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.
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.
Though the novel was written in 1847, I expect the post mortem emotional warfare is still being fought today. Passionate as ever.
“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.”
At the end of the world, 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.
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)