Lindsay Pearce as Elphaba in the current Broadway production of Wicked. (Photo by Joan Marcus.)
After seeing Wicked on Broadway last Sunday, I thought about how interesting it can be when characters in literature are reimagined.
The long-running musical — inspired by Gregory Maguire’s 1995 novel — features the Wicked Witch from L. Frank Baum’s 1900 novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and 1939’s iconic movie The Wizard of Oz. In Maguire’s novel and the Wicked play, the allegedly evil Elphaba is given a back story that shows why she turned “bad.” In fact, Elphaba/the Wicked Witch is depicted as not evil at all.
It definitely makes one ponder things when a one-dimensional character is reimagined as three-dimensional.
While watching the excellent musical, I immediately thought of how the mostly not-nuanced “madwoman in the attic” of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre (1847) is given quite a psychological makeover in Jean Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea (1966). That Jane Eyre prequel is much more sympathetic to Bronte’s “madwoman,” giving her a fuller personality and explaining how she became what she became.
Speaking of Jane Eyre-related books, Jasper Fforde’s 2001 novel The Eyre Affair features a “prose portal” in which literary detective Thursday Next enters Bronte’s novel and meets characters such as Edward Rochester, who’s portrayed somewhat differently than he was in 1847.
Then there’s Zorro, the 1919 character creation from writer Johnston McCulley. In Isabel Allende’s 2005 novel Zorro, she fleshes out the swashbuckler’s personality and gives him a fascinating origin story.
Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad (also 2005) gives Penelope a more prominent — and more feminist — role than she had in Homer’s Odyssey, the ancient epic poem.
I haven’t read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Seth Grahame-Smith’s 2009 take on Jane Austen’s 1813 novel. I imagine (and reimagine) I never will. 🙂
Do you have any literary reimaginings you’d like to mention? What do you think of the concept?
My literary-trivia book is described and can be purchased here: Fascinating Facts About Famous Fiction Authors and the Greatest Novels of All Time.
In addition to this weekly blog, I write the 2003-started/award-winning “Montclairvoyant” topical-humor column for Baristanet.com every Thursday. The latest piece — about my town’s township attorney getting an ill-deserved continuation of pay after resigning over a racist remark — is here.