This week we return with part two of our list of the 10 worst boyfriends in classic literature (missed part one? Read it here!). As I mentioned last week, MAJOR spoilers abound in these descriptions, though the books are all at least 80 years old so you've probably at least seen the movie by now...
5) Heathcliff, WUTHERING HEIGHTS
On one level, I feel really bad for Heathcliff, but on another, deeper level, I just think he’s terrible. He’s moody, obsessive, possessive, violent, and prone to kidnapping people. To be fair, Catherine is also awful. That whole, “Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same” line seems fairly accurate, and not in a flattering way.
Sergeant Troy treats Bathsheba badly, but he absolutely destroys poor Fanny Robbin. That sad, sweet girl went to marry him, but accidentally went to the wrong chapel. Does this seem like an innocent accident to you? Well, not to Sergeant Troy. Humiliated, he refuses to speak with Fanny, in spite of the fact that she is pregnant with his child. He then woos and wins Bathsheba, only to gamble away her fortune and criticize her for not being Fanny. Oh, did I mention that Fanny dies in abject poverty as a result of Troy’s cruelty? Yep, he’s such a bad boyfriend that it actually kills her.
3) Hamlet, HAMLET
Poor Ophelia. Your boyfriend takes out all his mommy issues on you. He claims to love you but then shows up half-dressed at your door, grabs your wrist in a vice-like grip, stares at you for a while, says nothing, and then leaves while still staring at you like a creeper. When you try to break things off with him, he verbally assaults you and questions your virtue. That’s when he goes really nutso. He stabs your dad. He stabs your brother. He drives you to suicide. Not a great track record.
2) Angel Clare, TESS OF THE D’URBERVILLES
I hate Angel Clare. HATE him. Maybe I’m not supposed to because Tess loves him so much and because I’m supposed to be busy hating Alec d’Urberville, but my most intense literary hatred is forever reserved for Angel. It’s not your girlfriend/wife’s fault she was raped, Angel. Even if she had been gallivanting across the English countryside with every lord and shepherd in sight, it’s not like you’re exactly a paragon of virtue yourself, you hypocrite. You’re the worst.
1) Mr. B, PAMELA; OR, VIRTUE REWARDED
Except for Mr. B, who is the actual worst. Full disclosure: I’m not a fan of this book, since it’s essentially the story of a wealthy man repeatedly trying to seduce or rape his maid in ever more creative ways. She evades him for 500 pages, at which point he repents and they marry. Mr. B: a terrible reward for Pamela’s virtue.
Honorable Mention (not because they’re any less terrible, but because this list was getting way too long): Othello, OTHELLO; Jay Gatsby, THE GREAT GATSBY; Gilbert Markham, THE TENANT OF WILDFELL HALL; Arthur Huntingdon, THE TENANT OF WILDFELL HALL; Edward Casaubon, MIDDLEMARCH; Arthur Dimmesdale, THE SCARLET LETTER; Bill Sikes, OLIVER TWIST; the Phantom, THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, St. John Rivers, JANE EYRE; Edmund Bertram, MANSFIELD PARK; Henry Higgins, PYGMALION; Frank Churchill, EMMA; Fernand Mondego, THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO.
And there we have it! Classic literature's terrible boyfriends! Who did I leave out?