Ever wondered what the most toxic relationships in literature are? The world of literature is filled with every kind of story, character and theme you can possibly imagine. It can be read for a good old-fashioned dose of escapism, but it can also be used to explore narratives that are controversial, uncomfortable and dare we say, toxic? It might say something about our obsessions and guilty pleasures as people, but it would be fair to say that some of the most talked about and most memorable relationships in literature have been some of the most twisted and toxic. Whether your favourite genre is romance, fantasy, drama or horror, there are always terrible but tantalising toxic relationships to get involved with over the course of a few hundred pages! To give you a taste, here are some of the most toxic relationships in literature.
1. Romeo and Juliet
This has got to be one of the most toxic relationships in literature. Some see this as the essential example of a star-crossed romance that defies all other boundaries, whilst others see it as the essential example of a self-destructive, teenage angst-filled romance that had no other direction to go than a disaster! When a first love ends in double suicide, then there is a more than valid argument to take away the wistful romance of the circumstances and the beautiful language, and see Shakespeare’s teenage tale for what it really is, a toxic nightmare!
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2. Catherine and Heathcliff
The two central characters of Emily Bronte’s masterpiece, Wuthering Heights, were pretty much doomed from the start when you sit down and really think about it. This tale of spiteful marriages, emotional torture, and creepy hauntings from beyond the grave is a bold and brash exploration of just how toxic a loving but unhealthy relationship can get!
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3. Amy and Nick
The married couple at the centre of Gillian Flynn’s smash hit novel Gone Girl are certainly one of the most iconic examples of a toxic relationship in modern literature! From a vindictive jerk to arguably evil in human form, the pair take mutual manipulation to a whole new extreme in this page-turning thriller. If you are one of the three people in the world who still haven’t read Gone Girl, then get on it right now!
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4. Jaime and Cercei
The incestuous Lannister at the forefront of the Game Of Thrones series absolutely have a toxic relationship, one that has, over the years, lead to multiple murders, maimings and manipulations of pretty much everyone they have ever come across as a pair. Book readers like to think that there is still something left in Jaime for him to redeem, but as for Cercei, she is fully lost to the dark side, and has been for some time!
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5. Hester and Dimmesdale
The secretive pairing that is at the centre of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s classic The Scarlet Letter is definitely toxic, one that is filled with secrets. From self-flagellation to public scorn to abandoning a family and eventually dying of literal shame, this was a union that was never going to end happily given the context and setting of the much read and widely regarded novel!
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6. Jane Eyre and Rochester
Nothing says toxic and dysfunctional quite like a secret, mad wife hidden in the attic, wouldn’t you agree?! There are those who can interpret and find some merit in the relationship between Jane Eyre and Rochester, but there is no getting away from the toxicity of the intense secrets there were kept by certain members of the pair. Those Bronte sisters sure did have a knack for writing toxic and tragic relationships, didn’t they?
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