By Alice Diebel
What makes a good love story? If a romantic tale is too perfect, following the rules of romance too closely, it can become predictable and stilted. However, a disastrous love story would inevitably dissatisfy the readers and fail to divulge any kind of further meaning. The criteria of a ‘good’ love story would obviously need to include a complex cast of characters, an intriguing plot line and of course strong writing, but one element that is often missed out is an essentially ‘healthy’ relationship between the love birds. However, ‘bad’ love stories can be brilliantly written, but tend to idolize toxic relationships, which cannot constitute a ‘good’ love story, as we are left with an incompatible couple or, sometimes in severe cases, a dead one.
So here are my top three ‘best’ and ‘worst’ tales of temptation.
1. Heathcliff and Cathy: Wuthering Heights
To kick off, we have what is often referred to as one of the most romantic classics out there. Catherine and Heathcliff grow up together as brother and sister, and not to mention best friends, on the Wuthering Heights estate. However, the couple is basically incestuous in their eternally unfulfilled desires, they spend a great deal of time emotionally torturing each other, and to top it off they end up both unhappily married to other people. Their story ends with Catherine dead after childbirth and Heathcliff following closely after, starving himself from grief, flirting with necrophilia before he goes. In this perverse Romeo and Juliet-style ending, Heathcliff ends up appearing more creepy than romantic. Plus, they never even kiss.
2. Gatsby and Daisy: The Great Gatsby
Although a fantastic novel, The Great Gatsby is made brilliant because of its frankly awful love story. Gatsby desperately tries to hold onto his lost past and rekindle his love with Daisy, but this pipe dream is never realised. Daisy in turn is swept up by Gatsby’s wealth and shiny new reputation, and it is Gatsby’s inability to face facts that leads to an irritating love triangle and dissatisfying conclusion to the love plot. Daisy cannot admit to never loving her husband Tom, and Gatsby acts like a child who has had his favourite toy confiscated. He becomes an insufferable character who pushes people too far, and ends up dead due to their recklessness, accidentally murdering an innocent woman. This messy shamble of a relationship was doomed from the start, and the couple’s incompatibility and selfishness is realised in this shambolic conclusion.
3. Ana and Christian: Fifty Shades of Grey
From what originated as a Twilight fan fiction, this ridiculously popular travesty of a novel contains what can only be described as an even more ridiculous love story, if it can even be called that. Even when ignoring the poor quality and repetitive writing, the plot is an amalgamation of toxic relationship models, which are frankly distressing to the reader, praising neither men nor women in its depictions. Christian with his highly successful career and his fetish for violent foreplay, combined with Ana’s meekness and naivety, lead to an uncomfortable and eventually destructive relationship, based around sexual encounters and distinct lack of emotion. Even if some emotion emerges throughout the text, the skewed power dynamic is raised on a pedestal, and this, although entertaining, paints an awful picture of modern day romance and shuns tradition like the plague.
1. Elizabeth and Darcy: Pride and Prejudice
In one of the best romantic stories ever conceived, Darcy and Elizabeth are one of the best-loved couples of literature, and for good reason. The couple are equally stubborn and prejudiced, and only through a breaking down of their pride and presumptions can they discover that they are perfect for each other. Darcy at first is too proud to consider marrying below his status, but is swept up in Elizabeth’s gleaming eyes and cockily proposes, with no success. Elizabeth is also far from faultless in her original immature and naïve adoration of the evil Wickham, and only through their mistakes and humbling can the couple change each other and acknowledge their faults.
2.Buttercup and Westley: The Princess Bride
(Warning: this story is my favourite childhood novel and I may or may not be biased)
Buttercup and Westley’s tale not only has a gripping plot line and a hilarious collection of characters, but it is equally a fantastic love story. The brave Westley must endeavor to track down his lost love Princess Buttercup, captured by the evil Vincini and his sidekicks, the Giant and Spaniard. Using only his wit, wisdom and his strength, we follow a man willing to sacrifice everything for his true love, even his identity. Although Buttercup can be irritatingly useless most of the time, their love is enduring as well as entertaining, combining to create this timeless classic.
3. Augustus and Hazel: The Fault in our Stars
Possibly the biggest tearjerker of 2014, this novel does not fail to grip the reader in this terribly touching and memorable story. Hazel and Gus meet at a cancer support group, and quickly move towards romance. However, Hazel’s reluctance to commit to a relationship is not just teenage drama at its worst, but a mature consideration to avoid falling in love when death looms over her every thought. This picks up on humanity’s longing for attachment and companionship, even with our mortality and the inevitability of loss. The couple, although short-lived and doomed from the beginning, does not fail to touch the reader in its heartbreaking conclusion and story of bravery in love.
Photograph: Ninha Morandini