Top Marriage Proposals In Literature

November 28, 2017 – Posted in: Jewelry Blog

Marriage proposals are rarely as spectacular, exciting or even as romantic as they are when TV and movies get involved, but even most of those pale in comparison to the levels of emotion used in literature. Here, we take a look at some of the very best.

Narrow Version of Marriage Proposals in Literature Books

The Blooms – Ulysses

By James Joyce

If you’ve never read Ulysses, you should. When it is referred to as one of the greatest books ever written, it is no exaggeration but, although not any kind of love story in the classic sense, it weaves all the emotions in and out of the text effortlessly, even being subject to an obscenity accusation at one point.

Although there is no marriage proposal as an actual scene in Ulysses, the main protagonist’s wife, Molly Bloom, thinks back to when Leopold proposed to her as she is lay in bed next to him, all the while having been embroiled in an extra-marital affair. The passage is famously without punctuation, and yet still conjures pictures almost unparalleled in literature – “he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes.”

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Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara – Gone With The Wind

By Margaret Mitchell

When discussing one of American literature’s greatest works, it is actually the movie which often gets referenced, and especially the line “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn”, a line which was never included in that form in Mitchell’s book.

Despite being doomed from the off, Rhett and Scarlett’s relationship is incredibly passionate and surprisingly intimate for the time. When Rhett proposes shortly after Scarlett’s husband dies, she is offended and refuses his proposal, at which point he kisses her and she succumbs to his charm. Asan actual proposal, it’s more of a demand than a request, but Rhett’s intentions are clear – “Say you’ll marry me when I come back or, before God, I won’t go. I’ll stay around here and play a guitar under your window every night and sing at the top of my voice and compromise you, so you’ll have to marry me to save your reputation.”

How could a lady refuse?

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Mr Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett – Pride and Prejudice

By Jane Austen

When it comes to novels including romance and heartache in equal measure, none come close to the English classics. Mr Darcy is one of the most famous characters in literature, with many knowing the name even with no idea who he was or why he might be so often quoted.

Mr Darcy (first name Fitzwilliam, in case you wondered) isn’t the masculine hero who always gets the girl. Indeed, Elizabeth refused his first proposal, believing him to be arrogant and uncouth. Realizing it, he sets about modifying his own behavior, eventually proposing again and winning Elizabeth’s heart.

With words any man would surely wish he could say, Mr Darcy proposed with no prior knowledge of the response, but it doesn’t stop him – “In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.”

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Benedick and Beatrice – Much Ado About Nothing

William Shakespeare

Shakespeare has contributed more words and phrases to the English language than just about anybody else. It’s probably also fair to say that he liked a good story centered around the seeming triumph of love over hate, only to see hate win out. However, one example where love does actually triumph is Benedick and Beatrice, even though they declare their love accidentally, after being tricked into doing so.

Unlike the star-crossed lovers of Romeo and Juliet, where fate and people conspired to keep them apart, Benedick and Beatrice were brought together by the same forces, declaring their love by way of poems they had written to each other.

Benedick brings an end to their bashfulness by silencing Beatrice with the words “Peace! I will stop your mouth”, then kissing her. Not a proposal, exactly, but a happy event to suit romantics everywhere.

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Professor Bhaer and Jo March – Little Women

By Louisa May Alcott

After rejecting lifelong friend Teddy’s proposal, Jo meets Friederich Bhaer, a German immigrant literary professor in New York. After encouraging her to write seriously instead of for the weekly tabloids, he eventually woos Jo after the death of her younger sister Beth.

The exchange is a short one – “Jo, I haf nothing but much love to gif you. I came to see if you could care for it, and I waited to be sure that I was something more than a friend. Am I? Can you make a little place in your heart for old Fritz?”.

“Oh yes” was the only reply Jo could summon.

We love a good romance, especially one that is as beautifully written as the examples here. There are more, of course, and we would encourage you to seek out the English and American classics as the perfect starting place to see how literature used to be before pulp fiction and the ceaseless insistence of formula-driven disappointment from authors who know whatever they write will sell millions.

You won’t be disappointed.

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Bertie Wooster and Madeline Bassett – Right Ho Jeeves

By P.G. Wodehouse

The Jeeves Stories (later made into a TV show called “Jeeves and Wooster”), focused on the bumbling idiocy of well-to-do man about town, Bertie Wooster and his ever faithful servant Jeeves. In Right Ho Jeeves, Bertie attempts to tell Madeline that his friend, Gussie, is in love with her, and Madeline mistakes this as a proposal of marriage which she declines to Bertie’s great relief.

After a brief relationship with Gussie, Madeline decides that she will, in fact, marry Bertie and writes him a letter to confirm acceptance of his proposal. Bertie, who will be altogether too gentlemanly to refuse Madeline’s intention, expresses his dismay to his Aunt Dahlia.

“Do you know what’s happened? Madeline Bassett says she’s going to marry me!”. Dahliah’s response was about as quintessentially English as any every written or spoken – “I hope it stays fine for you”.

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Marius and Cosette – Les Miserables

By Victor Hugo

For those more used the the stage show, the original novel can be something of a disappointment due to the often considerable effort required to digest the epic story. However, Victor Hugo used his words wisely, and the developing love affair between Marius and Cosette is breathtaking, showing perfectly the power available in literature that is rarely seen on stage or screen.

There’s is no explicit proposal, simply a confirmation of a love simmering for so long that neither knew for sure what the other was thinking, and it is a simple narrative passage, rather than dialogue between the two which brought things to both a conclusion and a new start at the same time. “He fell upon the bench, and she beside him. They had no words more. The stars were beginning to gleam. How did it come to pass that their lips met? How comes it to pass that the birds sing, that snow melts, that the rose unfolds, that May expands, that the dawn grows white behind the black trees on the shivering crest of the hills?

