One of my coworkers mentioned today that when she took 19th century lit in college, her professor assigned every member of the class a fictional spouse from that era. She couldn’t remember who she was given but she wanted Pierre from War and Peace. I thought Levin from Anna Karenina would be a good pick, if you don’t mind Russians, and she countered with Pip, at which I could only scoff, “You can’t pick anyone from Dickens. He had no sense of the romantic at all. Did anyone get Darcy?”
“Funny enough, no,” she said. “Maybe he thought it might cause too much jealousy.”
Another coworker came into the room and I asked him who he would choose. “Aw,” he said, in the voice of Eeyore. “It doesn’t matter. I’d probably end up with Emma Bovary.”
I tried to buck him up, offering him clever heroines and feisty social climbers and crazy pyromaniacs locked up in attics, but he would have none of it. “I really didn’t do too much reading, actually,” he said. “All those girl books.”
We expanded the category to include all literature, at which point he perked up. “Oh, Harriet the Spy’s mom. Or Harriet — when she’s grown up. Is that okay?” We conferred and decided to allow it, because it was okay for Lewis Carroll, and anyway, who are we to judge?
Maybe a more interesting question is the age-old one: Fuck one, marry one, throw one off a cliff: Any three characters in 19th century literature. For me, that’d be: 1) Huck Finn; 2) Nikolai Levin; 3) Raskolnikov. Unless I could have Darcy, of course. If Darcy’s in the picture, all bets are off.
“I like the hot woman in Brothers Karamazov,” contributes Mr. Ben. “The town harlot. … Are you writing that down? Dammit!”