*Warning* This post is a long one.
5 of your favorite classics will not make it out alive.
I love reading. And I love the classics. But when you’re an English Literature student, sometimes you read the same books more than once. And sometimes you can feel parts of your soul slowly dying with every turn of the page.
Although there are many books that I have read and absolutely hated, e.g. O Pioneers! by Willa Cather and Lauren Weisberger’s The Devil Wears Prada — I have never read a book where literally NOTHING happens. I can sum it up for you easily: “My name is Andy and I am too smart for this fashion job, but there’s nothing out there. Whine, whine, whine, my boss is mean. I’m going to quit because I can’t suck it up. Cry, cry, cry now I’m back where I started. Oh, and my boyfriend dumped me.” I even bought the sequel, Revenge Wears Prada, for only 20 pence — because I’m an idiot and didn’t learn my lesson — and it is worse than the first one and still sitting on my night table being awful. I want my 20p back.
And there are others that I just can’t finish. They are the novels that will always have a bookmark in it, but it never seems to move. I have been trying to read The Hobbit for the past year and a half but it’s just. So. Boring. How they are making a three-part movie on this boring as crap book, I have no idea. I’ve started and stopped Slaughterhouse-Five four times and if I have to try again, I might just start killing people. And I’ve read up to chapter 4 in Gone with the Wind before getting sick of the Scarlett O’Hara bitch-fest and skipped straight to the movie — which is another 4 hours I will never get back again. Frankly my dear Margaret Mitchell, I don’t give a damn either.
But there is just something about these classics that just… kill me. I’ve read them all in their entirety, analyzed them, written essays about them, and wanted to hop in Doc Brown’s DeLorian just so I can punch the authors in the face for creating them. I’m not hating on the authors. They’re all very talented who did some amazing writing. But it’s just these particular works that make me want to strangle anyone I see reading them because I firmly believe that death is a much fairer fate than reading these texts.
So let’s get started! I’m going to go in order of when they were written. Because ranking them is just too difficult a task. And I’ll try not to throw my computer against the wall in frustration.
Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare (1597) — or That Escalated Quickly
I actually really like William Shakespeare. Some of his plays are super badass. Titus Andronicus anyone? Apparently, revenge is best served steaming hot, and with your enemy’s children baked inside it for that extra flavor. Come on! That’s a play!
And dear god, please don’t start going gaga over that Leonardo DiCaprio/Claire Danes Romeo + Juliet movie. It’s crap. Everything about it was crap. It just further emphasized how much this play is the worst. That version should just be called Watch Baby Leo Cry because that is pretty much all you get. And water. That pool he and Claire Danes swim in is actually filled with every tear Leo cried within the filming of that movie. Check IMDB. I don’t think when Shakespeare wrote this play he was like, “And right here, we should have a scene all in water! It will be romantic!”
And god, the fashion. I did not know that the Montague and Capulet feud began over who wore it worst. Maybe that would have made the whole film that much more interesting if in the middle of it, Tim Gunn came out and was like, “Make it work!” The only thing that made Romeo PLUS Juliet remotely salvageable was Paul Rudd as Paris. And the fact that his character was a complete dope who knew nothing about anything.
But Romeo and Juliet is basically about a flighty teenage boy who wants to bang everything that moves. There is a reason that guys who hop from one girl to the next are called a romeo. He spends the beginning of the play moping about how the love of his life, Rosaline, rejected his love to stay celibate. Real dialogue:
BENVOLIO: Then she hath sworn that she will still live chaste?
ROMEO: She hath, and in that sparing makes huge waste.
Yep, Romeo’s sad because she won’t let him bang her. God forbid a chick has morals. So when he meets Juliet, who is thirteen let’s not forget, he ditches Sister Christian and sets his mojo radar elsewhere. And I guess what really bothers me is that he and Juliet know each other for like, three days. Three days! I’ve had longer relationships with those goldfish you win at fairs by throwing a ping-pong ball into a fishbowl. And everything would have been settled a lot easier if everyone just talked it out. Why not tell your parents that you’re already married so you can’t marry Paul Rudd? But really, how can you say no to that face? Or maybe send more than one messenger out to tell Romeo that his wife is going to pretend-die? Or go to the friar and be all, “Hey dude, what’s up with Juliet? She isn’t answering any of my texts,” instead of going THIS LOOKS LIKE A JOB FOR POISON! Come on, guys. It’s just further proving that teenagers are terrible and cannot handle the concept of love until they are at least college graduates.
