As autumn arrives and winter sneaks ever closer, the seasonal changes seem to bring lots of opportunity for family meals and friendly get-togethers. It’s a time for Thanksgiving and making lots of things with apples and inviting people over to eat them. The idea of big holiday gatherings got me thinking about which characters from literature would be the worst to sit with at a formal dinner, and why. I came up with a few examples, where if I was seated next to them, I’d certainly be thinking of excuses to move.
Ever wondered if Lady Catherine de Bourgh enjoys poached salmon or glazed carrots? Well, you’d be bound to find out, willingly or not. Mr. Collins would delight in regaling his supper captives companions with all the details of meal preferences at Rosings. Of course, the dishes in that beautiful house are also much finer, as he’d describe in detail, adding that Lizzie Bennett could have been basking in the generous favour of Lady Catherine de Bourgh, being served meals on her porcelain supper dishes almost every week! What regret she must feel.
(On the opposite of this list, Lizzie Bennett is definitely on the list of people I’d like to sit beside at an imaginary dinner of literary characters).
You knew he’d be on this list, didn’t you? My dislike of Hamlet as a character is pretty well documented on my blog. No doubt he’d sigh and push his food around his plate without really eating it, probably splashing you with soup and not even noticing. Even that would be better than if he launched into a mournful soliloquy about how he’s the only one who’s ever had an emotional crisis – he’d stare at you so intensely that you wouldn’t be able to keep eating until he finally concluded his speech. Just sitting there, waiting, with your soup hovering in the air. And it would probably be even worse if Ophelia was present – his remarks to her would doubtlessly be uncomfortable for the whole table.
The one bright side, you could possibly fashion your napkin into a little ghost and see how he reacts.
Pity the poor person stuck sitting beside Miss Truchbull at a dinner party, particularly if cake is served at dessert. She’s also described as a “gigantic holy terror” and is known to be cruel, so I’m sure she would bash her elbows into your sides quite vigorously, probably waiting until an opportune moment when your knife is poised over your plate.
However, she’s also very superstitious and frightened of ghosts – perhaps banishing her and Hamlet to the ‘awful dinner guest’ version of the kids’ table could be interesting!
Look, Hercule Poirot is a nice man, overall. He’d have some fascinating stories to regale the group with at supper, and I think anyone sitting near him would automatically feel safer. “No chance of me accidentally ingesting poison or ground glass,” you might think, blithely scooping stew into your spoon. “Monsieur Poirot would certainly notice, save my life, and solve the crime before cake.” But his obsession with symmetry and his, frankly, kind of judging attitude, could spark a lot of self-consciousness while you’re trying to slice a tough bit of beef or spear a carrot with your fork or spoon a little sugar in your coffee.
She might actually be a great dinner companion if you’re on a diet, because I can’t imagine having any appetite with the sinister, gloomy presence of Mrs. Danvers looming over my shoulder. I also can’t imagine her remaining in her seat for the duration of the meal. “Does anyone need more coffee?” she’d intone ominously, already rising to her feet. “I’ll just fetch some more. My dear Rebecca always had a cup after the dessert course. She was like coffee itself, in a way. Vital and irresistible.” Her cold breath would skim the back of your neck. “Oh, look at that. There’s none left for you.”
Poor Miss Havisham. And poor you, if she was hosting the dinner! After being jilted, she stopped her clocks at the precise time she received the letter from her ex-fiancé, and left all the wedding food and the cake out on the table. Sounds appetizing…for maggots. Ugh!
And if someone else hosted this theoretical dinner, I still wouldn’t much fancy sitting next to Miss Havisham, since she also wore her wedding dress ever since that fateful day. Based on this dedication to preserving the moment, and her lack of hygiene where the food is concerned, I’m guessing laundry isn’t high on her list of priorities. Although, she did repent of her ways (and their effect on Estella and Pip) later on, so perhaps she might offer some surprisingly deep conversation.
Have you seen Tigger? His propensity for constant motion means that all the explanation you’d need to imagine the results of a dinner with Tigger at your side can be summed up with gifs.
Have I missed anyone? Which character from literature would you hate to be stuck beside at dinner?