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Classic Novel Nerd's Guide to the Perfect Halloween Costume: 2020

By Julianna Reidell:

The Classic Novel Nerd’s Guide to the Perfect 2020 Halloween Costume

Written by The Milking Cat Hawaii, Where Halloween Hasn’t Happened Yet (and totally not The Milking Cat Pennsylvania, where someone is two days behind schedule)

Welcome, Classic Novel Nerd - yes, I’m talking to you. You know who you are. The one who dressed as Edgar Allan Poe in 5th grade to impress your English teacher and, when people started singing Phantom of the Opera songs in response to your Phantom costume in 6th grade, replied, “I’m really basing it more off the book… you know, the one by Gaston Leroux? You mean you haven't heard of Gaston Leroux? Dear dear, what is the world coming to?”

Well, you stuck-up, sniveling little nerdball, you’re in luck. Just when you were starting to get worried that there’d be no way to show off your Classic Novel Knowledge this Halloween, here I am - the deus ex machina of your life’s latest crisis (get it? If you didn’t… are you sure you’re a Classic Novel Nerd? Why are you even reading this?). These five costumes will give you the most coronavirus safety possible while also giving you the ultimate CNC - Classic Novel Cred.

  1. Lady Macbeth - Macbeth, William Shakespeare

Not only is this costume guaranteed to impress your 7th-through-12th grade English teacher (oh, you know you’re still trick-or-treating, seniors), it gives you a great excuse to constantly wash the blood - excuse me, germs - off your hands! “No, I’m not concerned that trick-or-treating will give me a case of the deadliest disease seen this century, I’m just getting into character! Um, out, damned spot!” Especially easy to assemble - throw on a white nightgown and make your craziest-looking face - this costume can also be made into a “sexy” version by throwing on a tight white nightgown. Because hey, nothing says “sexy” like conspiring to murder old men!

2. Miss Havisham - Great Expectations, Charles Dickens

Also pretty likely to impress your school’s English department (are you getting the sense I’ve done this before?), rock your Halloween look with Dickens’s most famous jilted bride! Doing a slight variation on the “crazy lady in white” look, this costume will require a mouldering wedding dress - and I’m sure your mom won’t mind if you dip hers in some tea to age it up a bit. Hey, it’s not like she and Dad have been getting along anyway, huh? Accessories for the costume include an out-of-control fireplace (in a pinch, just bring along a lighter), one shoe, and a vengeance towards all men. Hey, ladies, can’t we all relate to that? Best of all, to stay perfectly in character, you won’t even be leaving your house at all - just sitting and brooding on how to best ruin the lives of innocent boys for revenge on masculinity as a whole. Now, that, as my petrified token straight white cisgendered male friend can attest, is something I can get behind.

3. Gregor Samsa - The Metamorphosis, Franz Kafka

While finding a giant cockroach costume might be tough in a pinch, this costume comes with the perk of being guaranteed to actually cause a reaction in anybody besides your English teacher! Because nothing will give you the smug high you need by saying to the “nice bug costume, dude” guy: “I’m actually Gregor Samsa, Kafka’s most recognized character. You know, from the book about - to quote Sparknotes - absurdity, the separation of mind and body, and the limits of sympathy? That book?” For the cosplay fan, if you’re looking for a way to really embody the cockroach, be sure to scour your basement for a live specimen you can trap in a jar and observe. Because nothing says “high-minded intellectual” like pondering a roach for half an hour.

4. Fortunato - The Cask of Amontillado, Edgar Allan Poe

This costume includes striped tights, a jester’s hat, and an air of naivete bordering on idiocy - a great thing to suggest to the jock next door who doesn’t know what to go as yet. “Oh, Travis/Liam/Hunter,” you can say, “How about this cool dude who drinks a lot of booze? Hey, did you know I have some great stuff in my wine cellar that’s bound to get you absolutely sloshed? Wanna come see it? No, I’m just bringing this chain for, um, personal reasons. Not planning to wall you up in my family crypt at all, buddy.” If you, like arch-villain narrator Montesor, find yourself a little less than thrilled with the results of your foul deed, just remind yourself that now, nobody will have to do contact tracing when Travis/Liam/Hunter gets COVID from those eighty billion parties he’s been attending - and there’s no chance of him causing a super-spreader event like the one at, say, the White House. The story also takes place during carnival season, so wearing a mask is not only a good idea but totally a must.

5. Boo Radley - To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee

To get really into this costume, you won’t even have to dress up - just make your house look as spooky as possible and stay inside! If you do feel like venturing out - say, to rescue little girls from murderous racists - be sure to slap on some sunscreen for maximum pale effect and carry the biggest knife you can find! You might even get away with murder! A bloody pair of scissors and a few dead squirrels sticking from your mouth will complete the look nicely - and distract you from corona by instead giving you rabies.


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