Love gone wrong is not an uncommon theme in literature. Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, and Flaubert’s Madame Bovary all meet tragic ends because of ill-fated love affairs. Even love stories with happy endings tend to have their share of sadness at some point. Take Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. Jane falls in love with her employer, Mr. Rochester, and at first they are engaged and everything seems perfect until it turns out that Rochester is already married...to a woman he’s kept stashed in the attic the entire time. Horrified and humiliated, Jane flees and expects to never see him again. It’s only after she’s refused the proposal of another man and apparently hears Rochester’s voice in a dream that she returns to find out that his first wife was killed in a fire (conveniently) and she and Rochester are free to marry.
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Jay Gatsby is desperately in love with a married woman, Daisy Buchanan. His love, and Daisy’s unattainable status, motivate just about everything Gatsby does. It’s a notion that can seem romantic, but once the reader becomes acquainted with Daisy’s character, it really seems more pathetic than anything else. The longing in Gatsby just about jumps off the page in this, one of the most well-known Great Gatsby quotes, “If it wasn’t for the mist we could your home across the bay. You always have a green that burns all night at the end of your dock.” He says these words to Daisy, and they convey how much time he must have spent staring across the bay at the house she shared with her husband and small child. Gatsby does eventually get Daisy, as much as he could ever really have her, but his involvement with the Buchanans and their consorts ends tragically for him, and ironically enough, Daisy’s husband’s mistress.
In the Scarlet Letter, Hester Prynne has an affair that results in a pregnancy. This news scandalizes her town and she is forced to wear a read “A” for “adulterer” on her clothing at all times. Even though no one technically dies due to Hester and the Reverend’s affair, her reputation and life are forever marred by it, down to her having an “A” on her tombstone.
Shakespeare’s Othello tells the tale of a marriage that starts off happy, but thanks to the meddling of a completely biased third party ends in murder. The two-faced Iago convinces Othello that his wife Desdemona is cheating on him, while simultaneously warning him about the dangers of jealousy (particularly in this, the most infamous of the Othello quotes, “Beware my lord of jealousy; it is the green eyed monster”). Soon Othello is overcome with jealousy and believes he has no choice but to suffocate his (completely innocent) wife for her disloyalty.