and insecurities regarding his relationship with Kitty, even though he never stops feeling infinite happiness and satisfaction by being with his loved one. It’s a very complex couple that portrays the ups and downs that come in any serious relationship, where the “happily-ever-after” is actually filled with obstacles and hard work.
Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler
Gone With the Wind
By Margaret Mitchell
With this epic romance, our list takes a somewhat dark turn. We go from the romantic heroes that overcome obstacles to be together, to those love stories that lack a happy ending. Gone With the Wind features one of the most epic couples to ever capture our imagination, be it in the novel or the film. Scarlett and Rhett are fictional heavyweights, deep and tough characters whose egos clash continuously all the way to the very end of their stories. Rhett, not a saint at all, chases after Scarlett in spite of her turning him down over and over again. And the moment she finally seems to have started to really love him, he changes her mind and leaves her, at last growing tired of everything she’s put him through. Appreciate what you have when you have it, because when they eventually leave, they won't come back.
Daisy Buchanan and Jay Gatsby
The Great Gatsby
By F. Scott Fitzgerald
One of the greatest American novels ever written, The Great Gatsby is the story of a man driven by his undying love for a woman who’s out of his reach. Jay Gatsby, a soldier, falls for Daisy Buchanan, an upper class girl who ends up married to a very rich man, and proceeds to dedicate his life to winning her affection. In order to do this, he takes extreme measures: making a fortune by bootlegging alcohol during prohibition and using the money to host luxurious parties in his mansion, hoping that Daisy will eventually go to one and realize he is of a social standing that’s worthy of her. In the end, Gatsby fails and his desire of being with Daisy brings about tragic outcomes for everyone involved. Sometimes things don’t work out, no matter how much we want them to.
Now check out other things you can do instead of falling in love, and if great kisses are your thing, don't miss out on the ones that will make you fall in love.