Literary characters on social media

What if famous characters from literature were social media influencers?

A glimpse into a world where Dorian Gray has TikTok, Jo March has Twitter, and Captain Ahab’s gone viral twice without even knowing it.

Sherlock Holmes hosting a Youtube show. Ryan MacEachern/Penguin
Ryan MacEachern/Penguin

The famed logician and master of deduction has earned himself a massive following on YouTube for his Mythbusters-meets-true crime online series #SleuthingtheTruth, which debunks popular beliefs about past crimes. Is it captivating stuff? Yes. Is he so sanctimonious and smug it’s nearly intolerable? Also yes.

Elizabeth Bennet, Pride and Prejudice

After years of looking for the right suitor on Tinder, Hinge, and Bumble, Elizabeth Bennet has just about seen it all, dating-wise. After sending her friends a short, funny comic she drew about another guy who ghosted her, they suggest she post it to Instagram. The comic draws quite a crowd; soon, Bennet’s @softboichronicles has over 100k followers. During their tumultuous early days, she once drew a strip about Fitzwilliam Darcy, the guy she’s now dating. He was one of the first to ‘like’ it, not realising it was about him.

Jo March from Little Women on Twitter. Ryan MacEachern/Penguin
Ryan MacEachern/Penguin

Jo March, Little Women

Jo March is intelligent, stubborn and has a hot temper; Twitter was made for her. When she’s not penning novels, righteous op-eds for The Cut and The Atlantic or short stories for the New Yorker, she’s attacking bigotry from her main account, @notyouraveragejo. And when she’s not doing that, she’s tweeting the ignorant, embarrassing things Amy has said from her secret account @shitmysistersays.

Moses Aloetta, The Lonely Londoners

After years of running both a Facebook and WhatsApp group to help new immigrants acclimatise to London, the man who once wondered if he could ever write a book that “everybody would buy” turns his story into just that. A community leader first, Aloetta’s influencer status – his best-seller earns him an inspired, global following on most social platforms – is hard-earned. His friend The Captain, aka Cap, is an influencer too, but for different reasons; mostly Snapchat thirst traps.

Don Quixote, Don Quixote

Seeking a video service on which to vlog about his magnificent, knightly adventures, the deluded adventurer comes across a platform that promises its creators can “make money and interact with your fans” – it sounds perfect. Quixote signs up to OnlyFans under the handle @behindtheknightsarmour; he and his followers are gravely disappointed.

Amma from Girl, Woman, Other giving a TED Talk. Ryan MacEachern/Penguin
Ryan MacEachern/Penguin

Amma and Dominique would have “given people hell on Twitter if it was around when we were young”, but despite the roaring success of her play, The Last Amazon of Dahomey, and her progressive politics, @thesbian_amma never quite gets the hang of social media – until she gives her first TED Talk. Amma’s presentation on ‘The radical potential of theatre in the Digital Age’ is so compelling that even Morgan Malenga retweets the video, and it goes viral. She’s never seen Yazz so jealous.

Holden Caulfield, The Catcher in the Rye

Sick of the “phonies” on social media, Holden Caulfield swears off socials for good as a young man, and finds peace in collecting exotic birds – until his 50s, when a longstanding rivalry with another “lousy” aviary becomes more heated than ever. The feud becomes the subject of a Tiger King-esque documentary that captures the imagination of the internet and – ironically – sets social media ablaze.

Captain Ahab, Moby Dick

Captain Ahab’s LinkedIn page hasn’t gotten him much whaling work, but his profile picture – which depicts the bearded captain at the helm of an old-timey ship – has gone viral twice: the first time, it was alongside a photo of The Simpsons’ Sea Captain; then he became the meme ‘Oceanfaring Orville’, used whenever anyone did something anachronistic (“me driving my dad’s car, lol” / “mfw answering a land line”) and voted ‘best meme of 2014’ by Buzzfeed. Ahab still has no clue why people in the street keep calling him Orville.

Dorian Gray as a TikTok influencer. Ryan MacEachern/Penguin
Ryan MacEachern/Penguin

After years of providing a young and beautiful muse to Instagram photographer Basil Hallward, Dorian Gray moves to TikTok. There, he finds an incredible platform and vast following for his makeup tutorials, where his fabulous winged eyeliner tips and tricks are matched only by his witty banter. Unfortunately, it ends tragically – his selfishness and vanity get the better of him, and when it’s revealed that he stole his content from a virtual unknown, Dorian is cancelled. Within a week, the @foreveryoungandbeautiful profile is emptied of its videos; all that remains is Dorian’s gorgeous profile picture.

Humbert Humbert, Lolita

Banned from social media and the internet ages ago.


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