Have you ever read a book and, halfway through, caught yourself thinking, “This character deserves so much better!?” It may be because they’ve been dealt an unfortunate hand, have lost a parent, or job, or simply can’t seem to get their life together. All of that is unfortunate, but sometimes the root of the problem lies in their inexplicable failure to find a romantic partner deserving of them.
We’ll be pairing two people from different works of literature who I think would complement each other, providing love and stability the likes of which they have, unfortunately, never experienced before.
Lolita (Lolita) and Anne Shirley (Anne of Green Gables)
Okay so first things first: getting Lolita away from Humbert Humbert. That’s step one. Next is to give her a lifelong companion her own age, who will cherish her not as a beautiful toy, but as an equal, as someone who has worth and deserves to grow up in safety before taking the world by storm. That’s where Anne comes in.
It’s pretty safe to say that we never really get to know Lolita. We only see her as Humbert does, and if he’s not the textbook example of an unreliable narrator then we're the Queen of England (and boy are We not amused). Lolita is an inquisitive, bright child who just needs someone to encourage her. That’s exactly what Anne needs. Someone who’ll go on her flights of fancy with her. Who’ll stay up at night reading books and laughing and making big plans for the future. Who does that for her currently? Certainly not dainty Diana, or the wholesome-but-dour Cuthberts. And if any of you are ardent Anne/Gilbert fans, just remember that married-to-Gilbert Anne is the most boring Anne, and she spends entirely too much time talking about “bosom friends” to be satisfied with the boy next door.
Melanie Hamilton (Gone with the Wind) and Pip (Great Expectations)
These two characters stick out as people who only have eyes for their true loves. No one else matters, they live and die for the object of their affection. And all they have to show for it is heartbreak and the terrible, gut-deep knowledge that they will never be good enough. That sucks, and it is definitely not in keeping with what we’re doing here, so instead lets ship them together.
All Melanie wanted was a loving spouse and a nice, quiet life. Instead she got a spineless little snot intent on spending his entire existence mooning over Scarlett O’Hara, the perennial object of my hate-love. Melanie is an unsung hero. She can finish off giving birth to a human being and still find it in her to help Scarlett deal with those pesky Yankee soldiers. She is kind, generous, and selfless.
Pip had no chance when it came to Estella. She’s beautiful, haughty, and was taught from a young age to entice men while never allowing herself to care for them. In another life they could have been happy, but what Pip really needs is a warm and affectionate partner. Pip and Melanie together would be the toast of the town. They’d have all the gentility required of them, but would also be honest and genuine with their feelings. The more I write, the more this seems like a stupendously good idea.
Hermione Granger (Harry Potter) and Elphaba (Wicked)
Say it with me now: Hermione needs an intellectual equal. Ron is an amazing friend but Hermione needs someone smarter. She needs someone she could spend long nights talking potions with, and there’s no better candidate than Elphaba, the green-tinged studious witch from Gregory Maguire’s riff on the Oz world.
Elphaba, an outcast from birth due to her unusual skin, spends her entire youth longing to learn magic and make friends. Her interactions with Galinda show that she thrives when she’s got strong female companionship, and she takes her place at school very seriously. Elphaba and Hermione together would be unstoppable. They’d push and support each other, and would become more powerful than anyone could have predicted. Hermione, with her big heart and activist impulses, would never care about the whole green thing, and Elphaba would love her all the more for it.
Frankenstein’s monster (Frankenstein) and Mr. Rochester (Jane Eyre)
I know I’m going to get all sorts of flack for breaking up Jane and Mr. Rochester, but too bad. They’re a bad, mismatched couple, and no amount of sexy Gothic brooding will make up for that. Let’s be real, Rochester never really saw Jane as his equal, and their love only flourished once he had been injured and rendered “hideous.” Jane was able to see past that, but she isn’t the only one who could. There’s another “hideous” monster with hidden depths, who just wants someone to accept him and make him family.
