Home  |  Reviews  |  Vlogs  |  Interviews  |  Guest Posts  |  Fairy Tales  |  Jane Austen  |  Memes  |  Policies

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Character Connection: finding yourself in Austen | a conversation

On our very first giveaway of this year's AIA, I asked what type of Janeite each of you are. But what I think is maybe even more interesting is what type of character did you see in Austen - and in yourself - to make you a Janeite in the first place? So, like our chat on Reforming Austen's Rakes, I sat down with a gaggle of Janeites to chat about finding ourselves in Austen.

I asked:

MISTY: Alright, everyone. Welcome back! I've always said that one of the things that drew me into Austen's writing and made me a decided Janeite was that I found myself in Lizzie Bennet. And then later, I found another part of me reflected in Elinor Dashwood. But Lizzie dominates. I know that everyone thinks they're Lizzie (or likes to think they're Lizzie), as she is one of the most universally liked and engaging characters out there.
JESSICA: *nods* I so want to be all “I’m Lizzy! Me! Me! Pick me!” But I’m probably more like a weird, slightly schizophrenic mix of Anne and Emma.
MISTY: *laughs*
JESSICA: If I always did what I wanted, I’d be all sassy and bossy and tell everyone what’s best for them, but there’s still this Anne part of my personality that says “restrain yourself...be quiet and be patient, be in it for the long haul.” Which leads me to the conclusion that I am actually Kitty Bennet. And sadly/interestingly when I suggested this to a friend her response was “I was thinking you’re like Kitty.” What does that say about me?
MISTY: Oh, Kitty. People are so dismissive of her. But I've always thought she had a lot of potential, especially if you get her away from Lydia long enough. She's just young, and she lacks confidence to be herself. I have a feeling you don't have that problem, Jessica... *looks askance at Jessica's awesomely-blue hair*
JESSICA: Hopefully it just means I like to goof off and have fun but there’s hope for me yet?
MISTY: But what about the rest of you? Any other Lizzies? Anyone willing to admit to being Fanny? (Price, that is. If any of you admit to being Fanny Dashwood, you may show yourselves out...)
ALYSSA: *steps forward boldly* Yeah, I'm probably goody-goody Fanny Price (with her backbone of steel).
MISTY: Brave girl. Hopefully you didn't get saddled with an Edmund as a result... *ducks in case there are Edmund lovers in the crowd*
MONICA: Okay, okay, I admit it. I’m like Mary Elliot Musgrove.
MISTY: Perish the thought!
MONICA: Just kidding. Honestly, I don’t think I’m any one particular one. Perhaps I’m closest to Catherine Morland – too much imagination, freaks out about scary things, tends to add two and two and get seven plus a haunted castle.
MISTY: ... That is the single best description I've ever heard for Catherine.
MONICA: *chuckles* Like Catherine, I was a tomboy as a kid (though I didn’t play cricket), preferred climbing a tree to “watering a rose-bush,” was “noisy and wild, hated confinement and cleanliness, and loved nothing so well in the world as rolling down the green slope at the back of the house.” I wasn’t born to be a heroine, either. So yes, I can see the resemblance very clearly. In reality, though, I want to be like Lizzy, who always manages to find the right answer, who refuses to back down and be intimidated, and who always sees the funny side of things. Alas, much as I would like it, I can’t quite aspire to her level.
JUNE: (shamefaced) I'm Charlotte Lucas. I would be Lizzy’s best friend – not as pretty or talented, and not as popular. But I’m practical and hard-working, and while I may not marry a Darcy or live at Pemberley, I would be thrilled to have the Darcys as friends.
MISTY: That's okay, June! Us Lizzies need our Charlottes, and I think Charlotte's worth is always underestimated! She's a pretty awesome character, actually. Shame about the Collins thing, though... That may be a fate worse than Edmund.
DEBORAH: I identify very strongly with Elinor Dashwood, the cautious, sensible older sister with the – um – emotive younger sister. But in my dark nights of the soul, I fear I’ve got way too much Emma Woodhouse in me: domineering, interfering, always convinced I can run other people’s lives better than they can. (Which – let’s be honest – I kind of can, actually.)
CASSANDRA: I'm Elinor Dashwood, too. The most commonly used adjective to describe me throughout my life, even from childhood, was 'sensible' and common sense is second nature to me. It all sounds a bit boring, but I hope I have hidden depths, just as Elinor does!
MISTY: Elinor keeps it together; nothing wrong with being an Elinor! 
