Saturday, November 04, 2006

Fortune's Fool: A Jane Austen Game

When my friend was young, she and her classmates would trace their hands and tell each other’s fortunes based on the age they thought they would marry.

They would write that number in the traced palm. In each of the traced fingers they would write three possibilities starting with where they might honeymoon, how many kids they might have, would they be rich, middle class or poor (this was the only part of the fortune that was not at the girl’s whim).

Most importantly, which boy in class they might marry.

After all the possibilities were written out, the girl reading the fortune would start the process of elimination by counting through them up to the marrying age and scratching out the answer when that number was reached. This went on until one answer remained in each category.

At 12 years old, the ideal was that you’d be rich, marry Mark, have 3 children, drive a Mercedes and honeymoon in Paris. Clearly, this was not a very certain foretelling because you could figure out where to place the answers you wanted depending on the age you chose to marry and, Mark was going to come out on his sixteenth birthday regardless of your plans for him.

However, this game reminds me of a more serious childhood experiment that my friends would do to confirm that we were fancying the right person — indeed, the person we were meant to either love, hate, marry or simply befriend. The science of how this works is extremely complicated so I will not tax you with its mechanics now but I will tell you how to try it out for yourself. In fact, I am certain that even Jane Austen knew the formula.
  1. Write out your name and then the person you are wondering about.
  2. Cross out all the letters your names have in common.
  3. While ticking off the remaining letters follow the pattern “Love, Hate, Friendship, Marriage”, again, “Love, Hate, Friendship, Marriage” until the letters run out. Whatever is the fate on the last letter is your answer.
For example:


Apply the Love, Hate, Friendship, Marriage formula and it ends quite solidly in marriage, like Jane intended.

If you think this is hocus-pocus, pseudo-science, try it for Elinor Dashwood and Edward Ferrars or Anne Elliot and Frederick Wentworth. Marriage!
They all end happily with marriage. How does it work out for you?


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