Anna Coronina… or How Classic Books Would Change if the Main Character had Coronavirus

By Alyssa Grimaldi

Part of the magic in reading emerges from the distinct ability of imagining yourself in the place of any protagonist. You can be Elizabeth Bennet at the ball with Mr. Darcy, Harry Potter fighting Voldemort, or Hamlet avenging his father’s untimely death. But what if characters from classic literary works were in the same position as you instead? What would happen if Jane Eyre or Jay Gatsby were unable to continue with the plot assigned to them due to the coronavirus? To cope with being sent home from college during my last semester, I will reimagine some classics under the framework of coronavirus. Apologies in advance for not including Anna Karenina here despite the title. (I’ll be honest. I haven’t finished it yet. Tolstoy surely could have been more concise).

Jane Eyre: Since Jane Eyre is such a long narrative, I first have to decide at which plot point coronavirus will arise. Because I love brewing fictional interpersonal drama, I chose the moment when Jane is about to depart after discovering Mr. Rochester’s allegedly insane ex-wife Bertha in the attic. Although I am not entirely sure Jane would have heeded a forced quarantine due to her stubbornness, I personally like to imagine Jane and Bertha becoming best friends and forcing Mr. Rochester to replace Bertha in the attic while she assumes his position as the head of the household. 

The Great Gatsby: I’m going to be charitable to Jay Gatsby and allow him to (SPOILER- but it’s been almost 100 years. Go read it!) survive in my corona-fied version of the text. Daisy and Gatsby would have been quarantined together. Since Tom’s mistress Myrtle lives en route to NYC, her chances of getting coronavirus are high. Maybe she gets it, then he get is, and maybe, just maybe, he dies and Daisy and Gatsby get to be together unbothered. Let’s be honest. It wouldn’t work long term. 

Wuthering Heights: If I’m being realistic, most of these characters would probably have died from coronavirus. Most of them suffer from various serious ailments throughout the novel. In my reimagination, adult Catherine and Heathcliff get coronavirus and are quarantined together. While I enjoy them as literary characters, they are each evil in their own way, and I would let them be together simply to save poor Edgar and Isabella from their company. 

Hamlet:  In the original version, Hamlet assures himself of his uncle Claudius’s guilt through staging a play with a similar premise to the reality of his father’s assassination. Since large gatherings have been banned recently due to coronavirus, I don’t think Hamlet would have been able to entice a crowd to watch his play. Therefore, his uncle’s guilt would not have been solidified. Also, a lot of the deaths could have been blamed on coronavirus instead of murder, removing a lot of the justification for revenge killings.

However different your life is from these literary protagonists, you can obtain some sick kind of consolation in knowing that coronavirus would have probably drastically altered their plots. Who knows! Maybe coronavirus will also reunite you with a long lost love, or prevent you from killing your uncle. Regardless, everything will be okay, and you can quell some anxiety with some funny coronavirus tweets.


Alyssa Grimaldi is the Long River Review social media coordinator and a poetry panel reader. She can be reached at alyssa.grimaldi@uconn.edu.


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