SparkNotes Blog

How Literary Characters Would Make Small Talk at a Party

Small talk is the oatmeal of conversation. Nobody actually likes it, but we all have to pretend we do so we can keep society going. 

The problem? It’s hard! It’s hard to talk about the weather, sports, the weather, pop culture, the weather, current events, and the weather. It’s hard to remain pleasantly nonintrusive for a sustained period of time without accidentally blurting out something intense and off-putting. It’s hard to try and forge a human connection with a Lyft driver or your dentist or the Target cashier who’s watching you purchase such a baffling assortment of items that she simply had to comment. But we all do it anyway, day after day after day, and I think that’s very brave of us.

And even if you’re bad at making small talk, I can guarantee you’re at least better than the following fictional characters who wouldn’t last 2 seconds at a party without making it weird.

***

YOU: Can you believe this weather we’re having?
DARCY: I’m not going to dance with you.
YOU: Okay.

***

YOU: Seen any good movies lately?
HOLDEN CAULFIELD: Hollywood is a cesspool just crawling with hypocrites, sell-outs, and phonies who would rather make lots of money and drive a Jaguar than engage with something real.
YOU: I’ll take that as a no.

***

YOU: I like your shirt. Where did you get it?
HAMLET: Oh, this? It’s just something my dad gave me.
YOU: That’s nice.
HAMLET: My dead dad.
YOU: Oh.
HAMLET: He was killed by my uncle. The same uncle who married my mom. 
YOU: Wow.
HAMLET: Every day I yearn for death’s sweet embrace.
YOU: I’m sorry.

***

YOU: So have you watched Marriage Story on Netflix yet?
ABIGAIL WILLIAMS: I saw Sarah Good with the Devil! I saw Goody Osburn with the Devil! I saw Bridget Bishop with the Devil!
YOU: Never mind.

***

YOU: Crazy weather we’re having, isn’t it?
JAVERT: And I’m Javert.
YOU: Nice to meet you.
JAVERT: Do not forget my name.
YOU: I won’t.
JAVERT: Do not forget me.
YOU: I have to go.

***

YOU: This guacamole is really good. A little too spicy for my taste, though.
LADY MACBETH: Coward.

***

YOU: Man, the rain is really coming down out there.
EMMA: Say, are you single? Because I know a guy that would be just perfect for you.
YOU: Well, I don’t know—
EMMA: I’ve already texted him.
YOU: Oh.
EMMA: And invited him to come meet you. 
YOU: Oh.
EMMA: Here he is now.

***

YOU: Did you have a good weekend?
THE NARRATOR OF “THE TELL-TALE HEART”: I’m not mad. How will you say that I am mad?
YOU: I didn’t say you were mad.
THE NARRATOR: Don’t look under the floorboards. There’s nothing there.
YOU: Okay.

***

YOU: Seriously, can you believe this weather we’re having?
ZEUS: Yes.