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Sunday, August 24, 2014

Unhappily Ever After? : a Janeite Conversation

We sometimes like to look at the worlds Austen created with pretty rose-colored glasses, but Jane gave us plenty of examples of matches that didn't turn out for the happiness of anyone involved. So today we're taking a long, hard look at how our favorite (and least favorite) couples are likely to fare.

I asked...
We Janeites tend to get a pretty good feel for what (we think) a character is really like, and we sometimes like to debate just how various pairings are going to turn out. Will Lizzie & Darcy be happy in the long run? Did Marianne settle for Col. Brandon, and did Edmund settle for Fanny? Whose relationships do you worry about? Who's living UNhappily ever after?
CECILIA: Northanger Abbey's Catherine Morland and Henry Tilney are destined for marital strife. Henry's good traits aside, he's condescending (sorry, Henry fans!).
MISTY: I take it back, Cecilia. You're not the best after all. *glares daggers*
CECILIA: *shrugs* While he may love Catherine, he doesn't respect her as his equal. When she matures enough to realize it, she's gonna be outta there.
MISTY: I don't think that's true at all! I think there is part of him that does think she's naive and a bit silly (and let's face it, she is), but I think he's mostly charmed by that. And we know he delights in being facetious — Eleanor Tilney tells us that. Some of his condescension may be real (I mean, with that father!), but I think mostly, he just likes to mess with people. Now, anyone care to weigh in with some sense? *clamps hand over Ceci's mouth*
ALEXA : Catherine will get older, wiser, and eventually Henry will have to fall off that pedestal she's placed him on.
MISTY: You know, you can all just hush . . . Well, okay, that's a little true, but only a little. I think Catherine will always look up to him a but, and he will always enjoy that.
ANNA: I’m sure that Darcy and Lizzie live happily ever after —
MISTY: That's more like it.
ALEXA : Lizzy and Darcy, as so many have explored, will be subject to all the usual challenges of two strong personalities trying to blend, but at least they will never be bored, as Fanny and Edmund are sure to be. That's definitely Austen's dullest pairing.
ANNA: They are some of the few fictional lovebirds who are so “happily matched.” Same with Bingley and Jane, and all the other honest and good characters from her novels.
MARIA: I think Darcy and Lizzie are stubborn enough to make it work out happily for them both, though I’m sure there will be some challenging times for them.
ANNA: Poor Lydia and Wickham, on the other hand, will probably split up when the money runs out, but Lydia will never admit she made a mistake.
MARIA: *nods* I’m pretty sure Lydia and Wickham are headed for trouble, but that isn’t hard to spot.
JOY: I'd heard the arguments for Lizzie & Darcy perhaps being an awkward match once everything settled, but I think they'll persevere. (Lydia and Wickham on the other hand...)
MISTY: Anyone else think it's likely that they'll both find happiness . . . in someone else's arms?
*nods and shrugs all around*
JOY:  I'm actually a huge fan of Marianne and Colonel Brandon, so I do believe Austen when she says Marianne eventually fell a much in love with him as she had with Willoughby.
ANNA: Marianne and Colonel Brandon will find a deep, sustaining love, as will Elinor and Edward.
ALEXA : All the couples face challenges. Elinor and Edward will have financial concerns, especially when they have the dozen children that I always imagine coming to them.
MISTY: That sounds like a pretty likely outcome, actually.
ALEXA : Emma and Knightley will continue to argue, and Captain Wentworth isn't nearly Anne's equal.
MISTY: *prepares to duck in case the Wentworthophiles start throwing things*
MARIA: I think Anne and Wentworth have the makings of a strong match, with maturity and the test of time under their belts.
MISTY: *looks around* All clear?
JOY: I guess I would question Edmund and Fanny. I strangely wanted Fanny with Henry even though he didn't deserve her (and Austen claims she would have eventually been happy with him if he'd been patient); something about the "popular" outgoing man falling for the quiet woman who wouldn't have him was more interesting than Fanny in love with a man who was practically her brother. But I don't think Fanny and Edmund will be unhappy, just non-passionate. I guess to make a long answer short, I can't picture any of the main couples unhappy!
MARIA: I actually think Charlotte will do all right with Collins because she never expected very much in the first place, so it will be difficult to disappoint. I worry about Jane and Bingley, both being too mild to actual handle the tough times. Louisa Musgrove and Cpt. Bennick worry me—I wonder if they had enough in common to make a happy match in the long run. And don’t get me started on the Eltons from Emma!
MISTY: They may not find happiness in each other, but I don't know that they could find happiness in anyone. They're just such graspers, and so full of it...
ANNA: Whomever Willoughby married will make his life difficult, as he married without love and is aware of what he gave up.
MISTY: Also, they hold the purse strings. I mean, not that a woman really could, but whoever he marries will likely run him. Also, I think he really is a romantic at heart, and he's probably going to make himself miserable.
ANNA: Marianne and Bingley would have been a great couple! Her romantic expression and his eagerness to please would have satisfied even her romantic soul. Elinor and Lizzie could switch husbands. Elinor and Darcy would make a great couple, although I wonder if Lizzie would be satisfied with how Edward Ferrars cut things off with Lucy.
MISTY: ...Have you lost your mind, Anna? Cecilia slip something in your tea? What is all this husband-switching talk? I would not inflic Marianne on Bingley for the world, and I could not see Lizzie or Darcy being happy with the Ferrars'...
ANNA: Emma must have her Mr. Knightley, however. She needs a strong hand and he is so enamored of her. Her youth will keep him young.
MISTY: Now that's something we can agree on! As for the rest . . . well, some may crash and burn and some may be happier than we could imagine, and I guess we'll never really know. Which, if you think about it, is really how we all ended up here.
ALEXA : This may all sound kind of dire, but I wouldn't have it any other way. In my head, I play mediator to all their squabbles, reconciliations, struggles, and triumphs. They're all dear friends.

