Breakup Songs for Literary Heroines

And you thought Taylor Swift’s break up songs were intense? Turns out hell hath no fury like a fictional woman scorned...

We are never ever ever getting back together. It’s lyrics like these that make Taylor Swift the unrivalled queen of the breakup ballad. With the recent split of #Hiddleswift, there’s surely one or two smash hit breakup songs just around the corner. Swift certainly puts her breakups to excellent creative use.

But then again, haven’t hot dates, young love (and its heartaches) always been powerful creative fuel? Haven’t they powered even the most demure of classic literary heroines? Sure, Jane Eyre didn’t have a guitar, but she certainly knew how to put a married ex-boyfriend in his place. Classic literary leading ladies, despite being fictional women, had their own tried and tested ways of mending a broken heart. To take control of the narrative about their own love lives they spoke out, wrote endlessly in their diaries, and well, you know, sometimes they dramatically poisoned themselves with arsenic (here’s looking at you, Madame Bovary).

All this got us thinking. If our favourite literary heroines stepped out fiction and into real life, how would they cope with a contemporary broken heart? Imagine hitting the club with Lizzie Bennet on a Saturday night. What song would make her jump up and b-line it towards the dance floor screaming, “OMG! This song is soooo my jam right now!”?

Here’s our imagined answer, a listen along playlist of 10 breakup songs that seem custom made for our favourite literary heroines.

Breakup Songs

1. Emma Bovary “You Know I’m No Good”, Amy Winehouse

Emma, Emma, Emma. What do we do with a woman like Emma? Amy Winehouse is definitely her kindred spirit. Bored to tears in her marriage to a country Doctor, Emma is unable to tear herself away from super hunk about town, landowner Rodolphe Boulanger (WHAT a name). Shattered when he refuses to run away with her, she turns her affections instead to swarthy lawyer Léon, who enters the picture one night at the opera. As the passion of even this new fling dwindles, and heaped mounting debts, Emma’s untimely demise is sealed. Bad apple or troubled soul? Regardless, queue the track.

2. Jane Eyre “I Will Survive”, Gloria Gaynor

“I was actually permitting myself to experience a sickening sense of disappointment: but rallying my wits, and recollecting my principles, I at once called my sensations to order.” Jane Eyre is one ridiculously self-disciplined literary heroine. Bullied by her cruel aunt and surviving life in a horrible orphanage, Jane has been through the wringer even before she faces Mr. Rochester’s deceptions. You’ll find Jane channelling diva Gloria Gaynor at a karaoke open-mic night. Trust us.

3. Cathy Earnshaw “Rolling in the Deep”, Adele

Cathy and Heathcliffe, they could’ve had it all. We can just see it now the two lovers running windswept Breakup Songsacross the moors hand-in-hand into all eternity. But leave it to these two to go and mess up our music video dream sequence. Cathy has to go and get engaged to another man. Heathcliffe goes running off in a humpf before returning to marry her sister-in-law. And then Cathy dies only to have Heathcliffe wish for her to haunt him in perpetuity. That kind of intensity is the stuff Adele songs are made of.

4. Juliet Capulet “Torn”, Natalie Imbruglia

Juliet thought she saw a man, brought to life. But as it turns out, nothing’s fine, she’s torn and they both end up dead. In a classic case of bad timing, this relationship was on the rocks before it even got started. While we can’t blame these innocent lovers, we can’t help but think that Juliet and Romeo could have made some fantastic duet partners. As it is, she’s hitting the dance floor solo, doing an interpretive dance to a little Natalie Imbruglia. Clear some space people, things are going to get expressive.  

Breakup Songs

5. The Bennet Sisters“All the Single Ladies”, Beyoncé

Mrs Bennet, serial matchmaking mastermind, wants all her daughters to get coupled up and double quick. With five girls to marry off it’s a tall order for any mother of the Regency era. Not to mention the trouble with Lizzie, her sensible pain in the ass of a daughter who can’t recognize a good match when it slaps her in the face with “Ten Thousand a Year!” One thing’s for sure, the Bennet Sisters have definitely got the Single Ladies dance routine down pat.

6. Penelope “Hotline Bling”, Drake

Odysseus used to call her on his cellphone, late night when he needed her love. But let’s face it. The guy has been away at sea for years, and who knows when he’s coming back. A lady can only wait so long before the 108 random suitors laying around the house start looking pretty damn fine. Penelope is to Drake as Odysseus is to Rihanna. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

7. Lady Chatterley  “Crazy in Love”, Beyoncé

Okay, so maybe Connie did go a little OTT with the whole adulterous love affair with her gamekeeper thing. But I mean have you seen Oliver Mellors? Dude is rugged and aloof A.F. in that hermit who lives in a tiny cottage on a grand estate kind of way. He’s also intelligent, intensely passionate, and knows a thing or two about pheasant husbandry. In any case, Lady Chatterley is definitely Crazy in Love. And it’s not with you Sir Clifford. Yaaaah. Awkward.

8. Lily Bart “Gold Digger”, Kanye West ft. Jamie Foxx

Now we ain’t saying she’s a golddigger, but she’s got needs. Crimson haired superfox Lily Bart knows a few things about keeping men on their toes and women on their guard. Raised by a mother who pinned her Breakup Songsvalue squarely upon her looks, at 29-years-old Lily is still single and on the hunt for the right man before the bloom of her youth fades. When the boorish, mega rich Gus Trenor comes calling however, Lily proves herself to be much more than a woman of frivolous vanity. You go Lily!

9. Anne Elliot – “Somebody That I Used to Know”, Gotye

For a character that Jane Austen described as, “a heroine who is almost too good for me” she really knew how to make Anne Elliot suffer. After falling head over heels for the clever and ambitious naval officer Frederick Wentworth, Anne is persuaded to call off the engagement due to her youth and his poverty. Nursing a broken heart while Wentworth is off fighting in the Napoleonic Wars, Anne is left alone with only her unwavering feelings of love against the odds. Although it all works out in the end, we can’t help but feel for Anne down in the dumps, crying alone to this emo Gotye hit.

10. Tita De La Garza “Dancing on my Own”, Robyn

“When you’re told there’s no way you can marry the woman you love and your only hope of being near her is to marry her sister, wouldn’t you do the same?” Oh Pedro, you just couldn’t help yourself, could you? Queue twenty-two years of unconsummated passion and a whole hell of a lot of coded love messages shared through cooking. When the love of your life is married to your sister, belting out lyrics like, “Does she love you better than I can?” seems pretty damn cathartic.

Breakup Songs

Loved the List? Take a listen to the breakup songs...