Sabina’s devil-may-care attitude stems from her twin passions for art and sex. As the female counterpart to the novel’s Tomas (and the foil to his wife Tereza), Sabina embodies the qualities of free-spirited lightness on which the title is based. If anyone asks, just say that you enjoy humiliation and loathe kitsch.
What you’ll need: bowler hat; men’s dress shirt; visible lingerie; a blank painter’s canvas (optional)
Raskolnikov, Crime and Punishment
Already a half-mad university drop-out when Crime and Punishment opens, Raskolnikov is troubled by outlandish philosophies of “ordinary” versus “extraordinary” people and a destitute financial state. His murderous crime and subsequent psychological unraveling are best left to the page, but dirty laundry and blood stains should set the tone just right.
What you’ll need: torn pants; tattered shirt; fake blood; axe (if you don’t have one lying around, try folding tin foil to the end of a wooden ladle)
Lady Brett Ashley, The Sun Also Rises
Although Hemingway isn’t known for creating realistic or flattering depictions of women, his headstrong heroine Lady Brett Ashley in The Sun Also Rises remains an enduring exception. Flirty yet formidable, she manages to be one of the boys while remaining unmistakably feminine.
What you’ll need: slipover jersey sweater; tweed skirt; short hair
Atticus Finch, To Kill a Mockingbird
A tireless crusader for good, Atticus Finch is everything lawyers should be — but really aren’t. And despite the sweltering heat of the book’s racially divided Southern setting, Atticus ensures that his benevolent interior is reflected through equally proper attire.
What you’ll need: three-piece suit; round-frame glasses
Hester Prynne, The Scarlet Letter
American literature’s most iconic fallen woman, Hester Prynne is shamefully banished to the outskirts of her puritanical New England village after she gets pregnant out of wedlock. She gets branded with an outward reminder of her sin, but remains mum on the name of her baby daddy, left instead to a life of social isolation — or at least until Hollywood spruced her up.
What you’ll need: long-sleeved dress; red cutout of the letter “A”; white scarf (to be used as a makeshift bonnet)