Friday, March 13, 2009

Mean Girls

When I read fiction I want to encounter characters. Of course every fiction novel has characters in it, but what I’m looking for are characters who are characters. I don’t know what this says about my own character, but my favorite books of all time have one thing in common—mean girls.

When I took a 19th century literature class in college my favorite book was “Wuthering Heights,” by Emily Bronte. My friend who took the class with me thought I was crazy...she swooned over Jane Austen and couldn’t understand how I could like a book with such mean characters in it, and I realized that was exactly why I liked it. Catherine was mean; she was real; she was torn, and multi-dimensional (Heathcliff was no walk in the park either).

In that same class we read Dickens’s “David Copperfield.” My friend loved this one, so you can probably guess where I stood on bored me to tears. I almost swore off Dickens’s entirely...until I met Miss Havisham and Estella in “Great Expectations.” A crazy old woman dressed in her tattered wedding gown living in a rundown mansion training her young daughter to become a that's a character. If you ask me, Pip, (the main character) had everything little David Copperfield did not...he had mean girls in his life. They asked Pip to come visit and ordered him to dance around a rotting wedding cake; pretty young Estella kissed him then made him cry within the same breath...(I know what you’re thinking...and I have never made someone dance around a rotting wedding cake.)

I know this will come as a shock, but girls can be caddy; I have always respected girls who were just outright mean because then, at least, everyone was being honest. The truth is, I grew up with friends full of wit and sassiness who I think these novel characters could have been based on (indeed, at times, I've thought they could be based on me). These girls were smart, sarcastic, funny and, yes, slightly sinister.
I can’t help emitting a little smirk while I’m reading these books and thinking of the characters who entered my own life. Call me crazy, but I miss these mean girls.

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