And why did Paris actually have to die? Everyone else, sure, we can make an argument for them. They egged Romeo on, they killed Romeo’s friends, they just sucked as characters. But what about Paris? He was just mourning the loss of his would-be-but-really-couldn’t-ever-be wife and Romeo comes in all, I’M JUMPING TO CONCLUSIONS AGAIN, and kills him. Poor Paris. That’s not hot, Shakespeare.
I can summarize it all in my own adaptation of the wise and insightful words of Carly Rae Jepsen: “Hey I just met you, and this is crazy. But here’s a dagger, so kill yourself maybe?” Or maybe if Juliet had one of these, this whole thing could have been avoided:
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (1813) — or She Ain’t Nothing But a Gold Digger
Every girl loves Pride and Prejudice. It’s practically written in our genetic code to like it. But I really just don’t like it. Sure, the whole message is supposed to be, “You gotta get to know someone before you can hate them,” but really, the message sounds like, “If you have 5 daughters, just pimp them out to the richest guys in town, it’s bound to work eventually.” Mrs. Bennet is probably the worst character in literary history. She sucks so much that even Mr. Bennet is like, “What the hell was I thinking?” That’s why he is always in that study; to get away from Mrs. Bennet and her “poor nerves.” I feel your pain, bro.
Lydia is the annoying 15-year-old who is boy-crazy and will do just about anything to get a man — including run away with *gasp* Mr. Wickham! Kitty is a droid who does everything Lydia does, and the idea of having an original thought is too much for her to handle. Mary is a social reject who can’t play the piano-forte to save her life, and might be the most awkward person to ever live. I’ve already explained my hatred for Mrs. Bennet, and Mr. Bennet just sits and pouts about how he chose a bad wife, causing his kids to run around like little demon spawn. They all suck. Except for Elizabeth and Jane. So great, I now hate an entire family except the boring, pretty girl and daddy’s favorite daughter.
And let’s talk about Mr. Darcy. He’s a total asshole. But girls build him up in their heads as their perfect fantasy man. Girls have bags and tee shirts and sweaters that say things like, “I ❤ Darcy” and all that crap. Really? Darcy’s a cold jackass who belittles everyone. Elizabeth overhears him dissing her, calling her, “not handsome enough” to tempt him. I’m sorry, but I wouldn’t like someone either if I heard him say that about me. And does everyone forget how he first proposes to Elizabeth? He tells her:
In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.
He is all, “I don’t want to love you because you’re actually REALLY beneath me, my aunt wants me to marry her daughter — incest is wincest! — and your mother is annoying as hell, but I guess I’ll love you. Whaddaya say? Marry me!” Oh, swoon! How can I say no? Oh, that’s right, you broke up my boring, pretty sister and your hunky, rich friend because she’s too shy, liked me against your better judgement, called me uggo the first time you met me, and told me that my family is trash. That’s how I can say no.
But then what happens?
She checks out his crib. Which is, uhh, how can I put this? He has art exhibits in his home. His rooms are gold-trimmed. He has his own private lake where he takes people fishing. Yeah, he’s hella rich. Sure, I can like a person like Darcy if this is part of the deal. And apparently, so can Elizabeth Bennet. When Jane asks her when she fell in love with Darcy, Elizabeth says:
It has been coming on so gradually, that I hardly know when it began. But I believe I must date it from my first seeing his beautiful grounds at Pemberley.
Translation: Little Miss Bookworm likes herself a man with deep pockets. And now cue all the fans of Pride and Prejudice reminding me how Mr. Darcy also got Jane and whats-his-face together and found Lydia and married her off to *gasp* Mr. Wickham. Sure, but I really believe in too little, too late and that he only did it to get into Lizzy’s pantaloons (did girls even wear pantaloons during Austen times?).
Either way, I don’t care. He isn’t that great. Also, Lady Catherine sounds like a complete nightmare and if Darcy didn’t want to marry Lizzy for her mom, I wouldn’t marry him for his aunt.
Odd point here, I hate reading this novel. Elizabeth is flimsy and Mr. Darcy is a dick. But I actually do like the movie version with Keira Knightly and Matthew Macfadyen. It’s just visually stunning, with an amazing soundtrack, and because they don’t dig too deeply into the characters, the gold digging doesn’t come on as strong. Plus, it further proves my reasoning for loving one character: Mr. Collins.
