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Thursday, June 3, 2010

Character Connection: Jane Austen's Heroines

"Then," observed Elizabeth, "you must comprehend a great deal in your idea of an accomplished woman."
"Yes, I do comprehend a great deal in it."
"Oh! certainly," cried his faithful assistant, "no one can really be esteemed accomplished who does not greatly surpass knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing, and the modern languages, to deserve the word; and besides all this, she must possess a certain something in her air and manner of walking, the tone of her voice, her address and expressions, or the word will be but half deserved."
All this she must possess," added Darcy, "and to all this she must yet add something more substantial, in the improvement of her mind by extensive reading."


For Character Connections during Jane in June, I have decided to pick through all of Jane's work and group my favorite characters according to 4 categories (1 for each week): Heroines, Heroes, "Villains" and Side Characters.
This week is Heroines.

Let's just start at the top, shall we?  Everybody loves Lizzie.  She should have her own TV show, it would knock Ray Romano out of the running.  Why?  She's...effervescent.  She bubbles.  She sparkles.  She's smart and witty and funny and strong -- and opinionated, of course.  But she has the good sense to be willing to be changeable. 
She grows, she forgives and she's more human for it.  But I think there's another reason she's so likeable -- through her, we get at the heart of who Jane Austen herself was, I think.  There is a great deal of similarity between what Lizzie says and thinks, and what Jane wrote in letters to people.  Lizzie, it seems, was a vehicle for Jane to truly get her voice out there and say the things she wanted -- and make everyone love her all the more for it.

But following closely behind Lizzie for me is Anne Elliot.  Anne is -- sad, I suppose, and lonely, only maybe in the beginning she doesn't realize to what extent.  Anne's the oldest of Jane's heroines, and passive in a way that's not as frustrating as is Fanny Price (sorry, Fanny lovers.  Defend her in the comments, please). 
Anne is the most internal and introspective of the characters, and this creates a great potential to connect to her, and a desire to champion her.  She's lovely, and her story is lovely, and watching her bloom and come into her own even at such a "late" age is lovely.

Third on my list is Catherine Morland.  There is a post coming up entitled "In Defense of Northanger Abbey," so I won't go into too much detail here, but can I just say, what is with all of the Catherine hate?  How can anyone not love this character or her book?  Sure, she's very young -- in age and maturity -- but this also makes her lively and fun.  She may not spout gems of wisdom, but through her, you can tell Austen was really having fun, and this makes it fun to read.  She's like the baby sister of the other heroines.

So those are my top three.  Now, before you get all up in arms, yes I love Emma and her naive busybody ways, and yes I love Elinor and Marianne and the way they complement each other perfectly.  And sometimes I even love Fanny, though more often I want to shake her.  I think Jane Bennet is pretty high on my list, too.  But these three are my standouts, the characters I connect to most.

How about you?

*Fun fact: Anne Elliot has her own myspace page


  1. Nope, not a fan of Fanny. Hee hee. I'd have chosen Mary Crawford over her myself. At least Mary is interesting. I would probably agree with you in terms of the top three, although it's been so long since I read S&S, I can't judge it or the characters fairly. Time for a JinJ re-read? Could be. I can't even remember if I own that one. I'm thinking no. Anyway, Catherine isn't the wisest of characters, but I feel like her heart's in the right place and she does learn from her mistakes.

  2. Oooo I want to read them all now so I can understand your references :)

  3. I love Lizzie! I think almost everyone does :) I love Elinor too (can you tell I am a big Sense and Sensibility fan)!

  4. Lizzie is my favourite but I like most of Austen's heroines except Fanny (jury's still out) and Emma (who annoys me intensely).


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