Difficult Relationships in Literature


Typically on a Tuesday I would be bringing you a Top Ten Tuesday post. As the ladies who host that meme are currently on break, I wanted to do something different. This week, I want to explore a topic that can be a little personal to some people: Difficult Relationships. In our personal lives we all will at some point be engaged in a relationship that is not all together healthy. Whether it is familial tension, unhealthy work relationships, or one of a romantic nature we all have had to deal with the frustration and occasional sense of hopelessness that comes with a difficult relationship. A person can often be left feeling alone in their troubles and don’t feel comfortable talking about them to other people. I think it is important for those people to know they are not alone and others have similar troubles. Reading about even a fictional character also engaged in a difficult relationship can be a comfort to some people. These are books that I feel demonstrate these tensions whether they are resolved for better or worse.



Cinder by Marissa Meyer

“Do your kind even know what love is? Can you feel anything at all, or is it just… programmed?”

If you’ve read my review you may have noticed that I was not overly fond of this book. Despite that I think it demonstrates well how a child (step child or not) can feel spurned by a parent. Cinder would have cared for, even loved her step mother if only she had been given the opportunity to. Despite the lack of love and affection in her home life, Cinder still does her best to help her family and is able to have positive relationships with friends, doctors, even a prince. It is her choice to not take the negativity at home out into the world. That shows a real strength of character.



The Witchfinder’s Sister by Beth Underdown

“For it is a choice, I think, to close the heart, just as it is a choice to open it. It is a choice to look at what distresses you, and a choice to shut your eyes. It is a choice to hold tight your pain, or else let it slip your grasp, set it free to make its mark upon the world.”

This book features an unhealthy sibling relationship. Our main character, Alice, has just suffered the loss of her husband and is forced to return to her family’s home outside of London which is now run by her brother, Matthew. Matthew seemingly welcomes her with open arms at first but it quickly becomes apparent that he has such hatred in his heart and turns it on his sister. She is afraid that if she disobeys him that he will physically harm her and has already mentally manipulated her. Fear is often used as a manipulation technique and Alice crumbles under the pressure. She is saved in the end only by his death. This is a sad callback to a time when women were not permitted to be masters in their own home but instead had to depend on the sufferance of their male relatives. Sadly, Beth was unable to save herself but was saved by her brother’s untimely death. I like to think that she learned from her circumstances, grew as a person, and moved on to a better life.





A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J Maas

“I was not a pet, not a doll, not an animal.
I was a survivor, and I was strong.
I would not be weak, or helpless again
I would not, could not be broken. Tamed.”

For the many of you who have read this book, I think you will realize that I am referring to the unhealthy romantic relationship between Feyre and Tamlin. Despite Feyre having displayed the strength and fortitude to save his and everyone else’s sorry ass in the first book, Tamlin treats Feyre like an incompetent child. He refuses to treat her like a respectable and intelligent person, imprisons her in what is supposed to her home, hides his own intentions and plans from her, and actively punishes her by suppressing her free will. This is mental and emotional abuse at its most obvious. Tamlin claims love and devotion to Feyre and yet breaks her down brick by brick until she is only a mere shell of her former self. She is thankfully rescued by Rhysand, painstakingly rehabilitated, and assists in, quite literally, saving the world. With the help of those who loved her, Feyre is able to overcome the unhealthy and abusive romantic relationship she has suffered.



Heartless by Marissa Meyer

“Now mine eyes see the heart that once we did search for, and I fear this heart shall be mended, nevermore.”

In the books I have listed so far the difficult relationships have been resolved to a relatively healthy conclusion. I think it is important to remember that not all of these situations lead to a happy ending. In Heartless, there are many different kinds of unhealthy relationships but the one I want to focus on is parent/child. Catherine is consistently throughout the entire book put upon by the expectations of her parents. Their wish is to elevate their own status in society by elevating their daughter’s status with marriage to the king. Cath simply wants to live a simple life, own her own bakery, and marry for love. Her parents completely ignore her wishes and demean her which leads to devastating consequences: the rise of the Queen of Hearts. Cath wanted to be a good daughter, she wanted happiness and love, and instead all that is taken from her and she goes down the path of revenge. It was her choice to go down that path but it is a decision I understood. Everything she loved had been taken from her by the wishes and manipulation of others. It would take someone of magnificent fortitude to come out of that smelling like roses.


I started this post as part of the Top Ten Tuesday series and then changed my mind. I think that these difficult and unhealthy relationships need their own attention. While people in the real world do not have the same circumstances as fictional characters, their difficulties are often very similar at heart. People you know or even you yourself may be trying to get through a difficult relationship and it is best to remember that you are not alone. During hard times I find comfort in reading and I hope you can, too.

3 thoughts on “Difficult Relationships in Literature

  1. I haven’t read any of these books, but I love your TTT topic. I think it’s something that definitely should be talked about more because it plays a large and important role in so many stories.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love the topic. I have read Cinder and Heartless, and I really like Catherine’s and Jest’s relationship despite the difficulties that they faced. I like how you included a relationship without a happily ever after because I think in the real world, more people relate to this.

    Liked by 1 person

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