Ok, so the term “literary” is used very loosely here. I’m well aware of the cannon issues.
1. Mary Bennet, Pride and Prejudice
When Mr. Collins comes to marry one of Mr. Bennet’s five daughters, he meets resistance from all but one. The only daughter who finds any good in him at all is Middle-Child Mary. But does HE notice Mary? Oh no. Poor, demure Mary does precisely what she is supposed to do–she showcases her lady-like talents, reads great religious books, and points out the follies of other women–yet Collins runs off and marries the neighbor.
What we can learn here: Don’t be so damned perfect. And, you know, maybe just come out and say what you are feeling. Ya?
2. Helen of Troy, Dr. Faustus
This one’s actually a bit of a crossover as Helen is a feature in other texts. In Dr. Faustus, the titular doctor sells his soul and uses all the power of hell and the devil to sleep with Helen of Troy. That’s right. Endless power and he resorts to necrophilia. The person we don’t really think about much here is Helen. Imagine the scene. Here’s a short history of Helen’s life up to this point in the story: she was married off to someone she didn’t love, fell in love, was blamed for a disastrous war, raped, taken back to Sparta in shame, and then probably left to wander until she died. So here she is sleeping peacefully when this horn dog alchemist (who, in all likelihood, has probably been tasting too much phosphorus if you know what I’m saying) wakes her up for a quickie.
What we can learn here: Let’s file this under never be too appreciated. If you are so beautiful and, according to that ad I saw in a Cosmo, so fresh that men want to sleep with your corpse, you maybe went too far. Same goes for other things. If nothing gets done in the office unless you do it, you are too good at your specific job and you are never going to advance. The end. A little bit of imperfection goes a long way, but we should use it.
3. Dog, Good Omens
If you’ve seen The Omen, then you know how this should have gone. The Antichrist is being raised by an unsuspecting couple. As the child grows, the Devil, his father, sends him a hell-hound to be his companion. But in Good Omens, the misplaced Antichrist doesn’t want a hell-hound; he wants a dog with a wonky ear and a happy disposition. Thus, Dog, formerly an unnamed monster of hell, becomes kid’s best friend. Imagine the identity crisis!
What we can learn here: Love changes everyone. It’s a fact of life. Have you ever noticed that pets and owners start to act alike? How about how similar long-married couples start to look? We shouldn’t allow someone to rid us of our very nature (Dog’s nature was to serve his master.), but we shouldn’t fight the influences our loved ones have on us.
4. The Madwoman in the Attic, Jane Eyre
This one might be obvious for anyone who isn’t a hyper-romantic person. I know people who fantasize about Mr. Rochester, but I’m certainly not one of them. What a jerk. And while I’m sorry for poor Jane who fell for his charms, I’m more sorry for the other woman. The Madwoman was Mr. Rochester’s first wife. When she went a little crazy, he locked her in the attic and then proceeded to flirt with the governess. The fact that he has a need for a governess is evidence of his infidelity to old crazy head in the attic. I have to wonder if she went crazy because of him in the first place. The reason she makes this list is because people hate her for blinding her old man, burning down his house, and killing herself. But really, who can blame her? She’s the literary Lorena Bobbitt. She had a lousy husband and did what she could to get away from him.
What we can learn here: First off, if you find yourself in a Victorian novel and you are even remotely foreign, give it up already. You’re going to die. Sorry. Secondly, Don’t date Mr. Rochester. He’s going to tell you that his girlfriend, wife, or “baby momma” is crazy or doesn’t understand him or doesn’t love him, but he probably told her the same thing. Don’t be Jane. This isn’t a Victorian novel. And thank goodness for that, by the way, because I’d be sent to India or die of consumption.
5. Neville Longbottom
This one might not seem like it belongs, but hear me out. J.K. Rowling is really good at allowing the underdogs vindication, but even after he helped defeat the dark lord, Neville got the shaft. This is why: All of that work and Neville still winds up a teacher. Yeah, teaching isn’t a bad career, but still. This is why Neville gets the short end: he started out the series a pudgy, inept boy, and finishes his seventh year at Hogwarts brave and a powerful leader. So why is that a bad thing? Neville killed a giant snake, withstood torture, and lead a revolt in order to learn classroom management skills. If we rewrite the books from his perspective, then we have a perfect novel about becoming a teacher and devoting one’s life to the craft. Of course, we are going to have to consider He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named as a metaphor for poverty, Nagini a symbol for gangs, and the sword as a symbol for the mightier pen. In the end, Neville is like the Mr. Rogers of the magical world.
What we can learn here: Your teachers might secretly be bad asses. Treat them appropriately. Also, if we truly want to prepare teachers, we should make them lead a revolution against an evil entity. Finally, don’t pick on the pudgy kid; he might grow up to be this guy.