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Younger Man / Older Woman in Literature
#1  Nabeel 11-11-2019, 04:46 PM
I'm writing a novel set in London in the 1940s. My MC is a bookish 26 year-old man who falls into an affair with a slightly older woman. He then has sudden doubts about what he's doing.

As a bookish young man, he's able to think of literary precedents. Unfortunately I can't think of many! I have remembered Frederic Moreau and Mme Arnoux in Sentimental Education. But are there other examples, preferably in fairly mainstream English-language literature? Even better if they show unhappy, immoral and unsuccessful liaisons.

I have consulted with a Professor of English Literature, and he can't think of any.

All help appreciated.

Nabeel
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#2  BookCat 11-11-2019, 06:27 PM
You'd probably have to skip the Victorians and go back further.
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#3  issybird 11-11-2019, 07:49 PM
How about Linton Heathcliff and Catherine Linton, from Wuthering Heights? Their relationship was unhappy and unsuccessful, if not immoral (other than Catherine's being forced into it).

La Dame aux Camélias by Dumas would seem to have the elements you want, other than being French (but it was well-known in England). However, while I assume Marguerite Gautier, the courtesan, was older than the youthful Armand Duval, I don't know this for certain. On thought, it also has just two of your three elements: it was unsuccessful and immoral, but happy.

This is a fun question!
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#4  Nabeel 11-12-2019, 04:08 AM
Thank you Issy. La Dame would be a good one. Someone else has also suggested Colette's Cheri. All decadent French literature!
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#5  issybird 11-12-2019, 07:05 AM
There's Paul Pennyfeather and Margot Beste-Chetwynde from Waugh's Decline and Fall which hits all three marks, but I don't think satire is what you had in mind!
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#6  Dr. Drib 11-12-2019, 07:27 AM
For the psychological effects of a young man involved in loving an older woman - but not set in London - and how age and circumstance intervene, check out these two:

1) Summer of '42 - Herman Raucher (There's also a movie.)

2) A Widow for One Year - John Irving
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#7  meeera 11-12-2019, 09:12 AM
So long as you're not looking for happy endings, there's always Oedipus.

Chéri by Colette? Published in 1920 in French, which your bookish Londoner may well read. I'm not sure of the date of first translation into English.
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#8  crich70 11-12-2019, 10:44 AM
I'm not certain of their ages being different but there was Sampson and Delilah. A story that would certainly be known to your character.
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#9  issybird 11-12-2019, 11:58 AM
Quote crich70
I'm not certain of their ages being different but there was Sampson and Delilah. A story that would certainly be known to your character.
I am really scratching my head on this one. The point of the reference is an older woman and younger man. There's nothing at all that I know of about Samson and Delilah that would indicate they reflect this (admittedly my Bible knowledge is on the sketchy side). But that being the case, whyever would you suggest them? Of all the literary couples in the world? I can't help thinking that you're reading into the theme of disparate ages some power dynamic and that a powerful woman, especially one who brings down a man, must perforce be older.
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#10  crich70 11-12-2019, 12:13 PM
Quote issybird
I am really scratching my head on this one. The point of the reference is an older woman and younger man. There's nothing at all that I know of about Samson and Delilah that would indicate they reflect this (admittedly my Bible knowledge is on the sketchy side). But that being the case, whyever would you suggest them? Of all the literary couples in the world? I can't help thinking that you're reading into the theme of disparate ages some power dynamic and that a powerful woman, especially one who brings down a man, must perforce be older.
Nope. Only that sometimes a guy picks the wrong woman to get close to and she leads him to either figurative or literal destruction.
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