What Would Juliet Do?

What if Abby from "Dear Abby" married Cliff from Cliff's Notes? What if somebody spiked Chicken Soup for the Soul with Harvard's Core Curriculum? What if a hapless humanities major condensed his four-year, $120,000 liberal arts education into a 100-page, $9.95 self-help manual?

Learn the answer to these and all of life's other burning questions in What Would Juliet Do?: Good Advice from Great Books. After all, anyone can think up their own advice; smart people steal it.

"You meet the man of your dreams, turn on the charm and nab a proposal. All's well on your way to the altar until some stranger interrupts matters to claim your hubby-to-be is already hitched. Mr. Bad News won't stop talking and your beau won't start."

What would Jane Eyre do?

Step 1: Find the facts. The heroine of Charlotte Bront's Jane Eyre is an orphan with only enough cash for a one-way coach from fianc Edward Rochester's Thornfield estate. When hitching on Greyhound is your alternative to putting on the ring, get ready to live with a few little white lies. Dreamboat, unfortunately, doesn't deny a thing. He leads his governess-turned-love interest up the stairs to their attic, where Jane makes the acquaintance of Bertha, a homicidal maniac with a penchant for matches and a very valid marriage certificate to Rochester. This is what we in the humanities call a "character conflict." With women like Bertha in the attic, who needs skeletons in the closet?

Step 2: Get some distance. If your wedding day seems like a Jerry Springer episode and you don't want to meet another surprise guest, there's no shame in the runaway game. Jane, for one, hits the road, bums it up, meets long-lost missionary relatives and inherits a fortune. Next to diamonds, a few thousand pounds a year is a girl's best friend. Soon, however, Jane's chilly cousin Reverend Rivers proposes marriage with the promise of a lifetime honeymoon spent preaching to unenlightened savages of India. While a man of the cloth suggests some stability, marrying your cousin just isn't cool. Nobody's fool, Jane shoots him down and hightails it to Thornfield, where she finds the mansion in ashes. As the neighbors inform her, the misanthropic Mrs. Rochester lit up one time too many, burned herself to death and her home to cinders. Finishing up the hat trick, the missus managed to blind her hunky husband with her mishaps just moments before her timely demise. This, one can imagine Rochester saying, is why we don't have nice things.

Step 3: Forgive and forget. Like Rochester, love doesn't see 20/20. Jane marries her singed-but-single steady and they settle down in his farmhouse to start a nice little repressed upper-class English family. Matrimony may not be heaven, ladies, but it sure beats growing old alone.

"You're broke and bored with the usual sights, so you sign up for a job with tons of travel. Once on board, however, you notice your boss acts stranger and stranger with each passing day. As the bad omens accumulate, you start to wonder if you're going to make it back to the home office in one piece."

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