What Is Love? 12 Literary Couples Whose Love Will Last


George Knightley and Emma Woodhouse

What is love?

A while ago, I wrote a post called Types of Love where I explained how psychologist, Robert Sternberg developed the Triangular Theory of Love. The theory is based on three components your relationship can possess and defines the type of love you will share with another person.

The three components are:

  1. Intimacy: This includes feelings of attachment, closeness, trust, and connectedness. Your partner could feel like your best friend. Do you laugh and have fun together?
  2. Passion: This includes the sexual attraction or the physical connection between two people.
  3. Commitment: This includes the decision to stay together, no matter what, and to make plans for the future together.

A relationship based on a single element is less likely to survive than one based on two or three elements. The combinations of various elements can include: liking, companiate love, empty love, fatuous love, infatuation, and romantic love. The ultimate love is the marriage of all three, which he defines as consummate love.

For the purpose of this list I am going to choose literary couples I believe have this consummate love. They share intimacy, passion and commitment. They are the lucky few.

12 Literary Love Matches

1.    Hazel Grace and Augustus from The Fault in Our Stars

2.    Frederic Henry and Catherine Barkley in A Farewell to Arms

3.    Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy from Pride and Prejudice

4.    EmmaWoodhouse and Mr Knightley from Emma

5.    Westley and Buttercup from The Princess Bride

6.    Henry and Clare from The Time Traveler’s Wife

7.    Bartholomew and the Girlbrarian from The Good Luck of Right Now

8.    Noah Calhoun and Allie Hamilton from The Notebook

9.    Benedick and Beatrice from Much Ado About Nothing

10.  Jamie and Claire from The Outlander Series

11.  Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark from The Hunger Games Trilogy

12.  Ruth Jamison And Idgie Threadgoode from Fried Green Tomatoes at The Whistle Stop Cafe

I think it’s disturbing that stories such as Romeo and Juliet, Jane Eyre, The Great Gatsby, Wuthering Heights, and Gone with the Wind are classified as great love stories. At best they are tragic dramas or adolescent fantasies about infatuations and obsessions that are unhealthy and destructive. They are also based on deception, childish behaviour and cruelty.

Don’t get me wrong. They make great stories – just not love stories. Perhaps the fact that they are classified like this reveals why so many people look for ‘love’ in all the wrong places.

Who are your favourite literary lovers?

If you enjoyed this post, read

  1. Universal Needs – Creating Characters
  2. Types of Love
  3. Six Lessons We’ve Learnt From Jane Austen – on love, life and writing
  4. The Top 12 Literary Love Quotes
  5. 25 Famous Literary Couples

If you want to learn how to write a book, join our Writers Write course in Johannesburg or sign up for our online course.

by Amanda Patterson

© Amanda Patterson

This article has 10 comments

  1. Lelani

    It’s a great post. Having said that I feel that no.11 doesn’t belong. Especially if its the books you refer to. (spoiler alert) Katniss and Peeta do end up together, but the author made it sound that they’re only together because they couldn’t find someone else and because it was convenient. In all of the years that I’ve been reading Mockingjay was the first book where I got the impression that the author hated her own main character. Just saying…

    • Meronym

      I have to disagree. Katniss and Peeta are together because they do love each other. She had probably loved Gale for most of her adolescence, but he didn’t have any idea what she had been through. He was fine with collateral damage and was the person who came up with the trap that killed Prim. Katniss could never forgive him for that. She and Peeta had a shared experience and built on that; they may not have had a giddy, butterfly type infatuation experience, but they had something much deeper and more intimate than any of that.

  2. Writers Write

    Lelani, we don’t agree. Amanda is referring to the books. She says: “I think they are perfect for each other after all they have been through. Suzanne Collins does not make it seems as if it is convenient. She makes it seem plausible. It is probably the most difficult thing for Katniss and Peeta to choose love, but they both make the choice and heal each other. They have passion, intimacy and commitment.”

  3. Amber

    My favorite pair was always Dracula and Mina Murray/Harker. Even if they did have a tragic end, their love transcended lifetimes and the film really brought the emotion alive very well. I read the book while I was still in middle school so I have forgotten a good deal of how it was portrayed in the novel.

    I actually hate it when people refer to Romeo & Juliet as a love story. The thought of those two being viewed as great romantic icons just make me shudder. I didn’t really feel any huge satisfaction from the romance in Jane Eyre either; it honestly just made me uncomfortable. The same could be said about Gone with the Wind. I will agree with 3 and 5. 3 because by the end of the story the couple knew each other pretty thoroughly. It was one of the few classic romances I read where it wasn’t a whirlwind romance and I loved it all the more for all the problems they faced before admitting their feelings, even if the book likely gave rise to the popular cliche of love interests hating each other before they fall in love. 5 because I might be biased, but everything about that book/movie screamed love story and it was beautiful.

    #1 just depressed the hell out of me.

  4. Kathy

    You forgot Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe of Anne of Green Gables.

  5. christine Hendershot

    I love your blog, it’s fun and informative! And after browsing through the website I discovered the Bluestocking review. I was wondering how you pick the books you review. I published my book, Dear James, last August and received a very positive Kirkus review. Can I request a review from Bluestocking?

  6. Writers Write

    Christine, please send your query to news@writerswrite.co.za

  7. Leah

    I would add Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth, as well as Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe. For the sake of variety, it is a good list.

  8. Scott Sprunger

    mick and Lou from The Christmas Cord. Amazing couple. Their love lives on today

  9. Theresa Chalon

    My favourite literary lovers are John Thornton and Margaret Hale from Elizabeth Gaskell’s ‘North and South’. It takes an entire book for them to sort themselves out, but they help each other, and they acknowledge the flaws and respect the strengths in themselves and each other. I think they are absolutely perfect and I would marry John Thornton in a heartbeat, if he asked me.

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