"The course of true love never did run smooth" - Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night's Dream
The pages of the books we love are filled with disastrous relationships. The heroes and heroines of our literature, it seems, are no better than us at picking suitable partners: they lurch, tragically and grimly, from one end of the novel to the other, never quite managing to form functional, adult relationships. (If they did live happily ever after, we probably wouldn't want to read about them).
I'm currently in the phase of editing & rewriting my current work in progress: a complex, multi-narrative piece with an extremely dysfunctional 'love story' at its heart. Not wanting to spoil the ending for you, I won't go too far into it, but suffice to say that my characters can never be together. Separated by moral, as well as social conventions, it is impossible for the two to ever truly be together in any meaningful sense.
Whilst working on rewriting the 'love story' sections of the book, I got to thinking about other disastrous love stories in literature. The canon is full of them. In Britain, one of the most famous of them all is that of Cathy and Heathcliffe in Emily Bronte's gothic horror novel Wuthering Heights. Cathy & Heathcliffe are a pair of tearaway half-siblings whose obsessive infatuation with one another drives their father - and siblings - to despair. Although kept apart by the conniving of their family and their neighbours, they stay entwined to one another even when forcibly separated - first by Cathy's marriage to Edward, and then by her death. Heathcliffe can't live without her, closing himself away in his own room, seeing visions of his lost love and going demented with passion. He dies, mad with a broken heart, and their love story is only satisfied a generation later, with the union of their offspring.
Once I started to think along this thread, more and more came to me. Couples in literature get separated not only by convention, but also by class, by fear, by events beyond their control, and sometimes just pure bad luck. There's Newland and Ellen in The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton, separated by the social conventions of the time; there's the butler and the housekeeper in Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro, separated by his emotional frigidity and incompetence; and the geisha and the chairman in Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden, separated by war, social conventions, and by loyalties to others.
What are your favourite dysfunctional and / or tragic love stories in literature?