KARA: I am most definitely like Elinor Dashwood, too. She and I would get along splendidly, as I am not overly exciteable, emotional, and am fairly level headed. There is one area where we might differ, however. I believe I would have fallen for Colonel Brandon, instead of Edward Ferrars! (Sorry Marianne and Edward Ferrars fans!) Please don't throw tomatoes; he is just a disappointment to me, whereas Colonel Brandon is very noble.
MISTY: YES, on the Col. Brandon front! It would also take away some of the skeevy-factor that is Col. B wanting to marry Marianne. (She's so young! She's basically a surrogate for his lost love! His ward is roughly her age, etc., etc.!) Anyway, any other Elinors and/or Dashwoods? 
MARIA: I am definitely more like Anne Elliot and Elinor Dashwood than any other of her characters. I’m not sparkling and witty like Elizabeth Bennet by any means. I’m the one who manages stuff from behind the scenes while the drama tends to play out around me.
CAROL: Although my husband thinks I am more like Lady Catherine, till I’ve have my first cup of tea in the morning-
MISTY: Cruel man.
CAROL: ... I see something of Elizabeth Bennet in myself. Like her, I am guided by my ideals, but I am not so completely self assured as she and I don’t have her quick wit.
NANCY: I’d like to say Elizabeth Bennet, and that’s certainly who I get in most of the online quizzes. However, as I’ve been told by an outside source that I would crush Darcy’s soul, and since I like to use my persuasive abilities to bend people to my way of thinking, Emma might be slightly more accurate. Alas, I am lacking a wealthy father and a protective older friend.
MISTY: One can dream, eh?
ALEXA: I'm Emma Woodhouse, too. The character resemblance is uncanny (too bad I don't look like Gwyneth Paltrow!). It's kind of hard to read Emma at times, watching as she once more makes the same mistakes I have been guilty of myself. On the flip side, like her I have no difficulty confronting my faults and trying to learn from them, and reviewing them in novel form is a very easy penance to undertake.
MISTY: Emma's always ready to grow and shake it off! She's very resilient, that's a great trait, Alexa! How 'bout you, Sally? You look pretty deep in thought over there...
SALLY: *nods* I decided to make the determination about which Austen character is most me via the back door. I will eliminate those characters with whom I share little or nothing and work my way forward. I am neither vain nor silly which excludes the three youngest Bennet sisters and most of the females in Persuasion among others. I am not shy or demure ruling out Fanny Price, Jane Bennet and Jane Fairfax. I am not mean or vindictive eliminating the Bingley sisters and Mrs. Elton. I am not amoral so I can exclude the Crawfords. I am far too opinionated and outspoken to be Anne Elliot or Catherine Morland. I am not playful and cheerful like Elizabeth Bennet. However, my often quiet and solemn demeanor is sometimes taken for arrogance, I control my emotions so have been called unfeeling, often people dislike me on first meeting. The truth is that I’m more like Mr. Darcy than any other Austen character.
MISTY: Ooh, interesting!
LAURIE: I see a little of myself in all of Austen's heroines, actually. I can be Emma Woodhouse, clueless know-it-all, and I've been Anne Elliot, suffering wallflower. I can be Catherine Morland, full of childlike wonder. I've been Marianne Dashwood, drama queen, and I've been Elinor Dashwood, self-control freak. I've seen myself in Fanny Price, high on her Girl Scout horse, and when I'm channeling my inner bad girl I've seen myself in Mary Crawford, that naughty minx. I've seen myself in Lizzie Bennet, that sassy snap-judger of character, and I've also been Lizzie Bennet, discoverer of humility. Lizzie has one of the best lines in all of Austen: "Till this moment, I never knew myself." (And don't we all want to know that we are Lizzie Bennet?) In truth, the genius of Austen is that she can get me to recognize myself in just about every character. Except for Mrs. Norris. Please tell me I've never been anything like Mrs. Norris. Or Fanny Dashwood. Or Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Though I wouldn't mind saying, with a straight face, "I am most seriously displeased."
MISTY: Yes, one of the great strengths of Austen's writing was how well she both observed human nature and then recorded it - we connect because we know these characters.  They're our neighbors, our friends, our enemies. Ourselves. One a side note, I sincerely wish you the opportunity to put on your Lady Catherine face one of these days...
So, what about the rest of you, out there? I may see more Lizzie in me than anyone else...and I may now be the proud owner of a copy of P&P with my name substituted for hers...(but more on that later), but what about you? Let us know in the comments!

