Unsolicited Advice for Literary Characters

Hester Prynn of The Scarlet Letter: Keep losing the A. Every time the townsfolk or church board or whoever order you to make another A, lose that one too. When they confront you, laugh and laugh and say you’re such an airhead, you’d lose your head if it wasn’t attached. See to it that every scrap of red fabric in the whole village is misplaced or destroyed. Since you are already totally lost to sin and the devil anyway, accomplishing this should not be a problem. If confronted, say, “Oh, sorry, I must’ve misunderstood. I thought red was the devil’s color. And strangely, I seem to have misplaced that last A you gave me. Whoops.” Also don’t dress your kid in red. I get your point but that one’s gonna come back to bite you when she’s sixteen, I guarantee. That gimpy guy (Ethan Frome?) from Ethan Frome: Don’t go sledding with that girl, the housekeeper? Or nanny? Your cousin? Whoever. Anyway, don’t do it. Sledding in novels set in dismal New England always ends in death, death, death, broken bones, head injuries, and more death. Do not do it. Snowshoeing or cross country skiing are excellent and scenic alternatives. Anna of Anna Karenina: Tell Mr. Stick-Up-His-Britches to quit locking himself in his bedroom/office and doing Quickbooks or whatever and take you on a date night. Literally insist on date night and block the door of his bedroom/office or disable Quickbooks until he agrees. Maybe even have a bi-weekly date night where the two of you have to play Cards Against (Eastern European) Humanity or share your feelings at length. Insist, also, he regale you with epic love poems and stare at you with lusty, limpid eyes. Or go on a marriage retreat, either one. Nancy Drew of All the Nancy Drew Mysteries: You’re totally OG and on fleek, girl. You really are. But I got three words for you: permit to carry. Toting a weapon will diminish that ingénue thing you got going on and inspire a little more cooperation from your villains when you ask them questions about clocks and wardrobes and suspicious shadowy men driving powerboats, etc. And face it, George (am I remembering that correctly? really?) has a crush on you. So you need to either open your mind and explore that situation or let that bird fly free. It’s only fair. Move to your own house too and start charging for the cases you take on. You’re mooching so hard off your dad, Carson Drew, respected River Heights attorney, forcing him and his ladylove housekeeper Hannah Gruen to keep up their silly charade. That guy in Moby Dick: Maybe just, I don’t know, don’t get on the boat at all? If memory serves, it’s not going to be as fun as you expect. The Count in The Count of Monte Cristo: Let go and let God. Breathe. Practice self care. Count to ten. Simplify. Walk away. They have great TEDTalks for this kind of thing. Old Man in The Old Man in the Sea: Same as above, except, in your case, like, literally LET. GO. That fish is not your daddy. He cannot affirm your worth or tell you he loves you. Besides, they have Filet O’Fish sandwiches at Mickey D’s, dude. With tartar sauce. Very satisfying. Bert and Nan in All the Bobbsey Twins books: Insist your parents get a babysitter for Flossie and Freddie. They are six, do you even realize that? Six. And you guys are twelve. They can’t spell words or do their times tables or properly wipe their bums. Meanwhile, you are full-on into hardcore puberty. It’s just not a good match, guys. Trust me when I say this. They are holding you back from the really juicy, young-adult crime solving you could be doing. Anne in Anne of Green Gables Quit acting so arrogant and obnoxious and dramatic. Avail yourself of every opportunity to make out with Gilbert Blythe. In fact, just make out with him the very first time y’all meet. Don’t make speeches. Don’t recite poetry or pretend you are drowning. Just 100%, all the time, constantly make out with Gilbert Blythe. Jane of Jane Eyre: You’re the best ever. Don’t become a governess on the moors, which is boring, thankless, and causes depression. Believe me, it’s not a good job. Not only are you poor and plain and cold all the time, you ALSO have to sit in a shadowy corner and watch your more attractive employers frolic and carouse and make merry and either ignore or insult you slyly. Here’s an idea. Become a private detective instead. You would be great at that. You found a woman who’d been hidden in an attic for years, for pete’s sake. And helped put out a castle fire. Listen, you’re a rock star. Everywhere you go people fall in love with your stellar soul. It’s hard, okay, we get it, because your extremely plain, stoic poker face hides your deep and sensitive feelings, so no one knows how much you’re suffering. But in the end you always talk yourself out of settling for less and you power through the loneliness and soldier on LIKE A BOSS, which is so ultimately badass of you. You literally have more self-esteem in your pinky finger than anyone, ever on the planet. Maybe after being a private detective you can write a fabulous, NYT bestselling book or do a series of TEDTalks that will not just benefit one little girl but millions of teenage girls everywhere (not to mention a certain count). Also. Please never go sledding.

2 thoughts on “Unsolicited Advice for Literary Characters”

  1. Anne DrakeAnne Drake

    “Ethan Frome” was the 1st bk. I had to read at ASC, & it’s NEVER left me. What a horrible thing to do to freshman!! I agree w/ advice to Hester, Nancy, Nan & Burt, & the rest except for Anne & Jane. Where has your sense of drama gone?? I can see Anne now, floating down the stream reciting that wonderful poem…such great effect! And Jane, winning Mr. Rochester w/her winsomeness. I love the drama a woman can produce in female subtlety. A wonderful theme & very well-written!!! I lol when you told ET “just don’t do it!”

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