Sunday, January 05, 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 test, including:
Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy

Yes, Anna Karenina is a book about an affair. But Tolstoy’s novels contain vast, detailed worlds, and Anna Karenina is concerned with much more than Anna and Vronsky’s love story. So while the women in the book—Anna, her sisters-in-law Dolly and Kitty, her friend Betsy—often talk about love, marriage, and infidelity, their conversations also expand outward. When Dolly comforts heartbroken Kitty, they begin by talking about the man who rejected her (“He’s not worth your suffering over him,” Dolly insists) but their conversation becomes one that hints at a larger issue—the pressure to marry above all else, and how it affects their lives. Elsewhere, such conversations about marriage might turn into discussions of social mores and the upper-class Russian society in which Tolstoy set the book. These moments deserve as much attention as the novel’s more well-known romantic turns.
Read about the other books on the list.

Anna Karenina also appears on Rachel Thompson's top ten list of the greatest deaths in fiction, Melissa Albert's recommended reading list for eight villains, Alison MacLeod's top ten list of stories about infidelity, David Denby's six favorite books list, Howard Jacobson's list of his five favorite literary heroines, Eleanor Birne's top ten list of books on motherhood, Esther Freud's top ten list of love stories, Chika Unigwe's six favorite books list, Elizabeth Kostova's list of favorite books, James Gray's list of best books, Marie Arana's list of the best books about love, Ha Jin's most important books list, Tom Perrotta's ten favorite books list, Claire Messud's list of her five most important books, Alexander McCall Smith's list of his five most important books, Mohsin Hamid's list of his ten favorite books, Louis Begley's list of favorite novels about cheating lovers, and among the top ten works of literature according to Peter Carey and Norman Mailer. John Mullan put it on his lists of ten of the best erotic dreams in literature, ten of the best coups de foudre in literature, ten of the best births in literature, ten of the best ice-skating episodes in literature, and ten of the best balls in literature.

--Marshal Zeringue