Survival of the Fittest Characters

From The Washington Post:

Bovary MADAME BOVARY’S OVARIES: A Darwinian Look at Literature: Human nature, evolved over millions of years and present in our genes, expresses itself not only in bedrooms, boardrooms and battlefields but in creative human pursuits, including literature. This, anyway, is the premise of an amusing, if over-ambitious, book by psychologist/zoologist David P. Barash and his college-student daughter, Nanelle. The Barashes line up exemplary works of fiction from Homer to Saul Bellow alongside the major claims of evolutionary psychology. The prehistoric origins of human conduct and desires, so the idea goes, should be able to tell us something about the conduct and values of characters in fiction. Among the authors’ best insights is their description of Jane Austen’s fiction in terms of sexual selection theory. Darwinian evolution depends on natural selection: Unfit individuals die off in a hostile environment, while the survivors pass their fitness on to descendants. But for Darwin, there is also a second, parallel and quite distinct process that drives evolution: sexual selection.

More here.