Romance might be dead, but there is no need to despair. A revival of traditional courtship isn’t impossible.
Today, meeting and falling in love with a lifelong partner seems like an outdated practice for many young people. Instead, many prefer to seek the comfort of a relationship without the responsibility of creating a lasting commitment.
To some, men and women are not distinct human beings searching for something deeper themselves — and just the act of being in a relationship is enough to bring personal fulfillment.
“The problem with the modern feminist notion that gender is entirely a social construct is that it makes people unhappy,” writer Faith Moore told The Western Journal.
“Suddenly people are trying to behave as if their natural inclinations aren’t real and wondering why they feel unfulfilled.”
The same people might scoff at the romantic endings of fictional stories, dismissing true and committed love as a concept found only in fairy tales. After all, the real world is a dark place where everyone is doomed to a lifetime of unhappiness.
Even if they live in imaginary worlds, however, fictional characters can impart valuable lessons.
In the season of love, these three fictional couples demonstrate what it truly means to find happiness with an ideal mate.
Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy (Pride and Prejudice)
In Jane Austen’s classic novel “Pride and Prejudice,” the ballroom is a battlefield where young women fight to secure a suitable match. But the heroine of the novel, Elizabeth Bennet, is determined to marry for love, not family connections or fortune.
Elizabeth possesses an awareness of what love should be by knowing what it is not. She has witnessed the pain created by a loveless marriage through her relationships with friends and family, motivating her to seek something better.
She does not want her parents’ relationship, whose respect for one another faded once their mutual attraction died. Mrs. Bennet cannot understand her husband’s wit, and Mr. Bennet enjoys teasing the wife he sees as intellectually inferior.
Elizabeth’s friend and sister do not fare much better in their chosen matches. Charlotte Lucas marries a man she does not love in exchange for financial security, and Lydia Bennet is forced to marry the immoral George Wickham to preserve her reputation.
Austen’s heroine succeeds in finding happiness with Mr. Darcy, as their romance is not motivated by blind passion or a need for financial stability, but by genuine respect and affection.
The marriage between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy imparts the virtue of withholding to avoid surrendering too much of oneself to someone undeserving. Neither settles for less than their expectations, nor do they offer a lesser version of themselves to the one they marry.
True love takes time to develop, and both partners must possess patience if their romance is to thrive.
Emma Woodhouse and George Knightley (Emma)
Jane Austen similarly uses her characters in “Emma” to demonstrate why self-growth is a prerequisite for love. To Austen, anyone seeking a perfect match must conquer their flaws through humbling experiences.
As the novel’s narrator warns, Emma possesses “the power of having rather too much her own way, and a disposition to think a little too well of herself.”
For love to stop evading Emma, she must overcome her flaws.
Her misguided vanity leads her to believe she is skilled at reading people’s hearts. Her misperceptions of herself and others lead to several humiliating experiences that ultimately humble her.
First, Emma’s fondness for matchmaking nearly ruins her protégé, Harriet Smith, when she tries to pair the young woman with a man above her station. In an ironic twist, the gentleman proposes to Emma instead, exposing her inability to read people as well as she thought.
More importantly, Emma later learns there is no greater obstacle than herself when it comes to achieving true love. Emma is blind to her own desires, and it takes her until the novel’s end to realize she loves Mr. Knightley.
Throughout the novel, Mr. Knightley corrects Emma’s behavior, offering her the guidance she needs to become a better person. While mending her flaws brings temporary hardship, the result is that Emma grows into a mature woman worthy of Mr. Knightley’s love.
Love has the power to transform people into better versions of themselves, but the process involves self-sacrifice. Like Emma, couples can achieve lifelong contentment only by improving themselves and being the person their partner needs.
Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe (Anne of Green Gables)
Anne Shirley is the red-headed heroine of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s classic series “Anne of Green Gables.” Not only is she spirited, but Anne also has a wild imagination.
The problem is that Anne’s fondness for melodramatic fantasies causes her to look at love through rose-colored glasses. When Anne’s best friend, Gilbert Blythe, proposes marriage, her idealistic perceptions of romance lead her to reject him.
After Gilbert nearly dies from typhoid fever, Anne suddenly realizes that she has always loved him. Once he recovers from his illness, Gilbert eventually proposes again, and this time, Anne accepts.
Before she could marry Gilbert, Anne had to stop dreaming to see that real love was right in front of her. Love cannot be sought in a dream, because dreams fade when morning comes anyway.
Genuine love is lasting, which usually means accepting someone for who they are, “for better or worse.” While relationships can change people for the better, some quirky traits are there to stay.
Maybe he snores, and maybe she takes too long in the bathroom. Everyone has annoying traits, but as long as a partner’s character is not abominable, people should not shun love in favor of idealistic expectations that no one can ever meet.
“I don’t want sunbursts or marble halls,” Anne tells Gilbert when he finally proposes a second time. “I just want you.”
True Love Can Exist Outside of Fiction
Each character learns that love is not easy; it often comes with challenges. To love someone means accepting the responsibility of growing alongside another person and working toward a happily ever after.
Anyone who attempts to find love in a quick and effortless fashion will only be disappointed.
But those who abide by the traditional pathway to romance laid out by each heroine are more likely to find the right partner.
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