I just finished reading Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye, a clever novel built around the idea of it being inspired by classic Jane Eyre. Main character Jane Steele finds and reads the popular novel Jane Eyre. She finds it remarkably similar to her own life. Steele was an orphan, disliked by her family, sent to a cruel boarding school and found herself a governess at a strange manor, only instead of quietly bemoaning her fate and wondering what she must have done to deserve this, Jane Steele decides to murder everyone. That’s right, this is Jane Eyre as a serial killer. Really, the first time I read Jane Eyre, I wondered not if but when she would snap and kill everyone. I thought we were getting somewhere when she started hallucinating strange laughter echoing through the manor, but no. She goes through the whole thing without snapping and going on a vengeful murder spree. Jane Steele remedies that error, and it’s made me realize that a whole bunch of old classics could be improved by making one or more of the main characters go a bit murder-happy.
Pride and Prejudice– This ones the easiest to explain, so I’ll start here. All the hard work has already been done for this one. We already basically saw the effect I’m going for in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. There’s plenty of zombie murdering in that one, and scenes get embellished with thrilling demonstrations of skills with weapons and so on. It makes an otherwise boringly froo-froo romance tale much more exciting, and gives Lizzie Bennett that real extra edge to her feisty personality.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn– Huck Finn and runaway slave Sam go for a long journey trying to find their freedom together. Sam’s running from his owner and Huck from his own father who tried to kill him. They meet all sorts of figures, some good and some bad. This is definitely not a death free book on its own. A boy and slave desperate and on the run could hardly be called villainous for killing some people trying to send them down south. The Duke and the Dauphin definitely had it coming.
Of Mice and Men– Again here, you might be wondering what I mean by adding more death to this book. Lenny, the simple strong-man does kill a woman accidentally, and that’s when things all go terribly wrong for the main characters. George has to shoot Lenny at the very end so the angry mob chasing them don’t get their hands on his friend. Here’s the thing though, I’m thinking we could fix this whole mess with even more murder. They’ve already set up Lenny as some Frankenstein monster-like figure, unbelievably strong and all that. George just needs to be smart here and have Lenny snap the necks of each and every person chasing them through the forest. Tell him to think about the rabbits while doing that, George. Then they can go on the run again. Sure, it goes against the entire message the novel is trying to deliver but dammit Lenny deserved to live, and so did that dog they shot in an earlier chapter as foreshadowing. Maybe it’s a stupid message if a dog and a special needs guy who likes bunnies have to die to prove it. Shut up, freshman English teacher, you don’t know what you’re talking about.
Oh, I guess I probably have warned you guys about spoilers, spoilers for books that came out eighty to a hundred years ago anyway.
There you have it, point proved through practice. Every single classic novel that you’ve ever had to read in school could be made better with at least a little of murder, even the ones that already have some. One writer was smart enough to figure out this rule before me and use it to get a book published. I’ll have to try and act fast before anyone else figures this out and get out my version of Scarlet Letter, where Hester goes after that judgmental bunch of puritans and paints the town scarlet–with their blood!