Dirty Secrets from Classic Literature

March 15th is True Confessions Day.  It is possible that the history of this day begins with the Roman Catholic Church where people would confess their sins and ask for forgiveness. True Confessions Day is currently an opportunity for people to confess their deepest secrets and share their private thoughts without being afraid of judgment.  Many of our classic novel characters had deep secrets of decisions that they made, and deeds that they committed.  They choose not to reveal their secrets due to fear of the repercussions. The repercussions were greater for them for not revealing their secrets sooner.  I have taken the liberty to imagine what these characters would have liked to confess but feared repercussions.  Take this quiz to match the confessions with the characters & novels in which they committed their regretful deeds and made unwise decisions. I will list the answers to the quiz at the end of this article.

  1. I have broken my cousin’s pickle dish which was a wedding present to her and her husband. My cousin terrifies me anyway because I believe that she views me as a potential homewrecker. Why make my situation more uncomfortable than it already is?
  2. I hopelessly worship a lady who is from a family of old money. I am currently rich as King Midas, but my origins are humble.  I have obtained my wealth by illegal means, and I do not want this already unattainable woman to know these secrets about me.  I must be worthy of her affections and esteem.
  3. I have a certain parishioner of my church who is being metaphorically roasted by my other parishioners for her illicit affair. You must wonder why I am allowing this behavior which is not their place.  What they do not know is that I am her partner in crime.  I am sorry for what she is experiencing at the hands of these merciless women, but I lack the courage to share her blame.
  4. I am fortunately engaged to an upstanding lady of my social class. I was once not only married to a woman beneath my social class, but this woman was also my living daughter’s mother.  My wife is now dead, and somebody else is raising my daughter.  Why tell my fiancé of my previous marriage and living child?  What she never knows will not hurt her.
  5. I also am engaged to an upstanding lady of my social class. I have been blissfully happy with my engagement, but now I have met my fiance’s cousin. I am not proud of what I have been feeling but I am certain that this infatuation will pass once I am married.  I will subtly persuade my fiancé and her family to move forward the wedding date. 

A. Godfrey Cass in Silas Marner by George Elliot

B. Newland Archer in The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

C. Jay Gatsby in The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

D. Mattie Silver in Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton

E. Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale in The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Silas Marner

The Age of Innocence

The Great Gatsby

Ethan Frome

Scarlet Letter


  1. D
  2. C
  3. E
  4. A
  5. B