In the literary world, few themes cross genres like love. Epic love stories, turbulent love affairs, star-crossed tragedies and of course, the happily ever after. These varieties and variations have been on the minds of storytellers and in the hearts of readers since stories first began.
While the essence of love is consistent, very few literary couples stand the test of time. More than tragedy, well beyond passion, a select few literary duos stand out because of their dynamic (and not always well-matched) personalities. These creative pairings capture our imaginations, making us fall in love with them time and time again.
So what's the secret to a fascinating love story? Letting the typology of Myers and Briggs be our guide, let's take a look at four couples in literature and see how their personality types drove their iconic romances.
Romeo and Juliet
It’s hard to imagine a more iconic couple than the star-crossed lovers, Romeo and Juliet. Young, passionate, full of explosively bad ideas borne from good intentions, these teens have been analyzed and recreated since Shakespeare brought them to life five-hundred years ago. From a personality perspective, Romeo’s ENFP paired with Juliet’s INFP were always fated to be well-matched.
The extraverted Romeo takes the lead in their romance. While this was common for the day, even by today’s standards, Romeo would most likely still be the pursuer. And it isn’t solely due to his extraverted exuberance compared to Juliet’s quieter introverted nature. Romeo is searching for deeper meaning in his life. His Perceptive need for flexibility and freedom means he fights against the box his parents want to put him in. But really, it’s his iNtuitive Feelings that drive his need for meaningful, authentic connections. Because he is so in tune with his Feelings and relies on his iNtuition and Perception so strongly, the moment he lays eyes on Juliet, he immediately senses their similarities. And she does the same.
This is the core of their love-at-first-sight story. They both recognize the NFP traits in the other. Even though they’re both isolated and feel alone, they’re seeking meaningful connections with others. Romeo’s playfulness sparks Juliet’s interest in their initial meeting. He’s fun, full of adventure and refusing to let her go back to a party that, in truth, she’d rather not be part of. With every risk Romeo takes to speak to Juliet, another spark is added to their growing flame, deepening their mutual feelings in both intensity and strength.
But for all their strengths, Romeo and Juliet fall victim to their weaknesses. When presented with external pressure, their complimentary NFP traits feed their passions. They don’t want to compromise their ideals, or give up their newly found love, leading to their tragic demise. Regardless, their refusal to give into society or give up on each other has held their legendary romance in readers’ hearts throughout the ages.
Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett
Not all romance is love at first sight. In fact, some love is actually borne from intense dislike. But, oh, how ardently readers have loved the misunderstandings and escalating tensions between INTJ Fitzwilliam Darcy and ENFJ Elizabeth Bennett over the decades!
An introverted Darcy paired with a very extraverted Elizabeth is a couple bound to have obstacles. Before they even speak to each other, Darcy insults Elizabeth. And she hears. Things don’t get easier between the two from there. Elizabeth is passionate and energetic but hearing Darcy insult her sparks her Judgment in the Myers and Briggs personality test sense of the word, meaning she makes up her mind quickly and likes to have things decided.
And so, she makes up her mind about who he is. Stubborn by nature, once her Judgment is set, every encounter serves to only enhance this opinion. Combined with her NFJ tendencies, she is reluctant to talk to Darcy more, avoiding the conflict, but also ensuring her Judgment remains untainted.
On the other hand, introverted Darcy inadvertently reinforces Elizabeth’s Judgments. He values Thinking over Feeling and believes his iNtuition confirms his Judgments. It’s actually because Elizabeth is so open with her own feelings and is willing to vocalize her own Judgments, that pushes Darcy deeper into his own stubborn beliefs.
Because we get so much of the narrative from Elizabeth’s perspective, it’s difficult to see past Darcy’s prickly exterior into his inner motivations. However, we do see his INTJ traits in full form towards the end. His Thinking nature ensures that he is open to change, especially once his problem-solving logic determines the need for improvement. Further, his Judgment initially had him drawing conclusions about Elizabeth and her family, but it’s also learning about her Judgment regarding him that sparks his determination to right this perceived wrong. It’s ironic that his Thinking determination is what propels Elizabeth away from him, but ends up being responsible for driving them back together.
