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Friday, August 17, 2012

AUSTEN'S BAD BOYS: an interview-based discussion

I've always liked asking a bunch of authors the same set of questions when I have an event like this because I think it's fascinating to see how their answers match up - or don't. This year I thought I would just embrace that, so instead of doing individual interviews with each author, I sent them all the same set of questions, and those who were game sent me their answers. I'm going to use their answers in an interview-based discussion post, and I hope that you'll chime in with your own thoughts, and keep the discussion going!
Today we're taking on: AUSTEN'S BAD BOYS.

I asked:
If Wickham, Willoughby, Crawford and Thorpe (or another character of your choosing) were to compete for “Biggest Rake” who would win and how would it go down?
Answers from:
Juliet Archer in red
Alyssa Goodnight in orange
Jenni James in green 
Susan Kaye in light blue
Laurie Viera Rigler in dark blue
Talia Vance in purple
and ME in pink 
Prepare yourselves for a very...colorful conversation. ;P
*Please note, I've taken some minor liberties for the sake of flow... 

Jenni: Oh goodness, this is a good question! 
Alyssa: Naturally, a competition of that sort would need to occur at a country house party, in which all of the Rake Contenders were in attendance, along with a carefully curated selection of impressionable young ladies—one for each—preferably the beastly sort that imagine they are far superior. The ladies will be released into the gardens, much like a pack of hounds, and soon afterwards, the gentlemen, or more correctly, the rakes. The winner of the title, “Biggest Rake” will be the first to maneuver one of the young ladies into a compromising position that subsequently leads to a settlement: marriage, monetary, or otherwise...  
Me: Shall we start with Thorpe?
Jenni: Thorpe was just a braggart and a troublemaker, I don’t think he fully qualifies as a rake...
Laurie: Thorpe? The only rake that big lox could ever resemble is the kind that gathers dead leaves.
Susan: Thorpe is just a goof and an intelligent young woman should watch and learn the signs. 
Me: I don't think you can completely discount Thorpe, though. He's got that crazed recklessness, like if you dare doubt him, if you question his rakishness, he's going to have to prove you wrong. Like, snatch you up and ride off in a rickety carriage, prove...
But okay, so no Thorpe. What about Henry Crawford? I think he gets painted as a rake; Jane is pretty hard on him, I'm not going to lie - and sometimes he can't seem to stop himself, so there's that. But I always saw potential in him for something more. Erm, maybe I just have a bad boy complex? 
Susan: Crawford is really dangerous in that he can be sincere, but that sincerity is based on his feelings and the circumstance, however he too is weak in character, and has no staying power. IMO, Crawford has the potential to do the deepest damage to a smaller number of women over time.
Alyssa:  My money is on Henry Crawford.
Juliet: As we have only limited knowledge of how many notches are on the respective bedposts of the various contenders, I’ve interpreted ‘biggest’ here as ‘most dangerous’. And the title goes to Henry Crawford, for several reasons.
First, he is – by a very long shot – the most charismatic male character in Mansfield Park; and, accordingly, we witness the devastating effect he has on the women, even demure little Fanny. Second, unlike his nearest rivals Wickham and Willoughby, we see that he has a devoted sister, Mary – and, despite her flaws, we feel that a man capable of inspiring such affection can’t be all bad. And finally, he comes closer to redemption than any of the other rakes, through his unmistakable love for Fanny.
How would Henry’s title go down? Surprisingly well, I imagine, despite his behaviour throughout the novel! We know that he appealed to Jane’s favourite family members: her brother Henry, who was flattered that he shared the same name, and her sister Cassandra, who wanted Fanny to marry him. But then, that’s the power of the reformed (or almost reformed) rake – in fiction, at any rate.
Me: Okay, so that's 2 for Henry Crawford all the way - 
Laurie: Crawford takes his own supposed reform too seriously to have a real chance at the title. He's just too weak to stay on the wagon. 
Jenni: Crawford is pretty much a rake--bad boy turned good, turned bad again--but he seems to have more of a problem with the chase, always trying to guarantee he gets all the girls to like him--or whoever is the biggest challenge at the time... 
Me: Hmm. Then what about everyone's favorite whipping-boy, Wickham? I mean, most people can't help but sneer when they say it, half anger/half gasp: Wwwickhammm!
Talia: Wickham, hands down- Running off with a young, impressionable woman and bedding her is the ultimate in rakedom. But we love him anyway. At least I do.
Susan: Wickham is conscienceless and leaves destruction wherever he goes. He’ll rack up high numbers of women destroyed or nearly so, but it will, for the most part, be of short duration for each. 
Jenni: I would have to go for Wickham. Not only did he take advantage of a flirtatious, stupid girl, he went into hiding and then was forced to marry her.
“He was declared to be in debt to every tradesman in the place, and his intrigues all honoured with the title of seduction, had been extended into every tradesman’s family. Everybody declared he was the wickedest young man in the world... Elizabeth, though she did not credit above half of what was said, believed enough to make her former assurance of her sister’s ruin still more certain.” Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 48 
Me: Ooh, Jenni's pulling out the quotes to back it up, guys!
Laurie: Wickham's too much of a whiner/victim to win the competition. Willoughby, however, is the real deal. Anyone who could knock up the under-age ward of his neighbor, steal the heart of said neighbor's major crush, jilt said crush and nearly drive her into an early grave, and still melt the heart of the jilted girl's sister just because he was so, so sorry for what he'd done (boo hoo, I'm playing the smallest violin in the world)—and all without breaking a sweat--could talk his way into unlacing just about any corset in Austenworld.
Jenni: I believe Willoughby truly loved Marianne, though his greed and pride got in the way of that love...
Susan: Willoughby has a conscience but is weak and follows the path of least resistance leading to his personal desires. Besides, he got his penance by making Miss Grey, Mrs Willoughby. 
Me: Good points, all. I really don't know which would win for me. Part of me wants to say Thorpe, just because the rest have redeeming qualities to me, where he has none. But he is sort of throwaway, and as a few of you have pointed out, the real danger is the rake who makes you want to love them - who's good at being a rake - and the other 3 certainly have that down to a science...
I'm torn - what say you? Leave your thoughts on the biggest rake in the comments, whether it's one of these 4 or someone else - say the elder Mr Ferrars, who stole his brother's mothereffing fiance... I'm eager to hear who you guys think would win the title of Biggest Rake!!

