11 worst couples in literature – No.1: Heathcliff & Catherine from Wuthering Heights

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No.1. Heathcliff and Catherine from Wuthering Heights (Emily Brontë)

Heathcliff and Cathy from Wuthering Heights topping our list of the worst couples in literature? “Surely not?!” I hear you say. Isn’t Wuthering Heights a famous love story? Let me be clear, I adore the book. It is one of the most passionate and heartfelt novels ever written. But love takes many forms and this relationship was a disaster. The greater the possibilities in a relationship, the greater the failure when all ends in ruination.

“I gave him my heart, and he took and pinched it to death; and flung it back to me. People feel with their hearts, Ellen, and since he has destroyed mine, I have not power to feel for him.”

Obsessive love? Tick. Cruelty and enmity? Tick. Active maliciousness? Tick. Both of you marry someone else? Tick.

 “I hate him for himself, but despise him for the memories he revives.”

But surely Cathy’s death will stop the dark destructive obsession?

You teach me now how cruel you’ve been – cruel and false. Why did you despise me? Why did you betray your own heart, Cathy? I have not one word of comfort. You deserve this. You have killed yourself.

The novel was written in 1847 and I expect the post mortem emotional warfare is still being dragged out. Passionate as always.

“If all else perished, and he remained, I should still continue to be; and if all else remained, and he were annihilated, the universe would turn to a mighty stranger.”

When the sun fades and the Earth plunges into an eternal cold night, only H.G. Wells’s time traveller will be there to witness the famous couple bitterly bellowing at each other in Yorkshire accents “Cathy!!” – “Heathcliff!!” across the dusty remains of our dying planet.

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But then I suppose if Heathcliff and Cathy quietly loved each other, like Charles and Carrie Pooter from The Diary of a Nobody (1888), then Wuthering Heights might have lost something – to put it mildly. Which begs the question – can a happy couple ever form the central relationship in a novel? I struggle to come up with one. Perhaps the next series will have to be The 11 happiest couples in literature. Help! Does anyone have any entries?!

 

 

Worst couples in literature – The complete list

No. 11.  Charlotte Lucas and Mr. Collins from Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)

No. 10.  Rosamund Vincy and Dr Lydgate from Middlemarch (George Eliot)

No. 9.  Lydia and George Wickham from Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)

No. 8.  Dorothea and Edward Casaubon from Middlemarch (George Eliot)

No. 7.  Arabella Donn and Jude Fawley from Jude the Obscure (Thomas Hardy)

No. 6.  Anna Karenina and Alexei Vronsky from Anna Karenina (Leo Tolstoy)

No. 5.  Bertha and Edward Rochester from Jane Eyre (Charlotte Brontë)

No. 4.  Madeline Bray and Arthur Gride from Nicholas Nickleby (Charles Dickens)

No.3.  Laura Fairlie and Sir Percival Glyde from The Woman in White (Wilkie Collins)

No.2.  Angel & Tess and Alec & Tess from Tess of the d’Urbervilles (Thomas Hardy)

No.1  Heathcliff and Catherine from Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte)

 

 

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15 thoughts on “11 worst couples in literature – No.1: Heathcliff & Catherine from Wuthering Heights

  1. Got to agree with this choice – Cathy and Heathcliff are a pretty poisonous combination (coincidentally I have just written about Wuthering Heights on my blog). Isn’t the problem between them that while she loves Heathcliff, Cathy thinks of him as a brother – they grew up together after all – and doesn’t even consider him as a romantic partner? He takes her ‘rejection’ badly, to say the least, but arguably they aren’t even a couple in the usual sense at all.
    As for happy couples – Mr Rochester and Jane Eyre, Elizabeth Bennett and Mr Darcy, er…. nope, that’s about it!

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    1. Yes, perhaps Cathy put Heathcliff in the friend or brother zone. Re happy couples. I can think of novels that end with “and they lived happily ever after” – like the two you mention. But what about major couples that enjoy happiness together during the novel? I suppose Middlemarch has Mr and Mrs Garth, Mr and Mrs Bulstrode, Mr and Mrs Vincy (though not really central characters).

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  2. Ha – poets do seem to write their own rules! Quite a family. I recall someone telling me that Christina Rossetti spent her life “saving fallen women” and that her brothers spent theirs making them. But yep, there are different kinds of love.

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