The Art of the White Female F*ck-Up Novel

Last week, we had the pleasure of reading John Warner’s great article, “The White Male F*ck-Up Novel,” over at Book Riot. “You know the story,” Warner writes, “white male protagonist, comes from a privileged background, should have the world by the short hairs, but manages to screw up his life at every turn. Depression, extra-marital affairs, other methods of self-sabotage. Bellow made a career of them.” While it’s true that the field is overrun with these “WMFuNs,” we couldn’t help but wonder: what about all the lady bunglers in literature? True, the male screw up is more iconic (as of course is the male protagonist, for that matter), but we wanted to give our favorite tragic heroines a little love as well. After all, as Daisy Buchanan famously opined, “that’s about the best a girl can hope for these days, to be a pretty little fool.” Right. Click through to see our list of white female fuck up novels, and let us know if we’ve missed any of your favorites in the comments.

Lily Bart, The House of Mirth

Poor Lily. She has every chance in the world to become the wealthy, well-regarded woman she wanted to be, but she sabotages them all, rejecting various socially advantageous marriage proposals, innocently (but indecently!) visiting bachelors in their private rooms, accepting money from a friend’s husband. Ultimately, the vicious gossip and better played hands of the other women in her social circle ruins her, and in the end, she dies from an overdose of the sleeping potion that had been her last refuge, just as the only man she truly loved was on his way to tell her he felt the same.

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Wow, Tess from Hardy's TESS OF THE D'URBERVILLES didn't make the list? She sleeps with (or gets raped by) a man who is clearly not in her class or station and who everybody but Tess knows will never marry her because he's such a libertine and a liar, gets preggers, has the kid, loses the sickly kid, falls in love with a good guy, marries him without telling him about her not being a virgin or about the kid, tells him on their wedding night of all things, loses him, becomes the mistress of the guy # 1 again, tells her repentant husband -- after he's finally forgiven her and come back -- that she's the other guy's mistress, then kills the original guy who "ruined" her thinking that somehow the murder will atone for her screwing up everybody's lives. Way to mess up your life.


Don't forget that, legally, Anna cannot marry Vronsky even if Karenin grants her the divorce: Russian law at the time prevented an adulterous spouse from both having custody of any children and from remarrying. One of the reasons Anna stays married is because she cannot marry Vronsky unless her husband Karenin gets a divorce on the grounds that HE has been the adulterer, which would then prevent him from remarrying, which all of his friends - especially his lady friends - advise him not to do. So, yes, Anna screws it up royally, but she still could have kept on living with Vronsky as his common-law wife in another country if she just hadn't been so uptight about it all.


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