Special thanks to the authors:
Alexa Adams, author of the Tale of Less Pride and Prejudice series
Maria Grace, author of the Given Good Principles series and Remember the Past
Cecilia Gray, author of the Jane Austen Academy series
Joy Penny, author of A Love for the Pages
Anna Small, author of How to Marry a Rogue, In the Arms of an Earl and Back in His Arms Again

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  1. Oh man, definitely the most contentious chatzy we've had!!! Haha. We should do an official debate one of these days!

  2. The Unhappily Ever Afters have taken up some time in my head too. I still see some big blow-ups in Darcy and Lizzy's future as they settle down and I think Emma will get a few more 'badly dones'. I think Lydia will cling to Wickham even when the money runs out and force him to flee out of the country to get away from her. I always wondered how Fanny would fare with Crawford and crossed my fingers for a few of the other couples. Eltons? That will be an ongoing pain for everyone else. I wonder about Jane Fairfax and Frank Churchill as I never understood that one.

    Funny discussion everyone!

    1. "I wonder about Jane Fairfax and Frank Churchill as I never understood that one."
      Yeah, you're not alone in that. Also, Caroline Bingley.

  3. Wait a minute- why is it okay that Mr Knightley is sometimes condescending to Emma, but *not* okay that Henry Tilney is sometimes condescending to Catherine Morland?!

    1. For me, the former never bothered me while the latter did, I think because I believe Emma and Mr. Knightley are closer to equals in intellect, experience and social status. While Mr. Knightley is sometimes condescending to Emma, she gives as good as she gets to him in return. I see Henry and Catherine's relationship as much more unmatched and to that degree, I've been more affected by his treatment of her. (Don't get me wrong, I love me some Henry, but ya know, for ME, not Catherine...) ;)

    2. So Henry's is more paternalistic, while Knightley's is more brotherly? It makes sense, though Catherine lacks Emma's confidence, they are both royal idiots sometimes. :)


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