At the conclusion of Little Women, Amy marries a man who has previously proposed to one of her sisters and has a rumored history with another. While this type of setup might have worked in 1868, the odds are that you shouldn't hook up with a guy who has been in a serious relationship with one of your sisters (by blood or by friendship).
In Leo Tolstoy's masterpiece, Anna Karenina, Anna's aristocrat husband refuses to divorce her as a way of keeping up appearances in high Russian society. Because of his concern for their public image, Anna and Alexei are trapped in a loveless and infidelity-ridden marriage for years. Today's society is more fluid, and there's no reason to sacrifice romantic happiness for looks.
Source: Focus Features
Jane Eyre's Edward Rochester has a lifetime of bad decisions behind him when he falls in love with Jane, including (but not limited to) a pyromaniac wife locked in his attic and a financially demanding illegitimate child. He continues to make questionable choices when he attempts to trick Jane into a bigamous marriage, but somehow gets the girl in the end! Even the consequences of his past bad decisions disappear at the book's conclusion, when his vision is restored after his crazy first wife blinds him in a fire. While the end of the novel is sweet, this type of situation would not work well in real life; the consequences of questionable decisions do not conveniently disappear.
Source: Focus Features
Emma's title character behaves rather atrociously throughout her namesake novel. Meddling in her loved ones' relationships, acting cruelly in some reactions with her acquaintances, and refusing to listen to reprimand when she behaves inappropriately, it would seem that Emma does not deserve a happy ending. However, Emma lands a handsome rich guy and somehow her friend is able to marry the kindhearted man she'd previously spurned at Emma's request. While her bad behavior goes without lingering consequence in the novel, this type of behavior will ensure unhappy relationships in the real world.
Source: Miramax Films
Go ahead, marry a guy for money or revenge — Scarlett O'Hara did it three times, and it worked out for her! Gone With the Wind's protagonist marries thrice: first as a spiteful act against a former fling, second for money, and third for even more money. While this type of behavior may have been permissible (maybe even encouraged!) in the past, it's now safe to say that marriage should be for love.
While readers rejoice at Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy's eventual coupling, it's important to realize that her situation is abnormal. The Pride and Prejudice heroine had previously turned down Darcy's marriage proposal in quite a spectacular fashion, listing off things about him that repulsed her. In this novel, the pair reconciles and lives happily ever after, but in most situations this would never happen. It's important to remember that love doesn't always mean second chances, so think about the things you say to significant others.
Source: Focus Features
While Persuasion's Anne does end up with her true love at the novel's conclusion, she acknowledges that it only happened due to his rise in social status and newly acquired wealth. Having previously distanced herself from Captain Wentworth due to his low status, the pair only happily reconciles when he has risen in ranks and accrued large amounts of money. When dating today, chasing status and wealth instead of love can lead to severe romantic disappointment.
Source: Clerkenwell Films
The focal characters of Sense and Sensibility, sisters Elinor and Marianne, are supposed to represent the title characteristics of "sense" (reservedness and good choices) and "sensibility" (emotion and rash decision-making). Marianne's sensibility is portrayed as her biggest flaw, since she openly professes love for her suitor and causes a general ruckus for her relationship, but in today's dating world it's a valuable quality. In Jane Austen's era, it was frowned upon to openly discuss feelings; now, it's encouraged!
While The Great Gatsby's classification as a romance novel is debatable from a literary standpoint, there is no denying that it has gone down in history as a great love story. Instead of interpreting Jay Gatsby's obsession with Daisy as romantic, however, modern readers should understand that such behavior is unhealthy.
Source: Warner Bros.
Heathcliff, one of the main characters in Wuthering Heights, is rejected by many because of his vague ethnic background. This affects his entire life, down to his eligibility to marry the woman he loves. However, no such background should factor into modern romantic relationships.
Source: Ecosse Films