Musings on Love Triangles

Image used with permission from ShutterStock


What is it about love triangles?

  • Lysander, Demetrius, and Hermia
  • Elizabeth Bennet, George Wickham, and Fitzwilliam Darcy
  • Scarlett O’Hara, Ashley Wilkes, and Rhett Butler
  • Jay Gatsby, Daisy Buchanan, and Tom Buchanan 


The love triangle is certainly nothing new; however, lately it seems like many readers, myself included, have been getting down on books featuring love triangles.

Earlier this week, I was watching an episode of the BBC/SyFy show Merlin in which Arthur discovers his love Guinevere is also secretly harboring feelings for Sir Lancelot. This certainly isn’t a new tale; most people know of Arthur, Guinevere, and Lancelot. Yet, few people complain about that particular love triangle. This made me wonder what causes so many people to puff with exasperation at the mention of a love triangle.  started thinking about books I’d read, reviews I’d recently seen, and (of course) all the chatter on twitter. Here’s what I’ve noticed.

1. If done well, the love triangle should blend into the rest of the story without detracting from it.
A great example of this is the Katniss/Gale/Peeta arc in The Hunger Games. Without becoming a primary point, it helps to develop all three characters. 

2. Often, love triangles perpetuate the stereotype of a female as helpless without a partner (usually a male).
The Twilight series is one of the worst offenders here. Bella is helpless without either Edward or Jacob and can’t even function when Edward is away. is this really the message we want to be sending to our young girls?

3. Love triangles are also sometimes guilty of falling into the trap of pitting girl against girl for the love of a boy.
This is summed up best by Meghan of Coffee and Wizards in her post on female friendships in literature. 

4. Sometimes, the triangle unnecessarily complicates matters.
My friend Katya summed this up nicely by saying, “romance is hard enough without adding a third to the mix.”

5. Too much of a good thing can be bad.
You know that feeling after over-indulging at a large, decadent meal? I think that’s what we’re seeing now. In the same way we’ve seen vampires and werewolves run their course, some readers my be feeling bored with the triangle motif.

For me, I’m growing weary of the forced triangle–the one that seems present in the book as a trope and nothing more. But, if well done, a brilliant triangle can add dimension and depth to a story.

What are your thoughts about love triangles in literature? Do you love them, hate them, or are you somewhere in between? 

6 Comments on “Musings on Love Triangles

  1. I agree with you. If the triangle is integrated well into the story and not forced or overpowering then it can add dimension to the characters, but most of the time, it doesn't seem to be done well. I also think the Hunger Games is the perfect example of a well written triangle.

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  2. I'm not fond of love triangles. While I understand they exist, I don't see why some go on much longer than they should. Because through time things changes, for better or worse. (Some characters mature, the story changes, things get more complicated, etc) Which no doubt is a reason to keep them going.

    However, there is nothing more I hate than a girl that can't make up her mind. It's wrong, plain and simple. Being torn between two people and not being able to decide “Who is better”, “Who is more worth everything”, etc.
    I suppose it's because I don't function like that. And if I do, something's wrong with the situation.

    Many “Make a decision or walk away” phrases comes to mind, stringing people along is wrong.

    Not every love triangle is based around that, such a Merlin and The Hunger Games. I won't chatter on about those though.

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  3. I don't mind love triangles just because if I stopped reading all books that contained them it wouldn't leave me much to read. I don't think you need to have both options in the love triangle be viable options though. In Graceling by Kristin Cashore there is a “love triangle,” but the protagonist refuses to let it be a love triangle. Yet another reason I love Kristin Cashore. So. Much.

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  4. I don't think there's anything I love more than a good love triangle. But the key word there is good. I think, though, that they can be over-done. Still, you can never have too much of a good thing!

    I also wanted to let you know that I tagged you in a book meme. It's a way for book bloggers to make connections and get to know one another. I had a good time with it and I hope you'll participate, too. You can find my post at:

    http://aturnofpage.blogspot.com/2012/03/book-tagged.html

    Have a lovely week!

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  5. Hey Danielle! I agree that the hunger games was perfectly embedded into the story. I liked how the book focused with societal issues and survival. I recently review a book with a love triangle that I didn't like. I felt like I didn't like that triangle because it seemed forced and the girl was obviously going to choose one guy over the other.
    For a good triangle, I also like it a subplot. I like ones were there isn't an obvious choice. Where I see potential for each choice. When there is ton of drama.

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