Ultimately, even with a rocky start and two determined Judging-oriented personalities at play, Darcy’s logical Thinking combined with Elizabeth’s iNtuition are key to overcoming their misunderstandings. Traits that could have kept them apart are the very pieces of their personalities that make them such a strong couple, allowing readers to swoon over their happily ever after.
Jane Eyre and Edward Rochester
Sometimes, love stories are less between two protagonists and ends up being more a courtship between a character and the reader. That’s not to say there isn’t love between the characters. More that we simply get to fall in love with each one through a different lens. This is how we fall first for INFP Jane Eyre, and then with ENTJ Edward Rochester through Jane’s eyes.
We spend quite a bit of time with Jane before we ever meet Edward. Through Jane’s account, we learn of her tumultuous childhood and experience her growth despite the abuse inflicted upon her by her family. Even though it seems that her introverted nature might cause her to withdraw inward, her iNtuition combined with her Perception drive her integrity and ideals. This occurs to the point where she develops her Feelings – again in the Myers and Briggs personality system sense of the word, where Jane makes decisions with the heart and wants to be compassionate – with a strong sense of self and commitment to her beliefs.
By the time she meets Rochester, Jane is restless, seeking a connection with others. But because she has had her Perceptions and iNtuitions violated by people throughout her life, Jane also craves her own autonomy, reverting strongly to her introverted self as the only individual she can trust and rely on.
It’s due to this conflict within Jane that draws Edward to her. He’s charismatic, meeting her in a mysterious and shocking way, then teasing her for the accident rather than apologizing. Rochester often falls prey to the darker impulses of his personality. He uses his iNtuitive senses with his strategic-Thinking tendencies to be blunt, sometimes to the point of cruelty. Because he feels so deeply and has a strong sense of justice, he is stuck in the remorse of his past.
Jane pulls him out of his feelings of betrayal from his father, but as his affection strengthens, she also heightens his view that his forced marriage is unjust – a Judging tendency. His NTJ traits convince him that the only logical answer is to be with Jane, but once Jane finds out Edward is still married, she cannot go against her ideals or betray her principles.
The love story between Jane Eyre and the reader is complete here. We cheer for her finding herself, holding to her ideals, and staying true to who she is. But because we also want Jane to be happy, readers find satisfaction when Jane ultimately reunites with the widowed Edward, marrying him and having a child.
Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler
Some couples are tempestuous from beginning to end. Sparks fanned from misunderstandings, flaming into outright contempt, builds delicious anticipation for readers hanging on every explosive interaction. Love to hate combined with hate to love is the only way to describe the mirrored ESTP personalities of Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler.
Scarlett is introduced as flippant and spoiled, but her vivacious charm is indisputable from the very beginning. Her extraverted nature shines through in nearly every cell of Scarlett’s being. Her quick Thinking comes across through her sharp tongue and acerbic wit, but as we get to know her, we see the strength of her character. She Perceives situations fully, evaluating and drawing conclusions based on her acute Senses and logical Thinking. Scarlett O’Hara isn’t usually portrayed as logical, but the fact that she refuses to give in, determined to see her decisions through and that she survives despite the obstacles in her path shows that there is more to her than initially meets the eye.
From her very first interaction with Rhett, it’s obvious that he sees through Scarlett’s attempt at being a proper Southern Belle. And this infuriates Scarlett no end. She takes his criticism as emotional judgment and this threatens her extraverted sociability and preferred spontaneity of her Perceptive tendencies. But really, Rhett simply recognizes her ESTP traits as his own.
Eventually, the two manage to come together. But as the saying goes, too much of a good thing tears their relationship down. Rhett, easy-going and non-judgmental with his Perceptive traits finally reaches his limit. The facts and details his Sensing self has accumulated throughout their ups and downs leads his logical Thinking side to the conclusion that life with Scarlett can’t continue.
One of the passionate love stories that doesn’t have a happy ending, their turbulent journey still captivates and enchants readers simply because of how explosive Scarlett and Rhett’s personalities are. Dynamic alone, together they are magnetic. Even though their flame cannot be sustained, their story is no less brilliant for ending.
Personality makes a love story great
At the heart of any romance, especially the stories that last, we see the story of two personalities: how they meet, how they grow and, ultimately, how they either come together or fall apart. We love the individuals over their stories, making the people and their journey more important than the happily ever after.