7 Books To Prove Revenge Is a Dish Best Served Cold

From classical tales to contemporary fiction, vengeance is a prevalent theme employed by authors as the primary foundation of their text. Whether as the subplot of heart-wrenching romances or as the main motivation behind heinous crimes, revenge gets interwoven seamlessly into the page-turners that we have difficulty putting down. For those blinded by fury and utterly driven by vengeful desires, it would be challenging to abstain from exacting their much-needed retribution as soon as possible. Some fictional characters have shown us just exactly how “revenge is a dish best served cold”; that is, by patiently waiting for the right moment to strike back. However, he extent to which your pain can be alleviated through vengeance is something that we can never quite define.


Warning: spoilers follow.


1. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë



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This is a tough read, not just because Bronte’s choice of vocabulary or her sentence structures are challenging but due to the fact that every relationship in this story is strained in one way or another. Catherine and Heathcliff are perhaps one of the most dysfunctional and twisted couples in the history of British literature. Consider Heathcliff, a man filled with so much hatred that every move he makes has been driven by vengeance. Besides marrying someone he held little passion towards, he went as far as using his child to exact his vengeance on Catherine. Eventually, hatred drove them towards a dead end. To be honest, if these two people had never met each other in the fictional universe, then we would have been spared a lot of drama, not to mention a broken heart from arduous reading!


2. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens



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Miss Havisham’s ghostly appearance and the fact that she almost catches fire show just how her mind and body have been literally consumed by passion and fury. Ever since her fiancée failed to show up at their wedding, she has given her life to bitterness and dedicated all her efforts towards exacting revenge. Through the young and beautiful Estella, she makes sure Pip suffers from the same pain that tortured her throughout her earlier life. After he is served with this cold dish of revenge, Pip is left traumatized yet not destroyed. Instead of retaliating through bitter revenge, Pip ascends above Miss Havisham by accepting Magwitch’s aid and transforming himself into a gentleman worthy of Estella’s hand.


3. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn


Gone Girl

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We’ve all been hurt at some point in our lives. What we’d like is to witness the perpetrator experiencing the same kind of pain we had undergone or even tenfold if we are really angry. However, the dramatic revenge fantasies that take place within our consciousness usually don’t get acted upon. That is, if you do not have antisocial personality disorder like Amy Dunne. For her, settling for a divorce would be like setting Nick free into the ‘wilderness’; thus, Amy plots to frame him for murder by going MIA without displaying any sign of her wrath beforehand. Something like this not only takes significant amount of secret planning, but also requires a lot of pretense and feigned affections that mentally healthy individuals find challenging. 


4. An Eye For An Eye from Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman



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Set in a fictional dystopia, Noughts and Crosses explores an alternative history in which Africans have gained an advantageous social standing over Europeans due to technological expertise. In this series set in 21st century Britain, Europeans are slaves. In Blackman’s third novella titled An Eye for an Eye, she delves into the details of her third book, Knife Edge. Persephone (Sephy) is a cross, one of the privileged individuals in society; on the other hand, Callum is nought and looked down upon in community. When those two fall in love, the two families both suffer in different ways. Callum’s brother, Jude, blames Sephy for their loss and aims to destroy her life at all costs.


5. True Grit by Charles Portis



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Considered a great American novel by numerous critics, True Grit portrays authentic American culture through a satisfying narrative about retribution.  As soon as fourteen-year-old Mattie Ross commences her search for the murderer responsible for her father’s gruesome death, we quickly succumb to our unhealthy appetite for seeing the guilty receive what they truly deserve. Unable to quench her thirst for revenge and moved by her determination, one-eyed bounty hunter Rooster Cogburn joins her on this dangerous path into the Indian territory. Later on, Texas Ranger La Boeuf also joins the two to create a quarrelsome triad. Hilarious and poetic at the same time, True Grit consists of a wonderfully intense tale that will fascinate those who prefer to steer away from Westerns.


6. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas



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Arguably the prime example of how “revenge is a dish best served cold”, The Count of Monte Cristo enlarges the loopholes within society’s crippled legal system and invites readers to consider the justifications of criminal punishments as imposed by authorities. Edmond Dantès has everything anyone can possibly wish for in life: a respectable career as a ship captain, an amorous relationship with a beautiful woman whom he will soon marry, and a positive reputation amongst his social group. However, all his hope for a prosperous future descends into ashes when envious enemies around him plot to throw him into jail for a false crime. During his days of incarceration, he meets “The Mad Priest” who stops him from suicide and bestows him with knowledge. Dantès’ challenging adventure only begins after he successfully escapes from prison. From then on, this narrative of triumphant revenge starts to move at such an impressive pace that will leave you unable to put the book down.


7. The Revenant by Michael Punke



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Set against nineteenth century American frontier, The Revenant is a chilling read about dark betrayal and vengeance. When Hugh Glass is considered a half-dead man after a vicious encounter with a grizzly bear, the trappers of the Rocky Mountain Fur Company left him slowly drifting away in the freezing landscape. Driven by his desire for revenge, Glass manages to survive and even crawls his way back to the crew. Based on a true story, this novel shows how retributive desires can fuel a man’s survival needs.


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