Top Ten Books With Characters Who Commit Infidelity

Meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

Today’s Top Ten Tuesday, a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and The Bookish, is pretty much a free-for-all, since the topic is “Top ten books which features characters who…” and it’s up to us bloggers to finish the sentence.

Why did I pick the oh-so-controversial subject of adultery? Because my first thought turned to English class during my junior year of high school, the theme of which I had dubbed, “Women who cheat on their husbands.” Not all the required reading fit into this category, but a whole lot of it did.

Call me a harlot if you want, but there’s something so captivating about women trapped in loveless marriages and seeking passion outside of them. Many of these novels were written during historical periods in which it was taboo for women of a certain age to be unwed, and I don’t blame these characters for rebelling against the prison that society coerced them in. No one gave the husbands any grief for cheating, so I say down with the double standard!

Thus, here are my top ten books with characters (both men and women!) who commit infidelity:

TTT Cheaters 1

TTT Cheaters 2

Women Who Have Wandered

1. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
2. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
3. The Awakening by Kate Chopin
4. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
5. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Men with Mistresses

6. The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
7. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
8. Medea by Euripides

Classic Cheaters I Need to Read

9. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
10. Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence

Happy Banned Books Week!

In case you hadn’t heard, it’s Banned Books Week!

Every year book bloggers celebrate the power of the written word and remind others to fight against censorship…because despite what you may think, banning books is still alive and well, even in America where we’re supposed to value the freedom of speech and print.

Just a few days ago, NPR reported that a North Carolina county voted to ban Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, which discusses the nuances of black identity formation and the battles for racial equality. Apparently the state failed to see the irony behind removing from view a story about an individual’s social invisibility.

It’s news like NPR’s which makes me grateful for living in a more liberal state, since my California high school wasn’t about to let a little violence and incest get in the way of providing its students with a culturally diverse and historically meaningful education.

I’ve brought up the topic of censorship before, like when I asked whether young adult fiction was too adult and whether books should be rated like movies. I, like almost every other book blogger, sides with the First Amendment. But in case the good ol’ Constitution isn’t reason enough, let me spell it out for you:

Not all speech is smart, but it should be free (Image via Thinking Right Blog)

1.     It is vital that we challenge reinforcement theory. Mass media scholars suggest that our egos are so sensitive that we’d rather hide behind the bubble wrap of our previously held beliefs than risk coming across something that makes us uncomfortable.

However, learning from different perspectives forces us to re-evaluate our opinions and our relationships with other people–which is a good thing! We could all use some empathy by reading a mile of someone else’s journey.

I’m not saying that you have to agree with the Westboro Baptist Church, but they have the right to spout off their nonsense. Don’t like it? Speak up and make your voice the one that your local politician hears the loudest.

Because it’s only Facebook that counts? (Image credit to ToothpasteForDinner.com)

2.     Censorship is a slippery slope. As I learned from Reading Lolita in Tehran, banning books on the surface might seem a minor infringement of personal freedom, but usurping control of what thoughts are deemed worthy of publishing will ultimately lead to the loss of many more rights.

And what’s even scarier than a country like 1970’s Iran actively fighting against revolutionary restrictions and failing is a society no longer interested in fighting at all, as seen in Fahrenheit 451, another frequently banned book. In that satire, people became so obsessed with television that they didn’t even care that the totalitarian government banned books. Their tiny attention spans couldn’t be bothered.

Life lessons courtesy of Grand Theft Auto (Image via GTA 5 Nation)

3.     Banning books is hypocrisy at its worst. Other media are often censored, but how many movies, music videos, or video games are outright banned? Sure, we can label things explicit or give them “R” ratings, but we don’t seem all that concerned about enforcement.

I mean, no one batted an eyelash when the latest Grand Theft Auto, a video game in which killing cops and prostitutes is encouraged, earned over $1 billion in three days. I highly doubt all those copies will be played by only those 18 and up.

And let’s not gloss over Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” (or Miley Cyrus’ VMA’s rendition of the song). It seems that the majority of folks don’t mind the promotion of rape culture and exploitation of women as long as the tune is catchy.

But did you know that Catcher in the Rye was banned, among other complaints, over Holden Caulfield’s dealings with a prostitute? Or that Beloved and Their Eyes Were Watching God were considered too sexual?

I can’t stand the double standard that sex is harmless when it’s allegedly just for fun or to sell a product, but when it’s depicted in a context where people might actually learn something of value from it, it’s branded as too inappropriate.

The take-away? I’m not trying to be a prude or a buzz-kill. In fact, I’m proposing that all media, not matter how controversial or offensive, should be protected from censorship. As adults, it’s our individual right to decide if we want to read a book or not.

And as for the kids, if you’re sooooo concerned about Little Timmy reading To Kill A Mockingbird or The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

It’s called home-schooling. You’re welcome.

Final note: Please spread awareness of this issue by educating yourself on the most challenged books and where they’re being removed. Celebrate this week by following #bannedbooksweek on Twitter and checking out Google Hangouts with banned authors!

Masterpiece Monday: Their Eyes Were Watching God

Cover of "Their Eyes Were Watching God"

Image via Amazon

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

To celebrate Black History Month, I chose to review Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937). The novel follows Janie Crawford, a middle-aged African-American woman who discusses her three marriages.

Janie was the product of rape, and because of her mother’s unwillingness to parent, she is raised by her grandmother Nanny. Nanny pushes Janie into her first marriage to Logan Killicks, but after being forced to do hard labor on his farm, Janie runs away with second husband Joe Starks.

This marriage isn’t any better, and after Joe passes away, Janie is finally independent. She falls in love with a man who goes by Tea Cake, marries him and moves to the Everglades. Unfortunately, the area is struck by a hurricane and Tea Cake is bitten by a rabid dog while saving Janie from drowning. Sick with the disease, he tries to shoot Janie, but she kills him first in self-defense. Even though she is acquitted from her murder charge, when she returns to Eatonville, she becomes the subject of gossip.

I read this novel in high school, and when it came to African-American literature, I ranked this story much better than Toni Morrison’s Beloved, but not as good as Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man.   The reason for this was because although it did not contain any ridiculous voodoo elements, I still felt it hard to empathize with Janie. She continuously fell for men who were abusive and wrong for her, and you wished she would learn from her mistakes.

The dialect that’s used in the novel is difficult to read if you’re not familiar with it, but it adds authenticity and unique voice to the characters. While it’s not a style I particularly gravitate toward, I appreciate Their Eyes Were Watching God for opening people’s eyes to the perspective of black women, which is so often ignored in society. I always tell my high school students to broaden their horizons to more ethnic writing, and this book would be one I’d recommend–simply for the sake of experiencing it.

However, I must admit that the strongest memory that I have of this story was when my English teacher claimed that teenage Janie’s braid was a phallic symbol. I’d acknowledge that the scene of her kissing Johnny Taylor was one of sexual awakening, but I wondered whether phallic hair was pushing the interpretation a bit far. Needless to say, it made for an interesting discussion that day in class!

So if you’ve got some time this February, celebrate Black History Month with a classic like Their Eyes Were Watching God.

Favorite Quote: “She was a rut in the road. Plenty of life beneath the surface but it was kept beaten down by the wheels.”