Wednesday, August 18, 2010

C is for Couples

I know what you're thinking: Um, that's definitely an E. Well, I know it's kinda hard to see without anything in relation, but just go along with me for a bit.

Spoiler Alert: 
Because this post will be talking about couples in literature, there will be spoilers. If you have not read (and are planning to read) Fire, Graceling, the Harry Potter series, the His Dark Materials trilogy, the Mercy Thompson series, The Mortal Instruments Series, Pride & Prejudice, the Song of the Lioness quartet, the Twilight Series, or the Young Wizards series, then you might not want to continue.

In my reading thusfar, I've come across some great couples...and some who I thought weren't so great. There have been couples destined for each other, couples thrown together, couples grown, and couples broken.

When a character pairing is being established in a novel—not given to us as a done-deal before the book starts—there are essentially two ways it can go: fast or slow. Below I've summed up the relationships of some of my favorite literary couples from first meeting to love.

Fast —
  • Bella & Edward of Stephanie Meyer's Twilight Series
    Girl meets boy, boy wants to eat girl but doesn't, boy saves girl (twice), boy vows he won't eat girl, girl falls in love with boy. So this relationship is based off of the 'Damsel in Distress' falling in love with her protector...who also happens to be her greatest threat.
    And how long did they have to talk before pledging their (literally) undying love to each other? Well, you figure there are a few sentences exchanged during Biology class over the course of the Winter...and a short conversation in the hospital...and one evening shared together following a near gang-raping... I'd give them a total of 3 hours together.
  • Clary & Jace of Cassandra Clare's Mortal Instruments Series
    Girl meets boy, boy saves girl, girl falls in love with boy. Yep, this can be summed up with the 'Damsel in Distress' heading too. Nevermind his snarky attitude or love of violence, so long as he's drop-dead gorgeous and fighting on the side of 'good', he's perfect!
    Okay, I'll admit that it didn't happen quite that fast, but considering only a couple days go by between first sight and first kiss...
  • Elizabeth & Darcy of Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice
    Girl meets boy, boy hates girl, girl hates boy, boy likes girl, girl continues to hate boy, boy informs girl she has been misinformed, girl stops hating boy, boy performs a noble deed, girl falls in love with boy. A classic case of misinformation separating a couple from happiness.
    Now, you might be asking why I label this as 'fast' when it takes them forever to establish feelings for each other. Simple, my dear Watson: from the moment Elizabeth has an unprejudiced opinion to the moment she accepts the marriage proposal, she has hardly spoken a word to Darcy. With that quick a flip of opinion, it's like she went back and re-read the book herself. Either that, or she is completely won over by Darcy's noble act(s) when she is in distress. Yeah, I went there.
  • Other Fast Coupleships Include:
      Carrie & Kuzac of Lisanne Norman's Sholan Alliance Series
      Anna & Charles of Patricia Briggs' Alpha & Omega Series
      Cimorene & Mendanbar of Patricia Wrede's Enchanted Forest Chronicles
Slow —
  • Katsa & Po of Kristen Cashore's Graceling
    Girl meets boy, girl knocks out boy, boy returns later, girl and boy form friendship, boy reveals secret, girl feels betrayed, friendship reforms while working together, girl falls in love with boy, girl and boy are separated, girl returns to boy, boy pushes girl away, girl and boy reconcile, boy and girl part be continued?
    Sure, it's a bit lengthy, but the renewed tension between the two only shows the strength of their resolve. Katsa has never been in a relationship, she's never been particularly close to anyone, so she has a lot of growing to do before she's comfortable. Po has his own hardships to deal with, and he doesn't want to burden anyone else. If these two are going to be a couple, they have to change their solitary way of life. Talk about conflict!
  • Alec & Magnus of Cassandra Clare's Mortal Instruments Series
    Alec meets Magnus, they work together/see each other a few times over the summer, Alec wants to keep the relationship secret, when probable death draws near Alec makes the relationship public.
    Best kiss scene ever! I swear, I jumped up and cheered when the narrator panned over to them. And the commentary from the lookers-on was amazing as well. I don't see many gay pairings in the books I read, but of the few I've followed, this is probably my favorite.
  • Nita & Kit of Diane Duane's Young Wizards Series
    Girl meets boy, boy and girl become friends, they work/fight together for a few years, girl and boy finally become an item! A lot more complex than that, but I don't really feel like summarizing 9 books worth of events.
    This pairing not only gives the two an ample amount of time to get to know each other, but is one of the few instances where the characters are established at an age before they're interested in each other. They even state early on (in books 2 and 4) how weird it would be if they were to become an item. Ah, but the readers know better.
  • Ron & Hermione of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter Series
    Boy meets girl, girl is obnoxious, boy tells her so, girl gets into mortal peril, boy saves girl, girl and boy become friends, insert six years of mysteries, intrigue and danger, boy performs noble act, girl and boy snog vigorously. Again, trying to simplify a relationship that takes place over 7 complex books. Besides, if you don't know how this one goes by now...
    This is another one of those that makes the transition from Middle Reader to Young Adult. Boy and girl are good friends, so making the jump to a couple means a little awkwardness. But for seven years they've had time to get to know each other, in the good times and the bad, and so the reader has time to see the chemistry. And of course, you have the humor with the sudden realization that, "Hey, Hermione, you're a girl!"
  • Other Slow Coupleships Include:
      Fire & Brigan of Kristen Cashore's Fire
      Mercy & Adam of Patricia Briggs' Mercy Thompson Series
      Alanna & George of Tamora Pierce's Song of the Lioness Quartet
      Lyra & Will of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials Series
      Eragon & Arya of Christopher Paolini's Inheritance Cycle

As you've probably been able to guess, I greatly prefer the slower methods of establishing a relationship. Why? Well, I guess I feel that with time comes strength. Couples who don't experience that time together, enough time to get to get to know each other, are less likely to last. They're more caught up in the momentary passion and once that wears off...

Of course, time together is only one factor going into establishing a relationship. When deciding if it's a good or bad couple, you also have to take into account...
  • Participants' Internal Conflicts— What emotional baggage is each person bringing in?
  • External Conflicts— What's going on around them? War? An epic quest? High school?
  • Special Circumstances— Do they have anything going in their favor? A mental/magical link? A prophecy?
  • Rival/Antagonist Interference— Is there a love triangle? Is the villain specifically targeting them?
  • Life Expectancy— Will they both die at age 19? (if it's YA, then they might as well) Or is one of them expected to be sacrificed?
All these factors bring a relationship into relation with the story at hand.

On the logical side of things, if the couple is being manipulated by an outside source, it's only natural that they would have a few more road-bumps along the way. If one character is completely against falling in love, either because they think it's wrong or because they're afraid of the consequences, then that relationship is going to take longer to blossom.

Then you have relationships where absolutely nothing is logical and the romance seems to be a necessity of the plot rather than the characters' own journey. Understandably, these aren't my favorite. Yet, should I really be holding love within the constraints of logic?

I guess what it all comes down to is, how logical or realistic is this relationship meant to be? Is the romance supposed to be an ode to star-crossed lovers and happily ever afters? Or is it supposed to reflect people's struggles with reality and working to find love that works? Either of these are acceptable in the written world, it only depends on which you are drawn to.

So, which is your ideal scenario? What journey to couplehood would you like to experience, have experienced? Is it the logical or the illogical that most appeals to you?

Some C Books I've Read:

A Captivating C Group:

The C Font:
(See, I told you it was a C!)