favorite letters in fiction

When Torvald gives into Nora's demands, the tension greatly decreases. Nora is no longer as worried or stressed Torvald will read the letter and become mad at her.:

Many people enjoy epistolary novels, but I never could really get into them. There are a few I like (Dear Mr. Knightley is the one that comes most immediately to mind) but, for the most part, I prefer regular novels (in a lot of cases, like Jane Austen’s Lady Susan, I find epistolary works to be confusing). That being said, I do like it when books include letters that advance the plot and/or are sweet (in a romance) and/or heartbreaking (basically any genre). And because of that, I want to talk about four fictional letters that I love.

(Spoilers to follow, so proceed with caution.)

// Captain Wentworth to Anne ElliotPersuasion by Jane Austen //

Illustration from Persuasion, Placed it Before Anne, his secret little love letter:

“…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. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight years and a half ago. …For you alone, I think and plan. Have you not seen this? Can you fail to have understood my wishes? ….I must go, uncertain of my fate; but I shall return hither, or follow your party, as soon as possible. A word, a look, will be enough to decide whether I enter your father’s house this evening or never.”

Of course, this one was a given. Any blog post that talks about the importance of letters in fiction has to include Captain Wentworth’s famous, romantic missive to Anne Elliot. I have to say that Captain Wentworth isn’t one of my favorite Austen heroes because he behaves like a jerk for so much of the book, but his letter is swoonworthy.  Reading over it again, the style is quite choppy, with a lot of short sentences, but I believe that this captures the agitation and anxiety Captain Wentworth was feeling while listening to Anne speaking with Captain Harville and realizing that all hope was not lost. Bravo, Jane Austen!

// Sir Percy Blakeney to Armand St. JustEl Dorado by Baroness Orczy //

Jane Seymour and Anthony Andrews in The Scarlet Pimpernel, which takes place during the French Revolution.:

“Armand, I know…Not only do I know, Armand, but I understand. I, who do not know what love is, have realized how small a thing is honour, loyalty, or friendship when weighed in the balance of a loved one’s need. …We are men, Armand, and the word forgiveness has only been spoken once these past two thousand years, and then it was spoken by Divine lips. But Marguerite loves you, and mayhap soon you will be all that is left her to love on this earth. Because of this she must never know…Tell her I so far forgave your disobedience (there was nothing more) that I may yet trust my life and mine honour in your hands. I shall have no means of ascertaining definitely whether you will do all that I ask; but somehow, Armand, I know that you will.”

So. Many. Feels. As a little background to those of who’ve never read El Dorado (read it!), Armand betrayed Percy and he’s feeling horrible about it (of course) and then Percy writes him this letter and, oh my goodness, it’s heartwrenchingly awesome. I remember reading this book for the first time at around three in the morning, crying my eyes out over this letter. I was a wreck and it still gets me every time.  It’s definitely one of my favorite moments in the Scarlet Pimpernel series.

// Walter Blythe to Rilla BlytheRilla of Ingleside by Lucy Maud Montgomery //

“We’re going over the top tomorrow, Rilla-my-Rilla…the Piper will pipe me ‘west’ tomorrow. I feel sure of this. And Rilla, I’m not afraid. When you hear the news, remember that. I’ve won my own freedom here—freedom from all fear… I meant to write to Una tonight, too, but I won’t have time now. Read this letter to her and tell her it’s really meant for you both—you two dear, fine loyal girls. Tomorrow, when we go over the top—I’ll think of you both—of your laughter, Rilla-my-Rilla, and the steadfastness in Una’s blue eyes—somehow I see those eyes very plainly tonight, too. Yes, you’ll both keep faith—I’m sure of that—you and Una. And so—goodnight. We go over the top at dawn.”

I have no words. Lucy Maud Montgomery is a cruel, cruel author who kills off favorite characters and writing such heartrending, posthumous letters (those are always the worst ones). Walter was a poet, and his writing style – even though it’s prose – is very poetic. This letter is beautiful, though so sad, as well as being uplifting and giving Rilla the strength to carry on through all the remaining days of the war. (And for the rest of her life, too, I always like to think.)