A kiss, and that was all.”

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Konstantin and Kitty – Anna Karenina

By Leo Tolstoy

Another proposal which is both cryptic and, at the same time, abundantly clear to the reader. It is, in fact the second time Konstantin has proposed, his first attempt being brutally rejected due to Kitty mistakenly believing she is in love with another man. Later, to ask Konstantin’s forgiveness and signal her love for him, Kitty simply writes “i y c f a f w h” meaning “If you could forget and forgive what happened”, to which Konstantin replies “i h n t f a t f i h n c t l y” which meant “I have nothing to forget and to forgive, I have never ceased to love you”. Kitty’s whispered response was “I understand”.

No spoken proposal, not even a mention of the word marriage, and yet the entire exchange is as clear as can be.

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Laurie and Amy – Little Women

By Louisa May Alcott

This proposal is from a true American classic. This story shows that, in love, nothing is too short or too simple. Laurie and Amy’s relationship isn’t a major plot-line in the novel, and yet Alcott still manages to make the exchange between the pair one of the best passages included. They are in a small boat and rowing together, at which point Amy exclaims that the pair pull well together.

Laurie’s response of “So well that I wish we might always pull in the same boat. Will you, Amy?” is every bit a proposal of marriage is any other and leaves Amy with no option but to accept with a single word, “Yes”.

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Ollie and Jenny – Love Story

By Erich Segal

That rare beast of a classic novel turned into a classic movie, the proposal itself is devastatingly simple. Jenny asks why he wants to marry her and Olly, with a line which would in future end a thousand arguments on all manner of subjects, simply says “Because”.

If such a proposal were the end of a love story, it would be wonderful, but it is the beginning of a story destined to end in tragedy as Jenny succumbs to leukemia. Ollie’s after, who had disowned him due to disapproving of Jenny, arrives too late but is reconciled with his son in the aftermath of her death. The novel is also famous for giving us one of the best-known quotes about love – “Love means not ever having to say you’re sorry”.

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Wentworth and Anne – Persuasion

By Jane Austen

There’s a reason why any list of this nature would include several Jane Austen novels. Austen rarely writes any marriage proposal in a literal sense, but would rather the reader fill in the gaps. So it is with Wentworth’s letter to Anne, in which he revisits the pain of being rejected years before. In the letter, he exerts Anne to accept him, for he can love no other.

“I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever”

Frederick’s letter worked and rekindled the love between them which had always simmered slowly, despite the length of their parting.

Romeo and Juliet – Romeo and Juliet

By William Shakespeare

For those more familiar with “West Side Story”, much of the plot of Shakespeare’s original play can come as a surprise. In what was a very daring piece of writing at the time, it is Juliet who is the main proponent of marriage. The famous balcony scene, in which Juliet vows her love for Romeo acts as the proposal, and they secretly marry the very next day. Juliet was unaware Romeo was watching her, not realizing he could hear every word.

“O Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou Romeo?

Deny thy father and refuse thy name.

Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love,

And I’ll no longer be a Capulet.”

It was all the urging Romeo needed. Although the tale has the most unhappy of endings, the romance itself is probably the greatest in literary history.

Charles and Emma – Madame Bovary

By Gustave Flaubert

A non-proposal to someone other than an intended fiancé might seem odd inclusion here, but the episode is beautifully written. Charles is a slightly dull, but a well-meaning man of limited means. Recently – and gratefully – widowed from the awful Héloïse, Charles meets Emma whilst working as a doctor, but is too shy to express his love. Instead, he approaches Emma’s father, who is already aware of the young doctor’s feelings. Monsieur Bovary tells Charles he is sure “the little one will be agreeable”, and will ask her opinion on the matter.

Given Flaubert’s immaculate writing style, the manner of the proposal is surprising but is enormously effective in engaging the reader and involving them in Charles’ slightly awkward world. It may well have been an indicator of what would prove to be an unconventional marriage in which Emma has several affairs. After Emma’s suicide, Charles finds love letters she has written to other men, and he dies of a broken heart.

Florentino and Fermina – Love In The Time Of Cholera

By Gabriel Garcia

Modern novels usually take a more pragmatic approach to love, desperate to avoid perceived clichés. Garcia’s 1985 novel takes just such a path were we don’t even know there’s been a proposal until it is accepted and the marriage finalized.

Florentino and Fermina fall in love at a young age but spend many years apart as Fermina’s father forbids the relationship. In old age, after Fermina’s husband dies in an accident, Florentino proclaims his love for her once more. He claims to have remained faithful only to her throughout the years. Although this was a lie, Fermina accepts Florentino’s claim to be a good and honorable man, and the two end their days as man and wife.

Throughout the novel, the marriage never for a second looks likely. As a result, it comes as something of a surprise when it happens. Although not a feel-good book in most ways, there is a warm glow around how it all turned out.

Jimmy Pendleton and Pollyanna – Pollyanna Grows Up

By Eleanor H. Porter

The original Pollyanna book centered around the life of a young orphan girl who was an inspiration to the entire population of the small Vermont town in which she lived. In the second book, we meet Pollyanna as a young woman, in love with Jimmy Pendleton. The problem is that Jimmy’s adoptive father, John, is also in love with Pollyanna. Pollyanna feels guilty because her own aunt broke John’s heart. As a result, she postpones Jimmy’s own proposal until she knows of his father’s intentions.

When Pollyanna explains her dilemma to Jimmy, he sums the situation up perfectly.

“Alright little girl, it’ll have to be as you say. But surely never before was a man kept waiting for his answer till the girl he loved, and who loved him, found out if the other man wanted her”.