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (1818) — or What to Expect When You’re Expecting: Monster Edition
My main problem with Frankenstein is that I had to read it FOUR TIMES for uni. Four times I saw it on a syllabus, and three of those four times I wanted to take my pen and shove it into my temple. Although Mary was kind of a badass, she got together with Percy Bysshe Shelley while he was still married, and it wasn’t until Percy’s wife killed herself two years later that Mary and Percy could actually get married.
And while visiting their good friend, and world-renown heart-breaker, Lord Byron — seriously, girls killed themselves like the nanny from The Omen did to get a bit of Byron Junior — Shelley got the idea for Frankenstein. Lord Byron thought it would be good fun to have a writing contest of who could make up the scariest story; Mary dreamed of a scientist who brought the dead back to life, causing her to create the tale. Her life after all that though, is actually really depressing. Percy dies, all of their kids except one die, and she keeps bits of her husband’s heart in her writing desk.
Mary Shelley is the mother of science fiction. If it wasn’t for her, we wouldn’t have books like Jurassic Park, 1984, Fahrenheit 451, or The Giver. And even when I was eleven, I was psyched about the idea of a woman creating the story of a mad scientist bringing dead people back to life. But Frankenstein to me, was like every M. Night Shyamalan movie after Signs. It was the biggest let-down in the entirety of any book ever.
This book is basically about the world’s worst father. Victor Frankenstein spends half the book trying to create life, and when he finally does, he immediately rejects it. His rejection of the monster then causes it to go berserk and kill everyone Victor ever loved.
And Mary Shelley goes heavy on the science in Frankenstein. She talks about electricity, anatomy, and a stupid tree getting struck by lightning for like, ever. I get it, it’s a metaphor! It’s foreshadowing! It’s boring. This is fun and all, but I read this for a monster. And right when you are getting really pissed about the entire thing, the creature just appears.
There is no buildup. Shelley can talk about a tree for goddamn ever, but as soon as she has to describe how exactly Frankenstein created the monster, she leaves you hanging. There is no whirling tubes, no Igor flipping switches, no big storm. Just Victor talking about god-knows-what and then BOOM! The monster is alive.
And he hates it. Frankenstein describes the creature saying:
His limbs were in proportion, and I had selected his features as beautiful. Beautiful! Great God! His yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath; his hair was of a lustrous black, and flowing… but these luxuriances only formed a more horrid contrast with his watery eyes, that seemed almost of the same colour as the dun-white sockets in which they were set, his shrivelled complexion and straight black lips.
What does that actually look like? It looks like this:
And then, the monster just runs away for half the book, Frankenstein becomes sick, has a bit of a homoerotic moment with a childhood friend who nurses him back to health for four months, and goes home after finding out his brother is killed. When the monster returns it is magically intelligent and self-aware after hiding in the woods in a barn next to a family. He listens to this family speak, finds Paradise Lost, teaches himself to read it, and acknowledges how ugly he is after seeing himself in a pool of water.
So what next? Ask Dad to make you a monster bride! And when Daddy Dearest destroys your bride after thinking about the ugly children you might create, what else can you do? Oh yeah, KILL EVERYONE. The monster just follows Frankenstein around and fucks with him. He causes Frankenstein to have two mental breakdowns, kills his friend and almost frames him for it, AND kills Victor’s bride the night of their wedding.
Steve Buscemi does not like being promised a wifey and then having it taken away. This monster is so pissed that it just lurks in the shadows the rest of the book taunting Victor into insanity. And then when — SPOILER ALERT — Victor finally does die, the monster feels so bad about what it caused him that it KILLS ITSELF. What. A. Waste. All of that and that’s how it ends? It chooses to die?!
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte (1847) — or Everyone’s an Asshole
We are actually moving further into the great pits of hell the further along this list we go. I hate this book. This, like Pride and Prejudice, is a book that almost every girl loves, but glossed over me. First off, we should thank Emily Bronte for being partially responsible for Twilight. When reading this in college, a girl in my class said that Stephenie Meyer came to her high school when Twilight was not very big and explained how she based it off Wuthering Heights and how she would have liked it to go if Edgar and Catherine happily got together.
Strike one for Wuthering Heights.
