For many readers, especially young adults, the discovery of love and the different types and emotions that it carries is learnt through fictional characters in literature. It is these fictional protagonists that allow one to explore the various form of love that exists and the feelings that one experiences when in love. We have chosen what we at Nasher News regard as the most iconic fictional couples in that particular type of love that they represent.

Romeo and Juliet, Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

One that has to be present in this list because for the past several hundred years Shakespeare’s tale of the two most famous star-crossed lovers, Romeo and Juliet – are probably the most famous lovers in literature and beyond, even though the pair met a desperate end. Shakespeare knew that nothing strengthened the passion of young love like breaking a few rules and so he created a couple from warring families the Montagues (Romeo) and the Capulets (Juliet). Murders, marriage and eventually mutual suicide in the throes of grief see that Shakespeare’s most famous love story is also one of his saddest.

Their love story is so legendary that they have become almost synonymous to love. Yet we can’t really call what they feel towards each other, love, it is more of an infatuation or teenage crush that attracted them to each other, lets not forget that Romeo’s heart was all set on another girl only to suddenly fall in love with Juliet. They say what is forbidden is desired and that certainly to be the case of Romeo and Juliet, had their parents approved, would they still have carried on the same path? Yet regardless of this reservation, the fact remains, lovers may come and lovers may go but none will be quite as enigmatic as Romeo and Juliet.

Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Love here is based on obsession, Gatsby is obsessed with Daisy. Their story is one of the most tragic love stories of modern times. The most heartbreaking aspect of their story is that their relationship is symbolic of modern-day relationships, marred with ambition, selfishness and distrust.  Jay Gatsby attempts to win back his old flame, Daisy, with flashy parties and panache.

Daisy’s marriage presents a weighty obstacle, but Gatsby fervently persists. Reviving Daisy’s attentions are his sole purpose, and his entire existence is constructed around regaining her affections. However, his schemes are soon discovered and immediately extinguished by Daisy’s bullish husband. In a final tribute to his love, Gatsby gallantly protects Daisy from a disastrous incident, which ultimately leads to his own demise. Gatsby might have been obsessed on gaining what he regarded as his own ‘right’ but his we can’t doubt his love for Daisy as his selfless action shows at the end.

Nick and Amy, Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Amy Dunne begins her relationship with Nick by being everything she thinks he could possibly want, and thus never being herself; after Nick moves the couple far from Amy’s friends and family, strays from their marriage, Amy stops focusing on controlling her own behaviour and switches over to controlling and manipulating Nick in her quest to finally secure a marriage on her own terms. Nick and Amy Dunne are such a fascinating couple because they’re just so toxic. Their relationship is what makes the book unforgettable. We can’t deny such complicated and toxic relationships do exist and the reason we have included this book is to show not all lovers are honest and kind, lovers can’t manipulative and selfish too.

Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler, Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell

Scarlett O’Hara has a wealth of admirers but her one true love is Rhett Butler, a war hero who eventually ends up as Scarlett’s third husband. Although we never really find out whether the couple will end up happy together, their love story of will they or won’t they has gripped readers for years. Set in the backdrop of American Civil War, Margaret Mitchell’s novel is one of a kind. Even though the novel focuses on Scarlett’s resilience, her tumultuous relationship with Rhett forms the core of the novel. They are not the typical dreamy couple; they are raw and passionate and one of the most iconic couples.

Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Jane Austen gave us literature’s most unforgettable duo since Romeo and Juliet. A classic love story centred around the witty, independent Elizabeth Bennet who resists caving to the social expectations of marriage in Georgian England whilst assisting her sisters with their own love lives. That all changes when a rich neighbour called Mr. Bingley moves into town, bringing with him the dashing-yet-irritable Mr. Darcy. Every love story cliche can be traced back to Elizabeth and Darcy’s story. It all begins when the headstrong and independent Elizabeth and the snobby and aristocratic Darcy first meet and hate each other with a vengeance.

