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Valentines or marriage guidance: which fictional couples really get their happy ever after?

helena fairfax, j.k. rowling, ron, hermioneWell, perhaps this post is a little cynical for Valentine’s Day!  I decided to write it, though, because a couple of weeks ago J.K. Rowling said she thought Hermione and Ron in the Harry Potter series are heading towards marriage guidance counselling and not a Happy Ever After.  She explained how she brought Hermione and Ron together ‘for reasons that have very little to do with literature and far more to do with me clinging to the plot as I first imagined it…  I know, I’m sorry, I can hear the rage and fury it might cause some fans, but if I’m absolutely honest, distance has given me perspective on that. It was a choice I made for very personal reasons, not for reasons of credibility.’

Emma Watson, who played Hermione in the films, told The Sunday Times:  ‘I think there are fans out there who know that, too, and who wonder whether Ron would have really been able to make her happy.’

J.K. Rowling’s comments caused quite a stir, for lots of reasons.  After all, fans invest a lot of emotion in the books and films, and some of them feel cheated that J.K. Rowling now regrets this ending.  There was an interesting article in The Guardian on how common it is for writers to wish they could go back to their published work and change things, and whether J.K. Rowling was right to admit this to her fans.

One of the most interesting discussions I heard was on BBC Radio 4′ Woman’s Hour. Jojo Moyes, author of the bestselling Me Before You, and playwright Samantha Ellis went through a list of romantic leads and discussed whether they’d stay together after the author has written The End.  They were quite funny, and here’s their verdict!

  • Lizzie Bennett and Mr Darcy.  Their verdict: probably not.  (I can’t believe they said this!)  They felt Lizzie didn’t have the experience to run Pemberley and she’d be letting the side down, and that Darcy was so up himself he’d always be thinking how he’d dragged her out of the gutter and what a shower her family were.  (Well, those weren’t the BBC’s exact words, but you get my drift.)

I don’t agree at all with this verdict!  I think Lizzie is very resourceful and has enough charm to deal superbly with the servants at Pemberley.  Darcy’s friends would all love her, too.  And if having in-laws you don’t get on with is a barrier to the HEA, there’d be a lot more people staying single!  My verdict: a resounding yes.

  • Heathcliffe and Catherine Earnshaw.  I don’t think it’s any surprise that their verdict was No.  And in fact, Charlotte Bronte didn’t give this couple a happy ending, either.  Far from it.  So this one is a no-brainer.
  • Rhett Butler and Scarlett.  Their verdict was yes.  This is a tough one!  The authors thought Scarlett had grown and changed, and was mature enough by the end of the book/film for a happy and stable marriage.

I don’t know if I agree with their verdict or not.  I’d really, really love it if Rhett and Scarlett finally had some happy years together.  I think Scarlett is very determined, and after Rhett has come off the furious boil he’ll realise he still loves her.  So maybe!?

  • Romeo and Juliet.  Well, obviously, that didn’t pan out well for them in the play, but the two writers thought even if they’d lived, they never would have been happy together.  I agree.  It was all teenage angst, and anyway, Juliet was far too good for Romeo, who’s actually a bit of a dim prat.  I think after less than a year she’d realise this, and move on.
  • Jo March and Professor Bhaer in Little Women.  Their verdict: no way would Jo be happy with this guy.  I have to agree.  I helena fairfax, little women, jo marchremember reading this book and being totally gutted that Jo didn’t fall for the handsome and charming Laurie.  Fritz Bhaer is dull and worthy, and – what’s worse! – makes Jo stop writing her novels!!  That’s just the pits.  But according to the BBC programme, Louisa May Alcott didn’t want Jo to marry at all, and reluctantly gave in because the fans and publishers demanded it.  Maybe making Jo marry the dull Professor Bauer was her revenge!

It was an interesting discussion and a good game to play – but not one I’d like to play again!  I’m all about the happy ending, and don’t want anyone to be analysing my favourite reads and telling me, ‘Well that will never work out!’  Let me have my illusions :)  As far as I’m concerned Jane Eyre is monumentally happy with crotchety Mr Rochester; Margaret Hale and John Thornton couldn’t be more content in North and South; and Denise and John Mouret live in permanent marital bliss in Zola’s The Ladies Paradise.  They do in my mind, anyway!

