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Disclosure: Yes, I may be rating harshly. But that in no way diminishes my love for any of these characters!
We all have that one friend (or in my case, ARE that one friend) that love Austen and Bronte so much that it set their standard for romance. So, please excuse the following ramblings of a mad-woman.
My husband is always pointing out (grumpily, I might add) that he has more nuance than a fictional character from a novel written ages ago. Whatever.
However much I love these books (or in one case, tolerate), I do have to admit that there are some serious character flaws here! Even though they make characters more charming to us readers, in real-life we’d avoid people like these like the plague. (This may contain spoilers if you’ve never read or seen adaptations of these…)
So CLEARLY I am biased here. Jane Eyre is one of my top 5 books and I frequently reread it when I need something comforting. I love love love Jane and Mr. Rochester. Buuuuuuut..
Mr Rochester: 3/10
Jane Eyre: 10/10
Rochester is callous and mercurial with a biting wit that can certainly sting. As much as I love him, his temperament and commitment issues deducts all the points. Obviously, hiding a wife in an attic is not a characteristic we should be looking for in our partners. We can do better, ladies! (And gents!)
Jane however, 10/10. Not only does she keep herself and her emotions in check for the most part, she takes pride in herself as a person and forces others to take accountability in their own actions. She is just the kind of partner that would never settle for less than your best.
Pride and Prejudice
Mr Darcy: 9/10
Elizabeth Bennet: 5/10
I’ll be honest, Pride and Prejudice (though I love it most ardently) is not my favorite Austen novel. Persuasion is a quieter and in my opinion, lovelier story. That being said, we’re going classic here and Mr. Darcy is one of the few men on this list that I would consider ‘dateable.’
Mr. Fitzwilliam is one of the few men that I’ve seen in these regency era novels that 1) ADMITS he was in the wrong, and 2) FIXES his behavior. He is able to overcome his considerable pride and (having in-laws myself,) I am very impressed with his forbearance with Elizabeth’s mother.
Elizabeth is a *cool* girl who likes books and being smart. Since I’m not quite sure if she isn’t after Darcy for his money (as she jokes to Jane,) I can’t give her full marks here. That being said, she is judgmental when it comes to her friends or sister’s choices and was woefully easy to convince in the veracity of certain claims made about Darcy by a different handsome dude with bad intentions.
Catherine Earnshaw: 4/10
I mean, I love this book as much as anyone else does. Would I date ANY of these characters? Hard no. Catherine gives into convention and Heathcliff is consumed by his revenge- when it could have been so easy! Sure, I get that social conventions and culture were different when this was set- but for real. This is why direct and honest communication is important, people!
Romeo and Juliet
This is it guys, this is the book/play that I can only tolerate. I like a lot of Shakespeare’s plays- but this is not one of them! However, keeping with the theme- here goes.
Not a huge fan of either of them. They both were too young to realize that there is a better way to be with the one you love without faking a death or actually dying. Juliet gets a minor edge because she at least thought she came up with a solution where no one actually died? I don’t know.
The Great Gatsby
Jay Gatsby: 2/10
Daisy Buchanan: 1/10
Though I do admire Jay’s constancy to Daisy, I don’t think he was ever able to honestly see her for who she was and instead saw her as someone who will *finally* make him happy. And Daisy- I think Jay reminded her of a time when she was happy and loved that feeling more than she truly loved Gatsby. I have to say again, obviously we have to take time period and culture into account here. However, as modern readers- we can still appreciate this piece for what it was while seeing the flaws of the characters in our own lens.
These books are beautiful, wistful, and give me all the feels. But I want to make sure that we don’t internalize these stories too much and that we don’t have expectations preset when it comes to our ideal partners. We all deserve a partner that is willing to put in as much as we do.
Things We All Deserve:
1) Honesty (no wives in the attic.)
3) Willingness to learn from mistakes (and to tolerate mothers-in-law as best we can).
4) Open communication
6) Constancy (without being creepy.)
And lastly, don’t rely on your partner for your own happiness!