Many thanks to Juliet Archer  Alyssa Goodnight  Jenni James  Susan Kaye  Laurie Viera Rigler  and Talia Vance!!
Click here to be taken to the Austen in August Main Page! Fab button artwork c/o Antique Fashionista!


  1. Henry Crawford is sincere in his love for each of the women he pursues, but his interest in her is inversely proportional to her interest in him. He likes Fanny because she won't have him. He likes the thrill of the chase. Had Fanny accepted him, he would have quickly gotten bored.

    Wickham is a villain, but Willoughby wins the title for biggest rake. He seduces a young girl and then abandons her. At least Wickham stays with Lydia and Wickham seems like the type to for the most part go for women that can handle him while Willoughby preys on the defenseless. So Willoughby wins hands down.

    However, to little is ever said about Frank Churchill. What kind of jerk gets engaged to a girl then flirts shamelessly with another girl all the while dragging his secret fiance's reputation through the mud? Not okay!

  2. I'd say that Willoughby is the biggest rake; although Wickham is pretty bad.

    Robert Ferrars is a real genius! I can't focus on how bad it was on his part to steal his own brother's fiance, when he so conveniently released Edward from evil Lucy's clutches.

  3. Haha, yes, Ale - I can't help but like him for being so convenient...but still! Kind of a dick move, yeah? ;P

    And Tessa, I ABSOLUTELY agree about Frank Churchill! He's definitely a bit of a jerk, and you can't help but sneer on subsequent readings of Emma, knowing what you know...

  4. Love this discussion! I agree, Tessa, Frank Churchill definitely deserves a shot at the title. He's a total tool. Wonder how long that marriage lasts.

    Also agree about Henry Crawford. Classic wants-what-he-can't-have-and-gets-bored-when-he-gets-it. Fanny made a lucky escape.

    As for Wickham, Lydia (indirectly) bought and paid for him. Whoever wrote the biggest check would have got him. Austen really does know how to write a rake! Or a loser wannabe rake.

  5. Excellent discussion post everyone! I thoroughly enjoyed it. If anyone has ever seen the movie Lost in Austen, there is a nice twist to Wickham that I find very intriguing!!!

  6. Oh, I fully intend to talk about LIA's Wickham (and some other character shake-ups) at some point. I sort of wanted her to end up with him - that Wickham was awesome!

  7. Wickham and Willoughby genuinely fit the bill but what about Col. Tilney. He's a creep. You know he's got notches in every place he's encamped. He doesn't seem very redeeming.

  8. Wonderful discussion. I'm just jealous that I never thought to compare Thorpe to a pickled fish! Way to go Laurie Viera Rigler!

  9. Hey guys just got back for vacation and am finally able to use my computer. I so need to chime in on this one. Wickham by far is the biggest rake because if you take all of his faults which, are great indeed you will find him in want of a good character. I don't think anyone can find one good thing about the man other than his looks.

  10. I put my vote in for Crawford! He's the most interesting character in Mansfield Park. Hurrah! Even though he's clearly an ass, I still root for him because the book would be so much more interesting if Fanny threw off caution and went for it. Plus, that actor is gorgeous in a rakish way.

    On a mostly unrelated note, the guys they cast as Willoughby and Wickham in the latest installments are ridiculous looking. I like the old school versions.

  11. I'm for Willoughby, and I think Laurie summed up my feelings about him very well. As for Mr. Robert Ferrars, I think Lucy was in the driving wheel of that escapade. His biggest fault is being inane enough to think it all a very good joke on his brother. However, what do you think of Edward Ferrars? We let him off the hook pretty easily for engaging another lady's feelings while obliged to another.

  12. I'm still in the camp that think Henry Crawford would have been reformed if he stayed with Fanny. So Willoughby it is for me; I think he is the most self interested and I'm sure he ran around being all debauched after his wedding to Miss Grey while constantly throwing himself a pity party. But it we look at all characters, I agree that Frederick Tilney is probably the biggest rake of Austen!

    1. Wow, sorry for the typos. I've really got to stop responding using my phone ;)

  13. I think Wickham. He is unconscionable. He wouldn't have married Lydia if he hadn't been forced to. He tried to elope with Georgiana for her money & I am sure he would've left her somewhere once he had it. I am positive he seduced many others with his charm & good looks.

  14. I don't know! Austen wrote such good rakes. Each of them has a speck of goodness. I really can't choose!


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