// Johnny Cade to Ponyboy CurtisThe Outsiders by S.E. Hinton //

“Ponyboy…the doctor came in a while ago, but I knew anyway. I keep getting tireder and tireder. Listen, I don’t mind dying now. It’s worth it. It’s worth saving those kids. Their lives are worth more than mine, they have more to live for… Tell Dally it’s worth it. I’m just going to miss you guys…the way you dig sunsets, Pony. That’s gold. Keep that way, it’s a good way to be. I want you to tell Dally to look at one…I don’t think he’s ever really seen a sunset… There’s still lots of good in the world. Tell Dally. I don’t think he knows. Your buddy, Johnny.”

*bawls*  You know, every time I think of Johnny, I just…it hurts.  A lot.  He had such a short life and there was so little happiness and hope in it and it’s awful.  He deserved so much better than what he got.  And though I sometimes get a bit tired of the whole ‘hero reaches his lowest point and then, BAM, he finds a posthumous letter from someone important to him that gets him back on the right track’ cliche/trope/whatever you want to call it, it fits well here.  So, so tragically well.  I still can’t decide whose death was worse: Johnny’s or Dally’s, but either way, S.E. Hinton knows exactly how to mess with my emotions, both with the death scenes and this poignant letter.

Well, those are four of my favorite fictional letters, folks.  Do you love these letters, too?  What are your some of your favorite literary letters?  Let me know in the comments!

Eva

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17 thoughts on “favorite letters in fiction

  1. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh . . . how I love and adore that “Persuasion” letter 🙂 I think it’s my favorite one in literature, ever; and Anne and Wentworth are certainly one of my favorite couples ever, so it makes sense.

    Huh. You know, I don’t really think of Wentworth as a jerk, even at the beginning of the book . . . I mean, sure, he makes big mistakes over the course of the story, but so does Anne. They’re both imperfect, and they both have a lot to learn. But they do learn it.

    WALTER. *sobs*

    I need to read “The Outsiders” . . .

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    • I haven’t read Persuasion in years, so my opinion of Captain Wentworth could very well change the next time I do. I’ll just have to see…

      I will never get over Walter and YES, read The Outsiders! 😉

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  2. GAH, that TSP quote is literally making me tear up. Percy!!! *cluches chest*

    And the Johnny letter… I’m gonna need a minute. *sobs* (I GOT THE EXTENDED EDITION YESTERDAY BTW!)

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  3. Your new header is GORGEOUS. I love it. I need to redo my header now. 😛

    I love Captain Wentworth’s letter. 🙂

    I have “El Dorado” as a kindle book, but haven’t read it yet. You’ve made me think I need to right away!

    Walter….sniff. 😥

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  4. Hahaha! And I just named Wentworth as one of my favorite literary heroes in my comment on your previous post Yeah, I don’t think of him as being a jerk at all. Wounded and angry and sad, yes, but anyway…

    I actually quite enjoy epistolary novels, I’ve realized lately. I know they bug a lot of people, but I am pretty willing to suspend disbelief, I guess. I mean, I like the ones that seem natural better than the ones that don’t seem at all like someone would sit down and write, but yeah… overall, I like the style. I think I even started writing a novel either in letters or journal entries when I was in high school, though I never finished it.

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    • Well, it has been at least two years since I last read Persuasion, so my opinion of Wentworth could very well change. It’s just that Persuasion is probably my least favorite Austen novel, so I don’t feel much urge to read it again. But I probably will, soon(ish). 🙂

      I don’t have any problem with suspending belief, but epistolary novels tend to confuse me with all the different letters flying around (that’s maybe why I liked Dear Mr. Knightley so much – Sam was pretty much the only writer). Meh. I’d say it’s one of my least favorite genres (styles?).

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      • Did you like Daddy-Long-Legs and Dear Enemy, then? They’re pretty one-sided too.

        So we’re pretty backwards on Persuasion, as it’s my favorite Austen novel by a very long ways. At such time as you re-read it, you might enjoy going through the read-along that Heidi Peterson led for it last year. Here’s a direct link to her list of chapter posts.

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      • I know lots and lots of people love Daddy-Long-Legs, but I found it kind of boring, truth be told. The writing style didn’t irk me, it’s just that the plot and characters didn’t really grab my interest. And Dear Enemy was the same. 😛

        My grandfather has given me a huge reading list for the college courses I’m taking with him, so I honestly don’t know when/if I’ll find time for recreational reading (ack!), but I do want to re-visit Persuasion sometime soon. Thanks for the link!

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      • And I laughed my way through both those books, but I love slice-of-life books that are not necessarily so concerned with getting from point a to point b, as just showing what a person’s life is like. Not everyone’s thing.

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