Sunday, January 5, 2014

Three classic novels that pass the Bechdel Test

The Bechdel Test asks whether a work of fiction features at least two women who talk to each other about something other than a man. For The Barnes & Noble Book Blog, Amelia Schonbek came up with three classic novels that pass the Bechdel Test, including:
Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë

Jane Eyre is another book that is, on the surface, a love story—between Jane, a governess, and her employer, Mr. Rochester—but it gets much more interesting on a closer look. Jane is a gutsy and outspoken character from the beginning, and Brontë’s writing pays constant attention to how the balance of power swings back and forth between her and Rochester. Jane’s female friendships are another constant, from the moment she meets Helen Burns as a child. Later, when Jane runs away from Rochester and is homeless, she survives mainly because of her friendships with Diana and Mary Rivers. Diana and Mary nurse Jane back to health and lend her books, which the three spend long evenings discussing. Jane’s relationships with with Diana and Mary may be as important to her eventual happiness as her relationship with Rochester.

Charlotte wasn’t the only Brontë sister who wrote novels with interesting, unique female characters, by the way. Another good bet is Anne Brontë’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, in which the courageous main character, sick of mistreatment at the hands of her alcoholic husband, leaves him. It caused a scandal when it was published in 1848.
Read about the other books on the list.

Jane Eyre also made Molly Schoemann-McCann's list of five of the lamest boyfriends in fiction, Janice Clark's top seven list of timeless coming-of-age novels, Lauren Passell's list of 20 peanut butter & jelly reads, Rebecca Jane Stokes's list of the ten hottest men in required reading, Honeysuckle Weeks's six best books list, Kathryn Harrison's list of six favorite books with parentless protagonists, Megan Abbott's top ten list of novels of teenage friendship, a list of Bettany Hughes's six best books, the Guardian's top 10 lists of "outsider books" and "romantic fiction;" it appears on Lorraine Kelly's six best books list, Esther Freud's top ten list of love stories, and Jessica Duchen's top ten list of literary Gypsies, and on John Mullan's lists of ten of the best governesses in literature, ten of the best men dressed as women, ten of the best weddings in literature, ten of the best locked rooms in literature, ten of the best pianos in literature, ten of the best breakfasts in literature, ten of the best smokes in fiction, and ten of the best cases of blindness in literature. It is one of Kate Kellaway's ten best love stories in fiction.

The Page 99 Test: Jane Eyre.

--Marshal Zeringue