There’s no denying that we live in stressful times, only compounded by the constant stream of information coming to us through our computers and phones. But we (as contemporary and real people) don’t have a monopoly on stress. Our favorite characters have to deal with life’s various hard knocks too, with varying levels of success. Here are their strategies.
Samwise Gamgee (Lord of the Rings): Blame yourself.
Ishmael (Moby-Dick): Launch into a long, meandering story concerning the different varieties of whale skulls and the philosophical and moral ramifications of those differences. By the time you finish you will have forgotten whatever was troubling you.
Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games): Storm off angrily into the woods. If your problems follow you, shoot them.
Every male character in every Ernest Hemingway novel: Drink an animal and kill a bottle of good red wine. Or the other way around. But NO WOMEN.
Harry Potter: School stress: Procrastinate! Family stress: Internalize! Friend stress: Lash out!
Hermione Granger: For 90% of problems: alphabetize, color code, and make flash cards. For the other 10% of problems: ATTACK THEM WITH FISTS AND DIVE-BOMBING SONGBIRDS. NEVER SURRENDER.
Ron Weasley: Try to make “trapped in a self-perpetuating cycle of anxiety and inadequacy” your “quirk.”
Elizabeth Bennet (Pride and Prejudice): Refuse to acknowledge stress as anything more than a minor irritation. Hurl witticisms at it until it goes away.
Mr. Darcy (Pride and Prejudice): Go on a long, melancholy walk through your gorgeous estate. If the stress is still there when you get back, marry it.
Jay Gatsby (The Great Gatsby): Refuse to acknowledge that you have stress because rich people don’t have stress and YOU ARE A RICH PERSON. WHAT WAS IT ALL FOR IF NOT TO FINALLY BE FREE FROM CARE AND WOE???
Hazel Grace Lancaster (The Fault in Our Stars): Treasure even stress as one of the many remarkable things of which your heart and mind are capable.
All The Characters in As I Lay Dying: Gather up all your frustrated hopes and wasted loves and weave them into a monologue as confused and dazzling as the sunstruck profusion of a summer garden, and yet find that by the time the monologue has reached your lips it is nothing more than a spitball to hurl at the dry, hot dirt.
Jane Eyre (Jane Eyre): Pack up your three possessions and leave. Repeat as many times as necessary.
Mr. Rochester (Jane Eyre): LOCK IT IN THE ATTIC. NEVER SPEAK OF IT AGAIN.
All The Characters in The Magicians trilogy: Archly announce that you know perfectly well that all your coping mechanisms are childish and self-destructive. Engage in them anyway.
Hamlet: Go mad! Just kidding, you’re only PRETENDING TO GO MAD! Or are you? YOU WISH YOU KNEW.
Beowulf: Lol stress is not a concept in your cultural and historical moment. If you can’t kill it, drink it, or recite a list of your accomplishments at it, do not even worry.
All The Characters in A Song Of Ice and Fire: Slowly be ground down into exhaustion and numbness, while all memories of happiness drift away like warmth escaping your body in the rapidly approaching winter.
Pi (Life of Pi): That’s not stress! That’s a chimpanzee trapped on your life raft! You fear Chimpy, but you will grow to love him as well.