Participants in this discussion:
Alexa Adams, author of the "A Tale of Less Pride and Prejudice" series
Carol Cromlin, author of Fitzwilliam Darcy such as I was
Monica Fairview, author of The Other Mr Darcy, The Darcy Cousins, et al.
Alyssa Goodnight, author of Austentatious, Austensibly Ordinary, et al.
Maria Grace, author of the Given Good Principles series
Cassandra Grafton, author of A Fair Prospect
Jessica Grey, author of Attempting Elizabeth
Nancy Kelley, author of the Brides of Pemberely series
Kara Louise, author of Only Mr Darcy Will Do, Pirates and Prejudice, et al.
Sally Smith O'Rourke, author of The Man Who Loved Jane Austen
Laurie Viera Rigler, author of Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict and Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict
June Williams, co-author of Headstrong Girls.
and Deborah Yaffe, author of Among the Janeites

Click the pic to be taken to the Austen in August Main Page! Thanks to faestock & inadesign for the images used to create this button.


  1. I love reading this style of post. Food for thought.

    Personally, I'm a blend and various Austen ladies poke out depending on the need, but on an average day in familiar territory I'm a Fanny Price or Anne Elliot.

    1. "I'm a blend and various Austen ladies poke out depending on the need..."
      I like that. That's a great way to put it. =D

  2. Of all the Austen girls, Anne Elliot is the first one I loved just for myself. Not for class, not for crying, but just to be at ease in my own skin with another character. I don't know that I'm the most like her, but I like how she grows *into* something good, instead of *out* of something unhealthy (like Emma's overblown sense of self or Elizabeth's reliance on first impressions). But I think I most closely identify with Elinor Dashwood, because of her immediate family relationships. All the other Austen girls have this "How did I get stuck with these people?" vibe that we can all identify with, but the Dashwoods know each other well. They know where they are well-matched, and where they are foils, and where they are separate.

    1. The Dashwoods (well, at least that branch of the Dashwoods...) really are an excellent family.
      And Anne's story of growth is one of the things I love so much about Persuasion. =)

  3. I'm a combo plate of Elinor Dashwood and Anne Elliot. I can see myself (from the Thompson adaptation) saying: "...I just don't want you to eat beef," as I rub my forehead and ponder the bitty bitty budget, and I see myself all Anne-like as I send the others off to dine with the captain. But, lest you think I'm oh so selfless, Ive met Aunt Norris and she is me in some situations with certain people in my life.

    I want to be Elizabeth Bennet, and while I can get off a good bon mot with some regularity, I'm just not that constant.

    1. Haha!
      And yeah, I want to talk about Mrs Norris some more, because part of the reason she makes me/readers uncomfortable is because you can see how easy it would be to be that person. We all have that pettiness in us, so in the right situation...

  4. When I first read Pride and Prejudice, aged about 14 or so I remember being blown away by how much I identified with Lizzy. I remember thinking that she was just like me, except a bit more outgoing and with a sexy, rich potential boyfriend. I can see bits of Elinor Dashwood and sometimes a bit of Emma, but the one I'm most like is Lizzy, I think.

    1. I see some Emma, too, so I'm with you on all 3 there. *fist bump*

  5. I wish I were Lizzie Bennet, but my wit is not quite as sparkling or timely, and I would have far less patience for Lydia than she does. I think I'm a mix between Emma, Catherine Moreland, and Elinor Dashwood. I have that hubris and stubbornness, my ability to leap to conclusions but also be a bit naive, and my excellent self-control and desire to please (and negotiate) my mother. I think, given that, I'd be a terrifically boring Austen heroine, unless I had a much more exciting friend or sister to drag me off to adventures and enable all of my bad tendencies. :)

    1. I don't know... these girls all seemed to make for pretty good heroines, so I can only imagine what would happen if you combined them like that... ;P

    2. D'aw....thanks! You're right...if we put all the heroines on a pirate ship, there would be some excellent and dashing adventures...

  6. You have P&P with your name instead of Lizzy's?!?!?! How cool is that!!!

    1. Yep! It was sent to me by a company that manufactures them; I'll be talking about it and the company later in AIA. =D

    2. you really need to tell us :D I think everyone would like a book like that!

  7. I grew up certain that I was the Italian, olive-skinned version of Elizabeth Bennet, but then as it happens I started knowing and understanding myself better, and realized I was actually the Italian, olive-skinned, FEMALE version of Darcy :D

    1. LOL skip the olive skinned and I think I'm the same. I can be sharp tongued like Lizzie. Like Elinor, I'm the sensible older sister and like Emma, I'm spoiled and make friends with people whose families are very different from mine.

  8. Maybe I'm a little bit like Anne. I don't know if I have much Lizzie in me, but right now I'm tired so it's hard to tell!


Tell me all your thoughts.
Let's be best friends.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...