SparkNotes Blog

How to Do Friendship, According to Literature

If you are like us, you view great works of fiction as instruction manuals for life. Nervous about being the new kid in school? Re-read the first few chapters of Looking for Alaska or Eleanor & Park. Losing sleep after being chosen to represent your hometown in your country’s annual Make Teens Fight to the Death Festival? It’s time to pull out The Hunger Games.

Fiction also gives us pages and pages of information about friendship. Now, we know what you’re thinking: “Why do I need to make friends? My best friend is Books! And sometimes we hang out with Internet!” But here’s the secret: BOOKS HAVE A LOT TO SAY ABOUT ACTUAL FRIENDS. People ones. Who you probably won’t have to fight to the death.

With that in mind, here is some of the best advice literature has to offer about how to do friendship:

Don’t even worry, because first person you meet in a new situation will automatically become your best friend. 

Harry Potter went to Hogwarts with literally dozens of other first-year wizarding students. How did he end up best friends with Ron and Hermione? He sat next to them on a train. That’s all it takes. Nothing about common interests or personality. Just look around, pick the first person you see, and go stand next to them (or sit next to them, if you’re on a train). INSTANT BEST FRIENDS.

That’s what Anne Shirley did in Anne of Green Gables, too. She spent, like, two days in Avonlea before she spotted Diana Barry enjoying a good book and said “Please stop reading. You are now my best friend. Books are not friends. Only people are friends.”

Lock that friendship down with a verbal contract. 

The very first day Anne met Diana, she made Diana swear an oath of friendship. AN OATH. The Canadian Muggle version of the Unbreakable Vow. If Anne hadn’t forced Diana to swear that oath, who knows what might have happened? They wouldn’t have been BEST FRIENDS, that’s for sure. So the next time you find someone who looks like Friend Potential, make that person swear loyalty to you. Preferably within the first hour of meeting.

Keep group friendships strong by reducing your friends to their dominant traits.

In Harry Potter, Hermione’s the smart one and Ron is the loyal one. In Paper Towns, Radar’s the smart one and Ben is the goofball. In Pride and Prejudice, Charlotte is the plain, hardworking one and Lizzie doesn’t have any other friends.

Group friendships work because each person only provides 20 percent of a personality. Smart one, loyal one, quirky one, anxious one, the one you want to date, the one who’s your ex, the one who gets way too emotional. We just described Dumbledore’s Army and we didn’t even have to use their NAMES.

And if you’re the protagonist, don’t worry about it: you automatically get all of the traits. (A whole entire personality, so that your sidekicks can subconsciously attach themselves to the part of their personality that lives inside you.)

If you are not the hero of your friend group, find another group of friends. 

What was it Charles Dickens wrote in David Copperfield? “Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own friend group, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.” (Something like that.)

David Copperfield knew what was what. He wasn’t about to be Little Dora’d or Mrs. Micawber’d into the role of Side Character. He announced his status as hero early on, by… um… biting his stepfatherWhat we’re really saying here is that Dickens is weird. Moving on!

Once you have a best friend who is also the gender to which you are attracted, you will have to kiss. 

Katniss has to kiss her best friend Gale because THOSE ARE THE RULES. As soon as Peeta starts to become her friend, she has to kiss him too. Similarly, when Tiny Cooper and Will Grayson meet in Will Grayson, Will Grayson, they have to kiss. Because THE RULES.

Actually, why not just marry the first person you meet? 

The first boy Anne Shirley meets is Gilbert Blythe. SPOILER ALERT: Married. The first boys Hermione Granger meets are Harry Potter and Ron Weasley. SPOILER ALERT: Married (to Ron). The first boys the Bennet sisters meet are Mr. Bingley, Mr. Darcy, and Mr. Wickham. SPOILER ALERT: Married, married, and married.

The first boy Katniss Everdeen meets is Peeta Mellark. At first you think it’s Gale, but then they show THROUGH FLASHBACK that it was really Peeta. That is the only reason why Katniss chooses Peeta over Gale. The only one. *puts fingers in ears as to not think about what happens in Mockingjay* Choose your friends carefully, because the odds are you will end up SPOILER ALERT: MARRIED to one of them.

If all else fails, move to an entirely new location. 

So many friendship stories start with a character wandering into a new location for the first time (and then making friends with the first person they meet).

In The Fault in Our Stars, Hazel goes to Cancer Support Group and meets Augustus, her new best friend whom she eventually kisses because of THE RULES. In Great Expectations, Pip goes to London to become a gentleman and meets his wacky new bestie Herbert Pocket. (We told you Dickens was weird.) In The Maze Runner, Thomas… um… you know, this is a really bad example—we do not recommend getting stuck in a terrifying maze. In Moby Dick, Ishmael goes to a strange inn, gets stuck sharing a room with Queequeg, and by the morning they’re sleeping all snuggled up to each other. (THIS IS FOR SERIOUS IN MOBY DICK, READ IT.)


Has a good book ever helped you navigate the world of friendships? Or have books just taught you how to survive post-apocalyptic mazes and death arenas?