We Hate It When A Boy Breaks Up With Us & We Die Of Consumption

Illustration for article titled We Hate It When A Boy Breaks Up With Us & We Die Of Consumption

A few years ago we were really really sick. Everything's all cool now, but to make us feel better, a friend of ours told us that we were a Jane Austen heroine and that we merely had a case of consumption as a result of broken heart. It was fun to practice a consumptive cough and fan ourselves. But we got to thinking, how is it that all these Austen heroines and the like would die out of the blue in these novels, seemingly over nothing more than some boy being all douchey and making them sorta sad? Boys have made us sad, but we're not dead yet! Recently the good folks over at the BBC brought in a team of physicians to evaluate the ills of 19th century literary heroines. Their reports, after the jump.


Marianne Dashwood, Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility:
Symptoms: "swooning and not eating," "life threatening fever...caused...[by] tripping through wet grass," "putrid tendency"
The doc says: "typhus" and "streptococcal sore throat, followed by septicaemia"
We say: Girl was just being one of those bitches we hate who say their whole lives are over because a boy who they never even had a real relationship with dumped her. And whatever, she moved on from Willoughby to that old Colonel in like no time at all. Just needs to pull it together.

Cathy Earnshaw, Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights:
Symptoms: "dies in childbirth (having starved herself) and then proceeds to haunt everyone"
The doc says: "The one thing that everyone knows about the Bronte family is that there was a virtual holocaust of TB among them."
We say: Um, TB doesn't make you die in childbirth. Nor does it make you into a ghost. Cathy luvs Heathcliff 4eva!

Lady Honoria Dedlock, Charles Dickens' Bleak House:
Symptoms: "Lady Dedlock too dies of smallpox, coincidentally after having walked from London to St Albans, having picked up some "deadly stains" on her bustle whilst rambling in a graveyard the best part of two years earlier."
The doc says: "The incubation period for smallpox is however a matter of days...She can't have died of a 20 mile walk, even if her shoes did get sodden."
We say: This is the one book we skipped and lied our way through when we took 19th century European lit in college. Our professor was really mean and we though this book seemed boring. Sorry, Dickens. We have no idea why this lady died.

Why Heroines Die In Classic Fiction [BBC]


Jenna Sauers

All I can say, Jennifer, is you should read "Infection in the Sentence" by Gilbert and Gubar, pronto. They totally smackdown Harold Bloom - and write lots about 19th century women authors and the motif of disease in their fiction. Really really really read it.