Filed under: News, Reviews, Contests | Tags: being single, coffee, Flaubert, girlfriend, Helen of Troy, Jenn Edgar, Jennifer Edgar, marriage, Tolstoy, wife
The camp counselors here at Camp Some New Trend have been psyched all week. We haven’t even touched our cornbread in the Mess Hall or participated in daily potato sack relays just waiting in anticipation.
Jenn Edgar is a local hottie and adventurous reader. She agreed to come up with this week’s list, and we’re in love with the theme she chose (no pun intended). Being single seems more dignified when you recognize its place within classic literature. Maybe this list will help us avoid some of the same mistakes. Thanks, Jenn!
How Not to Be a Wife (or Girlfriend)
I don’t have any idea how to be a wife, but literature is chock-full of women who set superb examples of how not to go about being one. Here’s some of the wisdom I’ve gleaned from them—not too sure where that leaves me:
Isabel Archer, The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James: Money can pretty much buy everything, including your imprisonment in an abusive marriage. So, even if you think you’re especially clever to be using your huge inheritance so wisely, don’t turn down too many proposals, because you’re likely to find you’ve passed up the best ones.
Edna Pontellier, The Awakening by Kate Chopin: I think maybe it’s a good idea not to have kids until you’re sure you’re ready—that is, until you’ve gotten to know yourself a bit. Maybe you’ll find you’re less of a mother type and more of an unending-inner-turmoil type.
Helen of Troy: Try not to start a war. This is especially good advice to remember if your dad is somehow important. And, for gods’ sake, don’t be too beautiful.
Lady Constance Chatterley, Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D. H. Lawrence: Lady Chatterley learned a bit too late that a woman, even an aristocratic one, requires both intellect and sexuality in a relationship for it to thrive. The reader does learn by positive (and extremely sensual) example from her, in a way, although it is in her adulterous relationship that she finds the balance between mind and sex. What advice do we take from her marriage, then? I guess just to brace yourself for a rough life if your husband is rendered impotent.
Anna Karenina, Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy: It’s difficult to know where to begin taking advice from Anna. A few jewels are these: don’t abandon your husband and your kid, don’t believe that the passion of your affair won’t eventually die out, and stay away from the train station.
Florence Dowell and Leonora Ashburnham, The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford: There are (at least) two wives to learn from in this one. One fakes illness in order to maintain an affair (for nine years!); the other tries to control all aspects of her marriage. It doesn’t work out for either of them, so I’m going to go as far as to say that lying and controlling are both bad for marriage.
Emma Bovary, Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert: Don’t be infinitely selfish and hypocritical. Don’t read novels.
My friend Meaghan and I sat around thinking of the lives of all these conflicted women. We thought of plenty others, so if you want to find more advice about how not to behave, just read about Lily Bart, Catherine Earnshaw, Daisy Miller, or Daisy Buchannan.
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