Picture the European tundra, 300,000 years ago. The first paleolithic human asks the other upright-walker on a date. It goes well. Hunting. Foraging. Cave dwelling. Then on date four, he gets just a bit too clingy, and humankind’s eternal question is born: How do you end it?
We still don’t know. Too subtle a breakup and you end up with an annoying hanger-on (i.e. a spouse). Too harsh, and you’re looking at apocalyptic disaster (*cough* Medea *cough*). In between those two poles, a hundred contingencies can blow up in your face.
The good news is that your favorite literary characters have been there and done that, so if you want to avoid being murdered or turned into a tree, heed the following advice.
Mr. Rochester: Blame it on baggage related to your ex. It helps if she’s locked in attic. And she sets the house on fire. If you survive, you’re probably in the clear.
Ophelia: Just return his gifts, slowly back away, and hope he doesn’t stab your dad while he’s hiding behind a curtain.
Brett Ashley: Crush their soul. Then take up with a bullfighter. Two birds, one stone.
Daisy Buchanan: I find that committing vehicular manslaughter while driving their car just sort of brings things to a natural end.
Dorian Gray: Murder works if you’re in a pinch. And if you feel a bit gloomy afterward, remember that opium is remarkably effective in assuaging guilt.
Catherine Earnshaw : Marry someone else and then die. Haunt them just to drive the message home.
Estella Havisham: Be cruel. It also helps to be insanely attractive. These things don’t usually come back to bite you in the butt.
King Lear: Compare her to the most disgusting things you can conjure up. A boil, a plague sore, an embossed carbuncle. If she doesn’t run away horrified and screaming, then getting dumped is not her biggest problem.
Zeus: How to break up with someone? Bah. Easy. Turn them into something that can’t run as fast as you. I usually go for a cow or a tree. Done and dusted.
Medea: Breakups? I don’t do breakups. I do epic overreactions.