How about you?  Are there any romances where you think the happy couple are heading for the divorce courts?  Where do you stand on Rhett and Scarlett?  And would Jo be happier being single?  If you have any comments at all, I’d love to hear them!

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23 thoughts on “Valentines or marriage guidance: which fictional couples really get their happy ever after?

  1. Very entertaining post, Helena! While I admire JK Rowling’s honesty, I can’t imagine Ron & Hermione not ending up together. If I want reality, I’ll turn on the news. I want my fiction to be happy. :)

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  2. Great post, Helena, raises some fascinating literary issues. If the writer writes one thing and later says another, which one really counts? Rowling changed her mind, or her book departed from her original plan . . . do we need an eighth book, a revision to correct the mistake? Or should we just be happy with the way she wrote it and forget what she says? As for Rhett and Scarlett, I can’t help thinking that somewhere she’s shacking up with Ashley Wilkes. Jane Eyre may be living HEA with Rochester, but only after he’s become a broken man, rendered lame and blind, and the power dynamic between them has been changed completely.

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    1. John, you’re right – which version really counts? That’s a great question! I suppose now the reader is free to choose the version that suits them – but in a way, it does make me feel cheated, as I think it’s the author’s job to direct the characters, and not mine to choose. I hate a woolly ending!
      As for Scarlett and Ashley Wilkes – never in one million years! I definitely won’t buy that one! :)

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  3. Helena, this was a fun post for Valentine’s Day! I haven’t read Little Women for probably 40-50 years. I didn’t remember that Jo had to give up writing for the professor which isn’t good. But I remember thinking she would be happy with him and the age difference didn’t strike me as wrong.

    I remember liking Little Women very much. I really should reread it. As far as Harry Potter, I think there probably wouldn’t be a dull moment for Hermione with Ron Weasley. Also it makes no sense for J.K. Rowlings to say that Hermione and Ron are not heading for a Happy Ever After. She wrote the book. Sometimes it’s better to keep your mouth shut! Lol.

    Anyway, enjoyable blog!

    Curl up with a killer – Cozy Mysteries
    The Ginseng Conspiracy by Susan Bernhardt
    http://www.susanbernhardt.com

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    1. Hi Susan, I agree that it would have been better for J.K. Rowling not to say anything. Sometimes I wonder did she do it for publicity? Or is that just being cynical? I haven’t read Little Women for years, either, but I absolutely adored it!
      Thanks for your lovely comment!

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  4. sometimes a HEA doesn’t suit the book. I loved the book ‘Sarah’s Key’, but hated the ending. In my opinion, it didn’t suit the character or the plot. I loved the HEA of Annabella and cried. It was such a good book It made Canada reads on CBC this year
    Heather G – The Natasha Saga

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    1. Hi Heather, I haven’t read either of those two books. Annabella sounds just my cup of tea! :) Sometimes the HEA just isn’t right, I agree – and JoJo Moyes Me Before You is a classic example (hope I haven’t spoiled that book for anyone). Thanks for your thoughtful comment!

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  5. Okay, Helena, you started “meddlin'” when you took on Little Women, one of my all time favorites. And to think Jo would be better off with shallow Laurie! My stars and garters! The older man/younger woman pattern for me was started with this pair. (Not that I followed it in real life. My wonderful DH does remind me he’s year and a half younger than me. :)) But truly, Jo would’ve become bored with Laurie so fast. She needed a strong, practical, capable man to meet her. I realize as I write that it sounds like I don’t believe opposites attract or that both partners shouldn’t meet the others’ weaknesses, but…don’t mess with Little Women! LOL Great post.

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    1. Haha! Loved your comment, Marsha. I really must re-read Little Women. I was much younger when I read it, and so of course I fell for the handsome and charming young man, and not the dull prof. Time to read it again and see if I still feel the same! Don’t mess with Little Women! Thanks for a brilliant comment!