Cathy and Heathcliff – Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte

The mutual obsession is out of control here. “My love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath: a source of little visible delight, but necessary,” Catherine says. “Nelly, I am Heathcliff! He’s always, always in my mind: not as a pleasure, but as my own being. So don’t talk of our separation again: it is impracticable.” When he loses Catherine for good, Heathcliff becomes pretty evil, seeking to destroy anyone who has crossed him and prevented him from being with his One True Love. For her part, after her death, Catherine haunts Heathcliff until the bitter end.  They are another iconic couples for their tumultuous love story where the hot-headed Cathy and vindictive Heathcliff wreak havoc amongst their families as they indulge in a relationship of dark, twisted passion that eventually ends in tragedy.

Cathy and Heathcliff grew up together. She is the aristocratic woman and he is an orphan and they both are separated by their class. Their love is consumed by his hatred for the man she eventually marries. He is the rejected hero and she the heroine at fault. Even though their story ends disastrously, they are the only ones who come close to the realistic portrayal of love with all its elements; passion, grief and jealousy.

Jane and Mr. Rochester – Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

In Charlotte Bronte’s famous tale, friendless characters find a cure for loneliness in each other’s company. Jane is an abused orphan employed as a governess to the charge of an abrasive, but very rich Edward Rochester. The improbable pair grow close as Rochester reveals a tender heart beneath his gruff exterior. He does not, however, reveal his penchant for polygamy — on their wedding day, a horrified Jane discovers he is already married. Heartbroken, Jane runs away, but later returns after a dreadful fire has destroyed Rochester’s mansion, killed his wife, and left him blind. Love triumphs, and the two reunite.

Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza, Love In The Time Of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez

This novel revolves around Florentino and Fermina who fall in love when they are young. Fermina’s father is not accepting of the relationship and unsuccessfully forces her to leave him. When she refuses, the father moves the entire family to another city. It only strengthens their love. Florentino’s love for Fermina is symbolic of his dedication, which is eventually rewarded many, many years later.

Hamlet and Ophelia, Hamlet by William Shakespeare

Considered to be one of the best plays of Shakespeare, Hamlet focuses on the psychologically scarred Hamlet whose father was killed by his uncle Claudius. Throughout the entire play the one person who stays unquestionably loyal to Hamlet is Ophelia. But a tormented Hamlet fails to see that. Her father’s death and Hamlet’s behaviour makes her insane and she drowns in the end. Even though it ends tragically, Hamlet and Ophelia make it to this list because of their unusual love-loyalty equation and because they leave the readers with a sense of “what if?”

Bridget Jones and Mark Darcy, Bridget Jones’ Diary by Helen Fielding

She is everyone’s favourite goof and he is the stuck-up awkward guy, misunderstood by almost everyone. But what is a little misunderstanding when it comes to love? Jones and Darcy make the unlikeliest of couples and are as adorable as they come.

Mr. Rochester and Antoinette, Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys.

Mr. Rochester, Antoinette’s young husband, narrates more than a third of the novel, telling, in his own words, the story of Antoinette’s mental downfall. His arrival in Jamaica and his arranged marriage to Antoinette is prefigured in the first part of the novel by the appearance of Mr. Mason, another English aristocrat seeking his fortune through a Creole heiress. He is the nameless creator and, as a white man, his authority and privilege allow him to confer identity on others. For instance, he decides to rename his wife, calling her “Bertha” in an attempt to distance her from her lunatic mother, whose full name was Antoinette. Later, he takes away Antoinette’s voice along with her name, refusing to listen to her side of the story.

Rochester’s narration in Part Two reveals that he and his estranged wife are actually more similar than dissimilar. Both characters are essentially orphans, abandoned by their family members to fend for themselves. As the youngest son, Rochester legally inherits nothing from his father, who already favours the older child. Antoinette, who was persistently neglected by her mother in favour of her brother, Pierre, receives an inheritance that is tainted, at best. She is left with the burdens of a divided cultural identity, the hatred of the blacks, the contempt of the whites, and the responsibility of a dilapidated estate. Both Rochester and Antoinette struggle for some sense of place and identity, and enter the arranged marriage with apprehension and anxiety. Complex love stories are the best kind of tales and tend to stay in the reader’s memory such as Mr. Rochester and Antoinette.

Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe from Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery

Anne and Gilbert from Anne of Green Gables because of the true love and respect they both have for each other throughout the entire series! Also, all those delightful letters she writes to him and the sacrifices he makes so that she can fulfill her ambitions…