Just this past weekend, a friend of mine mentioned how she was reading this book for the first time. I shivered, it angered me so much. When she asked me what I hated so much about it, I just said: “Wuthering Heights is not a love story. Do not ever think that it is a love story.” Wuthering Heights is a Becoming an Asshole for Dummies book. And Heathcliff is the CEO of Asshole Corporation. While reading this, I would just hold the book away from me and be like, “Why do girls like this guy?”
If something doesn’t go Heathcliff’s way — which is pretty much all the time. But let’s be honest, he had things pretty good for a while. He was adopted by a rich family and instantly became the favorite — he swears revenge and plots to ruin the wrong-doer’s life. And he ruins it basically by taking everything that should belong to his wrong-doer’s heir and keeping it all to himself. On Heathcliff’s kindergarten report card it would say, “Heathcliff does not play well with others.” If someone just gave him a journal to write his angsty thoughts in, I think everyone would have been better off — including myself. And Heathcliff’s Burn Book would probably be a much better read than Bronte’s. He vows to seek revenge on practically everyone he ever encounters including: Hindley, Edgar, Isabella, sometimes Catherine, little Cathy, and Hareton.
Seriously, Heathcliff. You need a psychiatrist. ASAP.
Wait, Heathcliff isn’t the only dick here. EVERYONE in the vicinity of Wuthering Heights sucks. Hindley is mad because his dad loves Heathcliff more than him, so he makes sure to ruin Heathcliff’s life by allowing him to stay at Wuthering Heights, but must be a dirty, uneducated servant. He also becomes a total drunk after his boring wife dies and drops his baby son from a landing. And for some reason, Heathcliff is walking by and boop, he catches the baby. What?
And Catherine is probably second in line for most annoying character in literary history after Mrs. Bennet. She pretty much spends the entire book throwing temper tantrums when she wants something. And Edgar… well. Edgar is just a giant boob. He watches Catherine attack her maid, Nelly and is all like, “Ooh, Catherine, I love you dearly. I like watching you maul your maid.” And then she punches him in the ear and he’s like, “Yes, done. Marry me.” Actually, let’s talk more about Catherine. She says those famous lines:
Nelly, 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.
I guess I can understand how she believes that they are in fact the same person. They are both terribly awful human beings. Yes, Catherine and Heathcliff are so in love that she marries someone else. And when he swears more revenge on the Lintons, he runs away, becomes a millionaire, and then returns to marry Edgar’s sister Isabella. And when Catherine finds out about this, she locks herself in a room and forces herself to become ill. Because Heathcliff is marrying Isabella. She is jealous of Isabella being with Heathcliff. She is the most self-centered spoiled little brat of a character.
Oh, and Heathcliff is such a good husband that he 1) strangles Isabella’s favorite dog and 2) beats her all the time so that she has no choice but to 3) GTFO and later die. Girl, I do not blame you. Well, maybe a little bit because you thought Heathcliff was a romantic. Yes, he treated you like shit because that’s how he shows you that he cares. Every smack was a declaration of his love!
Speaking of Heathcliff’s “romantic” side, his idea of romance and my idea of romance are a bit off base. His idea of romance is when you die, to take your locket that has your husband’s hair in it and replace it with his own. His idea of romance is when your husband then dies, to pay the ditch digger to dig your grave up and move your coffin away from your husband’s and break a side of it so you and your husband will not be next to each other in eternal rest. But instead, because of his idea of romance, when he dies the side of your coffin that is next to his will be loosened and so will his side next to you so you both can technically be buried together in one MEGA COFFIN. He will also force your daughter to marry his son by locking your daughter into a room for a Romeo and Juliet timeline — see what it did there? I meant to say 3 days! Pretty sneaky, sis. — so he can inherit everything that your brother’s son actually should have inherited. Because, remember, he still hates your brother. And your husband.
What. The. Fuck.
Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray (1847) or — A Novel Without A Point
Okay, this actually worked out perfectly. Because Vanity Fair is by far the absolute worst, most annoyingly ridiculous, waste of fiction. I would rather read Twilight: New Moon than ever have to read this crap again. I cannot even put into words how much this book crushes my entire will to live. Good ol’ Willy T (even his name is long-winded and annoying, so I will be calling him either Willy T, or Thackers from now on) decided to write Vanity Fair as a satire against society.
