If you’re a human being with access to a TV or the internet, you’ve probably heard that today is the 20th anniversary of the Friends premiere. As much as we love the Central Perk crew, fictional friendships started touching our lives long before Ross and Rachel ever took their break. Though the dynamics of each one may be different, there is no denying the strength of these literary bonds. Here are some of the best to have ever graced the page.
The “Kids Will Be Kids” Friendship
Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer – The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
When we’re kids, we don’t have to have everything in common with our best friends. Usually, our closest buddies are merely a result of who sits next to us in school or who our neighbors are. From a distance, Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn may not seem like the most likely of friends, but they have fun together and get into the hijinks and shenanigans that only boys in 19th century Missouri can. Maybe they won’t be BFF for life—what with Tom trying to make everything a game when Huck has real life problems like trying to help a runaway slave find freedom—but when we’re young and innocent, we need to have that certain someone we can slink around graveyards and play pirates with.
The “You’re Lucky I Love You So Much” Friendship
Joe Gargery and Pip – Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
Joe and Pip show us that, in some friendships, one person can act like a complete jerk but things can still work out if the bond is strong enough. Young Pip and his brother-in-law/father figure Joe may be “ever the best of friends,” but as soon as Pip becomes a gentleman, he thinks he’s too cool for school and has some cringe-worthy moments when you just want to bop him over the head for being embarrassed of his illiterate companion. (Okay, Joe doesn’t help matters by trying too hard to be overly formal, but his awkwardness is endearing, no?) True friends stick with you through the good times and bad, though, and when Pip loses everything, Joe is there to pick up the pieces. Because he’s awesome like that. Let’s just hope Pip has learned his lesson.
The “Really?” Friendship
Scarlett O’Hara and Melanie Wilkes – Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
You know those situations when you look at two people and wonder, “How did they become friends?” That’s kind of how it is with Melanie and Scarlett. Melanie is soft-spoken, altruistic, and almost too kind-hearted for her own good. Scarlett is—well, Scarlett. In the beginning, it may seem like a begrudging relationship that will never work out. Scarlett is jealous that Melanie married Ashley, and Melanie seems like a complete fool for sticking by someone who is clearly after her husband. But in the end, we see that Melly knows Scarlett better than anyone and loves her anyway. As for Scarlett, sure she calls Melly mealy-mouthed from time to time, but she does risk everything to get her through the burning of Atlanta. Girlfriends gotta stick together.
The “Man’s Best Friend”ship
Young Ian and Rollo – Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon
Anyone who has ever had a dog knows that there is no friendship in the world like the one shared with a furry companion. Ian and Rollo perfectly exemplify that unwavering, unconditional love and devotion shared by human and canine. These two are so inseparable and go to such great lengths to protect each other that you have to wonder if anyone really needs human friends after all.
The “Born Into It” Friendship
The March Sisters – Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Sometimes we are lucky enough to have built-in best friends just by being born. Between their at-home theatricals, their ice skating on Walden Pond and their gatherings of the Pickwick Club, the March sisters remind us that nobody knows us better than our families, and the bonds of sisterhood and shared history can never be broken.
The “Soul Mate” Friendship
Jane Eyre and Edward Fairfax Rochester – Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Everyone always says that in order for a romantic relationship to work, you have to be best friends first. When Jane Eyre first comes to Thornfield Hall and meets her new employer, they butt heads, but as they get to know one another, Rochester becomes one of the only true friends Jane has ever known (aside from poor Helen Burns). As she goes from being his “little friend” to someone he feels inextricably knotted to at the rib, their friendship remains strong. And it’s a good thing too, because otherwise they’d never be able to get through everything that happens in the second half of the book.
The “Through Thick and Thin” Friendship
Vivi, Teensy, Necie and Caro – The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood series by Rebecca Wells
Not everyone can say that their best friends from childhood have remained with them for life, but the Ya-Yas are certainly not everyone. Bonded as young girls, they stay with each other through their 70s, and while their friendship can’t protect them from harrowing troubles and severe depression, they are always there to support each other. It’s girl power all the way, and isn’t it nice to see women sticking together rather than tearing each other down?
The “Okay, So You’re a Book” Friendship
Francie and Her Books – A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
Who says our friends can’t be inanimate objects? Francie Nolan knows the secret that all good book lovers know: that books have souls and that sometimes, we can connect with them more than we can connect with each other. Through everything in her life—poverty, family troubles and loss—Francie’s books are always there for her. Isn’t that what friendship is all about?
Do you have a favorite fictional friendship that didn’t make the list? Share your thoughts below!