Greatest Forbidden Love Stories in Literature | TheReviewGeek Recommends

Avid readers will agree that forbidden love stories are one of the most sought-after themes in literature. Even legends like Shakespeare submitted half of his life’s work to it. By definition, it is the sort of love that defies all odds, breaks all rules, and challenges the boundaries set by our society.

We root for such kind of love and lovers, knowing very well that they’re to be doomed. If you’re having a hard time naming a few, here are the 10 best-forbidden love stories in literature. 

Romeo and Juliet

Romeo and Juliet’s love story begins at the Capulet party. They lock eyes, and before they can know, Romeo and Juliet fall for each other. Quick as a wink, they decide to get married the very next day in a secret ceremony because their families are sworn enemies, and they must keep their relationship under wraps to avoid trouble.

Their long-lived animosity stems from the long-simmering hatred involving the Montague and Capulet households. Although the play does not directly address why they hated each other so much, it is obvious that the enmity is deeply rooted and has resulted in a violent and hateful culture between the two families.

Anna Karenina and Count Vronsky 

Anna Karenina, a high-society lady tied in matrimony, crosses paths with the charming Count Vronsky at a train station. Anna feels a bit neglected in her marriage to Alexei Alexandrovich Karenin and thus can’t resist Vronsky’s charisma and fiery spirit. In a similar vein, Vronsky, too, is entirely taken by Anna’s stunning looks and graceful demeanor.

Before they can make sense of their situation, Anna and Vronsky get caught up in a passionate and wild affair. Anna’s choice to chase love and excitement beyond her marriage doesn’t go unnoticed – society gives her a cold shoulder and passes judgment. 

Heathcliff and Catherine 

In Wuthering Heights, Heathcliff is an orphan who is brought into the Earnshaw family fold. Heathcliff forms a strong bond with Catherine, the family’s daughter. What Catherine and Heathcliff have is intense but futile because of the strict social rules of 18th-century England and Heathcliff’s background as an outsider.

Adding to the drama is Catherine’s brother Hindley, who treats Heathcliff poorly, always reminding him of the class differences. Caught between societal norms and her deep feelings for Heathcliff, Catherine ends up marrying Edgar Linton for financial and social reasons. Despite tying the knot with Edgar, Catherine’s heart remains loyal to her former love.

Jay Gatsby & Daisy Buchanan

A mysterious and rich millionaire named Jay Gatsby falls head over heels for Daisy Buchanan during World War I. Unfortunately, their love story hits a speed bump when Gatsby is sent off to war and Daisy is married off to Tom Buchanan. Even after years, Gatsby’s love for Daisy never fades.

We see Gatsby throwing extravagant parties only in the hope that one day Daisy will show up and they can pick up where they left off.  If you go by what F. Scott Fitzgerald meant, Gatsby’s desire to regain Daisy is unreachable, especially in a world where riches, societal standards, and the irretrievability of the past mold the fates of the people. 

Humbert Humbert and Lolita 

Vladamir Nabokov’s Lolita is hands down the most controversial book on this list, with an equally forbidden and controversial love story. Lolita digs deep into the troubling and sinful relationship shared between an adult literature teacher named Humbert and a teenager named Dolores Haze, whom he affectionately calls Lolita. 

Humbert develops an unhealthy obsession with young Dolores owing to his own wicked impulses rather than genuine affection. In order to be near Lolita, he weds Charlotte, who is her mother. After Charlotte passes away, Humbert takes on the role of stepfather and official conservator for Lolita and makes use of this position to satisfy his own sexual cravings. The book has also spawned a Hollywood film with Academy Award winner actor Jeremy Irons. 

Lady Constance Chatterley &  Oliver Mellors

Lady Constance Chatterley, the wife of Sir Clifford Chatterley, undergoes emotional detachment when her husband is paralyzed from the waist down due to the injuries he sustained during World War I. A few years down the road, Sir Clifford starts having an affair with his nurse, while Constance is left alone and dissatisfied.

In her husband’s absence, Constance gets to know the gamekeeper, Oliver Mellors, leading to a passionate and illicit sexual affair. While Constance sees her newfound affair as a way to personal and sexual freedom, the world sees her as a courtesan who doesn’t respect her marriage. 

Estha and Rahel in God of Small Things

Estha and Rahel, being twins, share a close bond with each other from growing up together. As kids, both Estha and Rahel explore feelings that go beyond what people usually expect from their relationship. Although their love is not overtly sexual, it is marked by an emotional closeness that goes beyond the usual limits of sibling bonds.

However, the main focus of Arundhati’s book isn’t about their sibling’s special relationship but rather what happens after. When their half-English cousin, Sophie Mol, dies, things start falling apart in their family. In a nutshell, Estha and Rahel’s story is left incomplete because of the so-called rules of society, caste discrimination, and familial expectations.

Stevens and Miss Kenton In The Remains of the Day

Stevens and Miss Kenton work together at Darlington Hall, and even though their relationship seems formal, there’s a lingering sense that Stevens has strong feelings for Miss Kenton. Their conversations are usually proper and reserved, but you can tell there is something else going on beneath the surface.

Stevens takes his job as a butler seriously and puts his duty before everything else. Stevens is also good at keeping his personal feelings in check to keep things professional. Even though there’s no clear romance between him and Miss Kenton, there’s this unspoken emotional link that they haven’t really expressed openly.

László Almásy & Katharine Clifton in The English Patient

During World War II, a Hungarian count named László Almásy suffered severe injuries and burns. Hana, a young nurse, and Caravaggio, a former spy and thief, take care of László and nurse him back to his old self. In between all of this, László loses his heart to Katharine Clifton, the wife of his friend Geoffrey Clifton.

Their romance develops as they survey the sprawling Sahara Desert in the years leading up to the Second World War. Katharine and Geoffrey Clifton are married, and having a romantic relationship outside of their marriage is frowned upon by society. 

Tita and Pedro  in Like Water for Chocolate

Tita, the youngest in the De La Garza family, is stopped from getting married because of a family tradition. This tradition says that the youngest daughter has to stay single and look after her mother until she passes away. Even though Tita is head over heels for Pedro, she has to abide by this rule. In a twist, Pedro ends up marrying Tita’s older sister, Rosaura, as a clever way to stay close to Tita.

As for Tita, she pours her feelings into her cooking, and whoever eats them can’t keep themselves away from her.  Through their complicated dynamics, Laura Esquivel tries to teach us that unrealized love shapes not just the lover’s lives but also those of everyone around them.

And there you have it, the 10 greatest forbidden love stories in literature . Did your favourite make the cut? We want to hear from you! Drop your thoughts in the comments below.

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