Spoiler Alert! Ten Literary Couples that Ended Unhappily

General Quirk

It's February, and if you find yourself surrounded by pink and red and drowning in chalky conversation hearts that's because Valentine's Day is fast approaching. (Pssst, it's February 14th for any of you are currently freaking out because you forgot.) Despite the fluffy nature of the holiday and the focus on “twue wove” it's not the day for everyone.

Maybe you prefer to spend Valentine's Day listening to Morrissey in the dark, maybe you're just like President Snow and the mere sight of people holding hands disgusts you, maybe you just have a problem with rampant consumerism. Whatever the case may be, we have created an anti-Valentine's Day list just for you. Get out your hankies (or your noisemakers, because you may be a sadist), because these literary couples do not find their happily ever after.

WARNING: beware of spoilers all ye who enter here (duh).

ANNA KARENINA AND COUNT VRONSKY
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Anna Karenina is pretty tired of being married to her womanizing husband Karenin, so much so that she becomes embroiled in an affair with the young and dashing Count Vronsky. Afraid to leave her husband because, “What will society think!?!” Anna and Vronsky eventually end up together, but Anna finds herself a social pariah because of it, while Vronsky is still well respected in society. Torn apart by anger, jealousy and the double-standards of societal norms, Anna commits suicide by train—or if you happen to be reading Android Karenina, fixes a time paradox.

 

WILL AND LYRA
His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman

Will and Lyra's lives intersect thanks to the help of a magical-but-subtle knife that can sever the fabric between worlds. Unfortunately, it also weakens these worlds, and Will and Lyra must painfully part ways if they are to save their respective dimensions. Their parting is so painful, in fact, that my friend created a brand new trope to express their pain: WillLyra-ed. Remember when Rose Tyler and The Tenth Doctor were separated by that wall in parallel universes? They were WillLyra-ed. Will and Lyra were the original Ten and Rose, and there was no convenient human copy to make it all better. Also, Rose and Ten don't have a bench in Oxford dedicated to their love, do they?

 

THE LITTLE MERMAID AND THE PRINCE
The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen

The original tale of The Little Mermaid was very different from the Disney-fied version. In Hans Christian Andersen's story, the Little Mermaid grows legs that are so painful it's like walking on knives and is warned by the Sea Witch that if her Prince should marry another she will die of a broken heart. Unfortunately, he ends up marrying a princess pretty soon, at which point the Little Mermaid's sisters arrive with a knife and a hell of a loophole from the Sea Witch: if she slays her Prince and his bride, she can become a mermaid again. Unable to kill her beloved, she throws herself into the ocean and dies, turning into sea foam. Even then she can't find peace though because she becomes a daughter of the air and must do good deeds in order to earn a soul. Ugh!

 

JAY GATSBY AND DAISY BUCHANAN
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

All Gatsby (Gatsby? What Gatsby?) wanted to do was make Daisy Buchanan love him. He didn't stare at that green light for the entire book for no reason! (Except maybe because that's how symbolism works?) But all he wound up doing was getting killed while trying to protect his lover who happened to commit a little bit of vehicular manslaughter. Spoilers? This book came out 85 years ago (not to mention the two movie versions), so surely the statute of limitations on spoilers has passed by now.

 

HAMLET AND OPHELIA
Hamlet by William Shakespeare

Come on, you knew I had to throw in some Shakespeare—and not the super-obvious choice. Romeo and Juliet wouldn't know love if it smacked them right in the face. I mean, did Romeo tell Juliet to send herself to a nunnery at which point she went crazy, sang a bunch and drowned herself? Methinks not. These two also have tragedy up the wazoo. In addition to Hamlet stabbing Ophelia's father through a curtain, he ends up inadvertently poisoning Ophelia's brother Laertes who ultimately kills Hamlet to avenge Ophelia's suicide. Oh Shakespeare.

 

TRISTAN AND ISEULT
Tristan and Iseult by Thomas of Britain and Beroul

If you must have some star-crossed lovers, take a gander at Tristan and Iseult, who were thought to have inspired the Arthurian legend of Lancelot, Guinevere and the affair that killed King Arthur and brought about the downfall of Camelot. The stories differ from poem to poem but the basic gist is this: Tristan is supposed to give Iseult to his uncle to marry but through various trickery or shenanigans (depending on the version) they drink a love potion and fall madly in love. It all gets very complicated from here, with both Tristan and Iseult marrying other people and eventually dying of broken hearts because Tristan wrongly thinks that Iseult has died. Apologies to Romeo and Juliet for accusing them of being overly dramatic...that sounds like it sucks.

 

HEATHCLIFF AND CATHERINE
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

Bella Swan (yes, that Bella Swan) loves Wuthering Heights so much because for some reason she thinks it makes her own love triangle more romantic. Sorry Stephenie Meyer, Bella will never be Catherine and Edward will never be Heathcliff and not just because you obviously didn't understand the basic plot of Bronte's novel. Catherine and Heathcliff loved each other from a young age, but for some reason she ended up marrying the terrible, horrible, no good Edgar Linton. Catherine eventually dies, and because their scenes together on the moor weren't dramatic enough, Heathcliff forces his son Linton to marry Catherine's daughter Cathy as a form of twisted wish-fulfillment.

 

THE NARRATOR AND ANNABEL LEE
Annabel Lee by Edgar Allen Poe

The last complete poem written by Edgar Allen Poe (and published posthumously) was about what else but a dead woman and her pining, haunted lover. The two fell in love when they were young and loved so strongly that even the angels were jealous of them. Unfortunately, the gloriously named Annabel Lee died, possibly at the hands of these angels, but the narrator continued to love her even into death, sleeping next to her tomb beside the sea every night. Sounds about right.

 

HAZEL AND AUGUSTUS
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Our most modern and tragic lovers can be found in John Green's novel The Fault in Our Stars (about to be a movie, too, in case you've never been to the internet) about two teens with cancer who meet in a support group: Hazel and Augustus. Just remember, it's a love story, not a cancer story. Over the course of the novel the duo grow closer and closer to one another. At first Hazel is opposed to this because she doesn't want Augustus – who has already lost a girlfriend to cancer – to lose another girlfriend when she ultimately dies. Suffice it to say, after falling in love (“the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once”) the duo end tragically and painfully. If you don't feel anything after reading this book then it's quite possible you don't have a soul.

 

DORIAN GRAY AND DORIAN GRAY
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

Sure, in Oscar Wilde's only novel Dorian Gray falls in love with an actress (whom he throws aside and drives to suicide-by-acid) but we all know the person Dorian Gray truly loves more than anyone else is himself. So much so that he is willing to trap his soul inside a painting so he can stay young and beautiful forever...albeit inadvertently. Unfortunately, he lives in a gothic novel and a happy ending is not in the cards for him or his dark and twisted soul (which is only slightly worse of a fate than being in that League of Extraordinary Gentleman movie).