And he did this by even giving Vanity Fair the subtitle “A Novel without a Hero,” being all, “Oh yes, see? I am making a statement on how everyone has flaws and when one puts their social image before everything else, everyone loses.” Go home, Willy T. You’re a terrible writer. Because dear god, the narrator. Problem numero uno is the narrator, who opens up with the metaphor that London society is like a huge production and the characters within Vanity Fair are nothing more than puppets, and the narrator the puppeteer. How does this behemoth of a novel start? I’m glad you asked. It starts like this:
There is a great quantity of eating and drinking, making love and jilting, laughing and the contrary, smoking, cheating, fighting, dancing and fiddling; there are bullies pushing about, bucks ogling the women, knaves picking pockets, policemen on the look-out, quacks (OTHER quacks, plague take them!) bawling in front of their booths, and yokels looking up at the tinselled dancers and poor old rouged tumblers, while the light-fingered folk are operating upon their pockets behind. Yes, this is VANITY FAIR; not a moral place certainly; nor a merry one, though very noisy.
Way to go, Thackers, you could have just said, “The world is full of assholes.” (I am on quite the rant about people being assholes for this post. I apologize.) The narrator enjoys making long-winded statements. I understand that this is supposed to be a satire. I do not miss the irony of half of the things the narrator is saying. But I also can feel my brain cells dying from reading about Becky Sharp, Amelia Sedley, William Dobbin, Rawdon Crawley, and George Osbourne.
Thackers’ intentions may have been to say something about society, but he really just created the world’s biggest doorjamb. Seriously. That beast right there is over 900 pages of nothing. I could fill my room with monkeys and typewriters and let them have at it for a day and a half and what they come up with will be a far more enjoyable read than Vanity Fair.
I really can’t even give a good summary. Becky Sharp is a girl who is cunning and strong-willed. She has nothing but wants everything. So she begins playing everyone in London society by becoming friends with Amelia Sedley, a pretty but boring and stupid girl, and just ruins everyone’s lives. Becky Sharp is the personification of the plague. Why do we need 900 pages to say that Becky marries Rawdon Crawley, but his family hates her because she is poor, and takes away all of his inheritance while Amelia is crushing on George Osbourne, a selfish dickface, who marries her, gets bored with her after literally a week, and dies in battle leaving her pregnant and poor, even though awkward and useless Dobbin has been jonesing for Amelia since the first time he met her? Look at that! That was maybe 50 words, and a terrible run-on sentence, but much better than anything the narrator in Vanity Fair said.
Even Reese Witherspoon couldn’t make Vanity Fair interesting. Instead, I kept thinking, “Jesus, she just looks really pregnant. Eh, still better than the novel.” I understand what Willy T was trying to do with this book, showing how everyone is flawed, and that nobody is perfect. But what he really did was create a ton of characters that I do not like, and therefore, do not care about. Why would I want to read about Becky Sharp and how she bankrupts two innocent people for her own gain, cheats anyone who accepts credit, and pretty much whores herself out to London society while her husband is like, “Eh?”
And Amelia. This girl’s main accomplishment within Vanity Fair is turning oxygen to carbon dioxide. Her obsession over George Osbourne is ridiculous. The night before he fights in the battle that kills him, he gives Becky a note asking if she wants to run away with him. And Amelia has no idea, and cherishes his memory for, like, ever. While poor Dobbin is all, “Amelia, I would do anything to make you happy.” And she is like, “Cork it, Dobbin. I can’t honor my husband’s memory with your blubbering.”
The thing about Dobbin was that he knew about how Osbourne really was and never said anything to Amelia about it. He wanted to win her on merit, not by default. Which is admiral, but seriously. The smartest thing Dobbin ever did was tell Amelia off. Which finally happens in the last chapter. You finally get all, “Yes! Thackers, my boy, you are finally doing something right here!” But then Becky shows Amelia the note Osbourne wrote her — because, let’s be honest, we all keep incriminating letters from our friends’ husbands for years. Admit it! — and she goes, “Oh, shit!” and tries to get with Dobbin.
I have never been so infuriated with a book being 1) so long and dense and yet 2) still have nothing happen within it causing me to 3) want to pull a Guy Montag and light that bitch up like a Christmas tree. Or even just:
So yes, congratulations! You have now finished my rant against the classic novels I just hate. I wish I could say that you get something for finishing the post, but you don’t. I can mail you a hug or something, if you really want something.
What classic books do you wish you can Doc Brown out of existing? Or use the comment section to tell me how wrong I am. I can handle it.