OF THE BABY NAME CHARLOTTE
Charlotte is a relatively minor character in Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, a friend of the Misses Dashwoods. She seems to be all surface and superficiality, but is good hearted and kind nonetheless. She and her husband provide much levity in the novel, as he reacts to her innocent inanities with curmudgeonly humor, and she good-naturedly laughs him off. They are oddly suited to each other and share a genuine warmth in their relationship that is not always evident upon first reading.
Charlotte is the barn spider in E.B. White’s children’s classic of 1952, “Charlotte’s Web.” Beloved by children the world over since its publication, the book is a standard must-read. Charlotte saves Wilbur the Pig from slaughter for bacon by weaving praises about him into her web (“Some Pig”, “Terrific”, etc.), so that Wilbur becomes famous and ultimately takes the county fair prize as best pig. Children and adults alike are enchanted by this tale that effortlessly imparts big life truths about friendship, loyalty and even death.
Charlotte is the unfortunate mother of the title character of “Lolita,” the very controversial 1955 novel by Vladimir Nabokov. Charlotte rents a room in her house to Humbert Humbert, who promptly becomes obsessed with her 12 year old daughter, the nubile Lolita. Charlotte is at first blissfully unaware of his true affections, believing him to be interested in herself, until she reads the sordid truth in his diary. She may be said to represent conventional society as a whole, for upon this discovery, she runs out into the street in shock and is killed by an automobile.
Charlotte is main character Elizabeth Bennett’s best friend in Jane Austen’s famous Pride and Prejudice. A quiet and good young woman, she sets out to marry the pompous and rather ridiculous Mr. Collins (whom Elizabeth has spurned). She is not beautiful and she is twenty-seven years old – on the brink of permanent spinsterhood. Often rejected by modern day feminists as a mealy-mouthed dependent who settles for less than second best, she is in fact a strong, intelligent and far-seeing individualist who knows the score. As a woman of her day, her prospects are slim indeed, and only marriage can assure her a position of security and respect. She is clearly aware of the shortcomings of her husband, but she takes on the challenge with a clear eye and steady hand, and attains her goal: “I ask only a comfortable home.” She gives as good as she gets, cheerfully and determinedly, and if there were a sequel, no doubt we should find the Collins growing old together in comfortable obscurity.