Friday, April 11, 2014

J is for Jilted Lovers in Literature

C.S. Lewis said, “We read to know we’re not alone.”

This pertains to any part of life in which we like to know other people have experienced our pain, disappointment, and joys. In my case, I love reading about a good old-fashioned jilting. I can relate to heartbreak, as I’ve had plenty of it in my life time, and there’s something exhilarating about experiencing a character’s woe and devastation and thinking, “Oh you poor thing—I know exactly how you feel.”

One of my favorite jilted lovers in literature is Marianne from Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. Marianne is a character in love with the idea of romantic love. Her innocence and youthful naiveté creates a perfect opportunity for the disappointment of heartbreak. I warrant many relate all too well with Marianne as she realizes that Mr. Willoughby doesn’t love her enough to forego his family’s fortune, and clutch at their own hearts (at least figuratively) during the dramatic scene at the London ball when Mr. Willoughby politely, but coldly, rebuffs her advances. Oh yes—I’ve been there too many times to recount…in fact, I have the T-shirt, the sweatshirt, and the matching socks.

Ophelia is a tragic heroine who is played as a pawn by her lover and her family. Her innocent love for Hamlet is completely overshadowed by the Danish Court’s quest for self-preservation and revenge. Opelia is utterly confused by Hamlet’s cold and crazy behavior toward her (even though he probably really loves her), but his violent rejection coupled with her father’s murder, is more than she can withstand, and she drowns herself in the river. Ophelia’s suicide may seem extreme, but the recent real-life suicide of The Bachelor contestant Gia Allemande is not far from this literary figure's fate.

Finally, a modern example: Bridget Jones of Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding is perpetually jilted by numerous men. Bridget weathers boyfriends dumping her with much more humor and aplomb than Marianne or Ophelia (she never results to madness or suicide), even so, her pain and despair is palpable. Daniel Cleave’s abominable behavior (including dumping Bridget for an American “stick-insect”) is sadly common these days amongst lovers in general.  Unfortunately, so is Bridget’s overall plight of trying to find a man to marry her. As of late, I see more and more women in their thirties and forties who have given up on finding love.
I’m very grateful to the Good Lord above for my wonderful husband, and that I’m no longer—in the words of Bridget Jones—a singleton; however, I have not forgotten the pain, anguish, longing, and disappointment of those days when heartache and heartbreak were common. I continue to read stories about the jilted and the lonely, and I appreciate the blessing of marriage and companionship.

--But you, God, see the trouble of the afflicted; you consider their grief and take it in hand. The victims commit themselves to you; you are the helper of the fatherless.Psalm 10:13-15


  1. No matter what difficulties heroines in books face, affairs of the heart seem to be the most heartbreaking! I really related to Bridget Jones' difficulties. I had to date in my 30s--it was a very grueling experience.

    Visiting from the main A to Z Blog page. Great to meet you!

    Stephanie Faris

    1. Yes, dating in my 30's was grueling, too. I don't ever want to go back there again!