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Author Topic: Strange literary request  (Read 152 times)

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Offline AndyZTopic starter

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Strange literary request
« on: July 05, 2021, 08:55:37 pm »
So, this one is rather odd, rather specific, and doesn't have anything to do with E except in the sense that it involves literary characters, though it doesn't involve anyone else on E.

What I'm looking for is a classic example of a famous female character who is pathetically written, not for her physical description, but for ridiculous emotional instability.  Preferably before the 1800s, though if a character from the 1980s or before really fits this as a classic example that everyone knows, and even if it's not literary, I can use it.

A completely made up example would be if a man dropped a porcelain cup, it shattered on the floor, and his wife was reduced to tears, or flew into a rage of berating him.  The presumed reason wouldn't be that the cup was expensive, or that the couple was poor, but just that she was so poorly written because people of any sex or gender don't just flip out like that (barring emotional instability, but without the character having anything to hint at that.)

I am absolutely NOT looking for examples where the physical descriptions are ridiculous to the point of comedy, though I know plenty of those exist.  Nor am I looking for one where things like PMS are being played up for attempted comedy. nor where it's a crass attempt at manipulation.  Ideally, it's a famous story where a writer honestly thought than the woman would have an extreme hysterical reaction where people who study literature point this out as an example of what NOT to do with characters.

Miss Havisham of Great Expectations comes close to this, where she gets jilted at the alter and spends her whole life mourning and teaches that girl (forget her name) to be wary, but I'm hoping there's a better example with a more commonly known character.

Offline Oniya

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Re: Strange literary request
« Reply #1 on: July 05, 2021, 10:49:46 pm »
Catherine from Wuthering Heights?

Offline AndyZTopic starter

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Re: Strange literary request
« Reply #2 on: July 05, 2021, 11:26:41 pm »
Never read it, and a casual Wikipedia skimming doesn’t come up with anything unless I’m missing context.  I saw a bit about her falling ill and flipping out, but apparently she was actually pregnant, and it’s not like mood swings are uncommon during pregnancy.

I vaguely remember a movie with I think Dick Van Dyke as the lead where his mom tried to stick her head in an oven just because he was moving out as a grown adult, but it was an electric oven, and I remember my teacher saying at the time that it was him being “tied to his mother’s apron strings,” so that probably doesn’t have the right context and it was probably just her being manipulative rather than outright suicidal because he’s grown into a man.  I don’t even think I saw that full movie.

Offline Vandren

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Re: Strange literary request
« Reply #3 on: July 06, 2021, 06:34:49 am »
Take a look at Jane Austen's corpus. She has a number of female characters who have exaggerated, attention seeking, psych things, particularly hypochondria (but, she was writing them that way on purpose).

I suppose a question to narrow things down is: Are you looking for characters written as stereotype (or written that way due to poor writing) or ones that were written that way as parody/satire or both?

The 19th c. isn't my area, but I can ask around among my old grad school friends (Literature PhD). I can't really think of any medieval, maybe one or two early modern (Renaissance; my expertise eras), but those are fairly obscure.

(Arguably, Juliet, of Romeo and . . ., afterall, she kills herself because a guy she met three days earlier committed suicide. But, she's also 13-ish, so that may be a mitigating circumstance in terms of emotional maturity--Rosalind, Romeo's "love" at the beginning of the play & an older woman, certainly would not have killed herself.)
« Last Edit: July 06, 2021, 06:49:10 am by Vandren »

Offline AndyZTopic starter

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Re: Strange literary request
« Reply #4 on: July 06, 2021, 10:01:14 am »
As far as the question of whether I want genuine or satire, while genuine would be preferable, satire could work.

I admit, I thought this would be a lot easier than it appears to be.  And yeah, if Juliet was a grown woman, that’d make a fantastic example.

Being specifically from the 1800s isn’t as important either.  I just figured that’d make for a good starting period given the time.  Apparently not.

Offline Lilias

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Re: Strange literary request
« Reply #5 on: July 06, 2021, 11:24:15 am »
Pretty much any Gothic novel heroine is a highly-strung fainting violet. The early days of the novel were not particularly good for character building. Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey is a satire on those, and Catherine Morland is every bit as daft, but a lot better written than her ancestors.

Marie St. Clare, Eva's mother in Uncle Tom's Cabin, is only a cameo character, but a perfectly constructed hypochondriac nervous wreck.

If you want a story told from the POV of a woman who starts out pretty normal, considering, and ends an utter basket case, The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman is a novelette from 1892, and Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys is a slim novel from 1966 that functions as a prequel to Jane Eyre from the POV of the 'madwoman in the attic' (who - spoiler alert - was not always mad).

Offline Vandren

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Re: Strange literary request
« Reply #6 on: July 06, 2021, 11:37:55 am »
All the pre-19th c. examples I can think of off hand are justified. 

A classic would be Ophelia (Hamlet), of course, but her reaction is based on her father being murdered by her fiance who's been a complete dick toward her and isn't entirely there himself (for understandable reasons--uncle killing dad and marrying mom, who's cool with it).

Possibly Hero in Much Ado About Nothing. Kills herself after being accused of "cheating" (really fakes her own death to expose a plot).

There're a couple good ones by Shakespeare's contemporaries, but one had her kids killed by her brother (who also tried to kill her because he lusted after her) and the others had justification. All are fairly obscure, though.

The medieval Romances and Breton lais . . . all justified, usually attempts to secure inheritances for their children or being pawns of faeries. Myths and legends, usually reactions and "insanities" caused by the gods (ex. Maenads & Dionysus).

Medea might be possible. Jilted by her spouse for a younger, more politically connected, woman (after killing her own father and sisters to help said spouse), kills their kids and curses ex-husband (among other things).

Offline Oniya

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Re: Strange literary request
« Reply #7 on: July 06, 2021, 05:10:20 pm »
The reason that I mention Wuthering Heights is because Catherine a) falls for Heathcliff so profoundly that she declares that 'he's more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same, and Linton's is as different as a moonbeam from lightning, or frost from fire.'  and that 'I am Heathcliff — he's always, always in my mind — not as a pleasure, any more than I am always a pleasure to myself — but as my own being — so, don't talk of our separation again — it is impracticable.'

(Amusingly, I have learned that one of the Twilight novels references WH in conjunction with the Pants/Jacob/Edward triangle.)

b)  She marries Linton anyway, because marrying Heathcliff would be 'degrading'.  When he returns after an absence and marries someone else, and her husband forbids her to see him, she refuses to eat or leave her chamber.  (Dear god, I've met middle-schoolers more mature.)  When her husband walks in on her final meeting with Heathcliff, she faints and dies a few hours later.
« Last Edit: July 06, 2021, 05:38:42 pm by Oniya »

Offline AndyZTopic starter

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Re: Strange literary request
« Reply #8 on: July 06, 2021, 08:46:15 pm »
Thank you all kindly ^_^