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  6. I think Ron & Hermione would have a HEA; you could see that relationship building starting around Book 4. I was disappointed that Harry married Ginny, because I always thought she was boring. I DID want him to marry Luna Lovegood, but she is a little too ditzy for him. Given his horrible childhood, I think he just wanted a regular home and family, so I suppose Ginny gave him that.

    I agree with Marsha. As far as Jo and the Professor go, you have to read all three books in the series to see that they made a better couple than she & Laurie would have. Interesting that Louisa May Alcott didn’t want Jo to marry at all.

    The Time Traveler’s Wife is one of my favorite romance novels; but, given the paramaters of the story, there’s no way Henry and Clare can have a HEA. Sure, if the doctor had found a cure for his condition, they would have been happy, but here’s a case where the story is much more moving because they don’t. I always cry when I get to the last line: “Henry is coming, and I am waiting for him.

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    1. Loved your comment, Julie. The Time Traveller’s Wife is a great book, and the build up to the end is really well done. Even though it’s not a happy ending, the author never raises your expectations that all is going to end well. If you liked this book, you might also like JoJo Moyes Me Before You.
      I really liked the character of Ginny in the Harry Potter books, so I was happy she and Harry got together. And you’re right about having to read all the books in LM Alcott’s series. Just the first one – although it’s a brilliant story! – isn’t enough to paint the full picture.
      Thanks so much for coming by with your thoughtful comment!

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  7. I think about that, too, and tend to follow favorite characters’ future lives in my imagination after finishing a book. Both couples in my Star Commandos books have very happy, fulfilling relationships post series. I’d also say that Elizabeth and Darcy in PRIDE AND PREJUDICE do. Jane’s marriage would be just as good.

    Pauline

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  8. It’s been ages since I read Little Women, but I do remember liking Laurie with Jo.

    I’m a sucker for a HEA, but I’m also good with a Happy For Now. And am I one of the only people who doesn’t find Romeo and Juliette romantic? Tragic (and a touch foolish on both their parts) yes, but romantic no. Although there are some great quotes from that play.

    Thanks Helena, and Happy Valentine’s Day!

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    1. Another one for Team Laurie – yay! I just found this fabulous post from Heroes and Heartbreakers (love their posts!) http://www.heroesandheartbreakers.com/blogs/2011/04/team-laurie-or-team-bhaer The whole Laurie/Professor Bhaer is a very important debate! :)
      And I totally agree that Romeo and Juliet isn’t romantic. It’s one of my least favourite Shakespeare plays – although you’re right, there are some really brilliant lines from that play.
      Thanks for coming, Mary, and hope you’re having a great Valentine’s day!

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  9. What a great rousing discussion!! But what strikes me is that “happily ever after” was invented in the fairy tales that were read to children before bedtime and then there was a good night kiss on the forehead, a snuggly tuck-in, lights out and no more talk about that monster that might be living in the child’s closet. I think authors shuffle the characters around, stuff them with goodness and meanness and mate them up with unlikely or ‘possible others’ in a novel, then send the manuscript off to be published. That’s kind of what real life is like, two people meet, they dig each other, then hangout for a while and maybe get married. But no one’s reading the average person’s sloppy plotted love story. Thank goodness.

    I rather like the idea of Scarlett having to deal with life for a while as a single woman, and as for Brett, that man will have no trouble finding a mate. What I see is that Scarlett will always be someone in the back of Brett’s mind and that’s what I liked about the end in that book.

    Oh, I would love to sit somewhere in a cafe or a bar and talk with all of you about the possibilities in some of these novels. What fun that would be.

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    1. Margaret, thanks for your brilliant comment! It would be so fabulous to be in a cafe talking books together. Maybe one day, if I get back to the States, we really could make that happen! But at least we have the internet in the meantime, and a virtual cafe to sit in! :)
      I agree, I think Scarlett would deal just fine with life as a single woman. I just hope that daft Ashley Wilkes isn’t hanging on her all the time for support. The more I’ve thought about this, the more I think that in the end Scarlett and Rhett will finally end up together. The book ends in a great way.
      Thanks very much for coming to the cafe, Margaret!

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