‘It’s complicated’: 10 interesting & tumultuous couples from literature

Ah, Valentine’s Day.  Yes, that time of year is nearing that many of us secretly dread no matter what our current Facebook relationship status is.  But let’s take a time out from the incessant 1-800-FLOWERS ads pummeling us and have a little tongue-in-cheek fun.  To that end, we’ve assembled a list of 10 interestingly tumultuous couples from a wide range of literary genres.  Mind you, we are not going all sentimental here—the selection criterion is “interesting,” not “swoon-worthy.”  : )

Note: While many of these have accompanying images from the adaptations, we are most definitely talking about the books!

 Elizabeth Bennet / Fitzwilliam Darcy

Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen

(Universal Pictures)

Because Elizabeth was just such a progressive character for the times.  Mouthy, opinionated woman initially turns down an excellent match with landed English gentry because he’s behaving like such an a$$hat.  You go, girl.

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Paul Atredies / Chani

Dune series, Frank Herbert

Universal Pictures
(Universal Pictures)

Okay, so Paul kept Chani as his concubine, married Princess Irulan for the throne of the Emperor, yet refused his wife any of his favors.  All part of the complications of being entangled with the high-maintenance Kwisatz Haderach, I suppose.

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Marius / Pandora

The Vampire Chronicles, Anne Rice

Marius and Pandora cosplay by LunaSteelhowl and PiousPandemonium (via http://lunasteelhowl.deviantart.com)

Two ancient, powerful vampires clash like an old married couple through the millennia. After the brat Prince, these two have always been my favorites of Anne Rice’s nosferatu.

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Albus Dumbledore / Gellert Grindelwald

The Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling

(Warner Bros. Pictures)

A passionate, youthful dalliance between adventuresome, curious intellectuals, a plot to rule the world, one turns to good, one turns to evil, wand duels, etc.  You gotta love the high drama of this tumultuous relationship!

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Lisbeth Salander / Mikael Blomkvist

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series, Steig Larsson

(Columbia Pictures)

So I’m still trying to figure out why this didn’t work.  Was she just jealous of that weirdo Erika who telephones her husband to let him know she’s going to be balling Blomkvist tonight?  I could see not wanting to get mixed up in that, but she’s got nothing on you, Lisbeth!

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Sherlock Holmes / Irene Adler

“A Scandal in Bohemia,” Sir Arthur Conan Doyle


I’m just going to let Doyle take this one:

“To Sherlock Holmes she is always the woman. I have seldom heard him mention her under any other name. In his eyes she eclipses and predominates the whole of her sex. It was not that he felt any emotion akin to love for Irene Adler … yet there was but one woman to him, and that woman was the late Irene Adler, of dubious and questionable memory.”

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Jon Snow / Ygritte

A Song of Ice and Fire series, George R.R. Martin


Because “You know nothing, Jon Snow.”  Truer words hath never been spoken.

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Pip / Estella

Great Expectations, Charles Dickens

(Masterpiece Classics, PBS)

You can’t help rooting for poor Pip—the kid just can’t seem to catch a break!  And that bratty Estella so needed to be taken down a peg or two!

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Emma Bovary / Léon Dupuis

Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert

(MK2 Diffusion)

We’ve all seen the clichéd Hollywood love scene where a couple in the back of a limo rolls up the privacy screen and starts getting busy.  Emma and Léon were true trendsetters with their Parisian romps in the back of a carriage.  And you better believe those things didn’t have tinted windows.  Bonus points for sheer audacity!

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Portnoy / his hand

Portnoy’s Complaint, Phillip Roth

(via heidiandfrank.com)

Was there ever a more hilarious depiction of adolescent wanking penned?  I don’t think so!  That bit about the liver still cracks me up.

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We hope everyone has a fun Valentine’s Day, whether it’s solo, with a significant other or with your hand!

About Andrea Sefler

Andrea Sefler
Andrea is a consultant and technical writer for various scientific software and instrumentation companies. She has a Ph.D. in chemistry from Berkeley and has never met a genre of music or books that she hasn’t liked. As a gamer since the days of the Apple II, Andrea can relate any number of hair-raising tales about role-playing games stored on 360 kB 5.25” floppy disks and may, someday, put them to paper.

One comment

  1. What about Heathcliff and Kathy???

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