Shelley’s monster bears little resemblance to modern day pop culture Frankensteins. He’s articulate, wise, and only becomes a villain after years of being ostracized, tormented, and hated. If anyone can see past outward appearances, Rochester and Frankenstein’s monster can. Things would be tense, prickly, and there would be a lot of bickering, but they’d work it out. They would recognize the raw need for love in each other, and they’d be more than happy to give it.
Hamlet (Hamlet) and Lydia Bennett (Pride and Prejudice)
I know this one might not make much sense on the surface, but stay with me for a second. The one thing Hamlet really needs (aside from avenging this father) is for someone to shake him out of his funk. That castle desperately needs the arrival of someone exciting and playful, and there’s no one more capable of bringing the fun than Lydia Bennett.
Lydia, for her part, needs someone who will appreciate her gregariousness, and she definitely needs someone who isn’t a manipulative adult trying to seduce her, isolate her from her friends and family. Or use her for financial gain. She’s a harmless party girl, and her ability to liven spirits could definitely come in handy in Hamlet’s life. He’d slowly come out of his shell, unwind a little, maybe laugh. Out loud. In public. They’d balance each other out, smooth each other’s edges. They’d grow up a little.
Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games) and Eliza Doolittle (Pygmalion)
At this point this post has devolved into me taking cool women in less than ideal situations and putting them in happier ones, and I’m okay with that.
I’ve never been a fan of either choice brave, inspiring Katniss Everdeen was saddled with. Both teams Peeta and Gale were sadly lacking. Katniss needs a fellow adventurer, someone who doesn’t want to settle down, and that isn’t Peeta. She also needs someone down-to-earth, someone whose high-mindedness doesn’t get in the way of the war she has to fight. Gale is too wrapped up in big picture stuff, forgetting what it’s like in the trenches where, you know, Katniss has been all along.
Katniss is best with someone who will boldly strike out into the unknown, who is fearless and a survivor. It may be a very different situation, but Eliza’s commitment to bettering herself and her prospects definitely fits that bill. It’s not everyone who would follow a linguistics professor home, asking for him to make good on his boast that he could make her into a lady. Different worlds, same indomitable spirit.
At the same time, Eliza is in pretty desperate need of someone who will love her as she is, uncritically and without prejudice. Is Katniss going to care about Eliza learning the affectations of the upper class? Come on now. Will she show Eliza excitement and freedom? Yes.
Peeta Mellark (The Hunger Games) and Tess Durbeyfield (Tess of the D’Urbervilles)
I have a huge soft spot for Peeta, and I want to see him happy as well. I want to give him a bucolic paradise where he can bake to his heart’s content, have babies and be the family man he was always meant to be. And who should share that with him? Only the most hard-done-by heroine I’ve ever had the misfortune to read about: Tess.
If you’re reading Tess of the D’Urbervilles and your heart isn’t aching for the poor girl the whole way through, you’re doing it wrong. I want her to have a beautiful little farm somewhere with someone who loves her, and I want that for her immediately. She has such a capacity for love, and it’s tragically wasted, time and again, on people who will either take advantage of her or turn her away in disgust. Peeta would never do that. Peeta would love her. So there.
Hero (Much Ado About Nothing) and Faramir (The Lord of the Rings)
Okay, so Faramir, Boromir’s softer-spoken, clearer-headed little brother, ends up with Rohan warrior Eowyn in Tolkien’s trilogy, and that’s amazing. They both desperately need someone who accepts them for who they are. But I’m not convinced that they’re the best long-term pairing. Don’t get me wrong, I wish those two crazy kids all the best post-Sauron, but they don’t actually seem to have all that much in common, beyond their respective families not appreciating them enough.
I think Faramir would be better suited with someone like Hero. Theirs would be a gentle, sweet love affair, and that’s all Hero ever deserved. She certainly didn’t deserve to be scorned and left at the altar by a virginity-worshipping jerkbag named Claudio. Nor did she deserve the end she got: stuck with said jerkbag after he feels bad for supposedly causing her to die of grief, then having her father trick him into marrying her. It’s all gross, and Hero needs someone kind and understanding.