Jane Austen’s heroes and villains are the same in almost all her novels. The villains are charming, handsome, and what seems to be the perfect man. The heroes almost always are not as handsome, charming, etc. as the villains.
Pride and Prejudice
The Villain: Wickham is handsome, cheerful, always ready to talk, and very charming. It’s small wonder that Elizabeth almost fell for him. But he has a rotten side to him as his elopement with Lydia and his near-elopement with Georgiana shows.
The Hero: Mr. Darcy is proud, taciturn, and has an irritating habit of meddling with his friend’s love life. He snubs Elizabeth and if Wickham’s account is true, treated him very badly. However, Elizabeth’s response to his first proposal causes him to truly examine himself and Jane Austen shows how much he has changed when he does everything in his power to find Wickham and Lydia and have them safely married.
Sense and Sensibility
The Villain: John Willoughby is everything Marianne ever dreamed of. Handsome, witty, and romantic. But he lets Marianne think he will still marry her while he courts Miss King. She almost dies because of his treachery.
The Hero: Colonel Brandon is a true gentleman. He is kind and caring. He is not like fickle Willoughby – he stayed true to Marianne even when she was in love with the man who had dealt so badly with his ward, Eliza. Colonel Brandon is, however, several years older than Marianne and in the beginning of the book she views him as old and infirm. But he proves an invaluable friend during the time of Marianne’s illness and she comes to love him and he loves her.
Note: I do not believe that Marianne grew bored or unhappy with being Colonel Brandon’s wife and longed for Willoughby to come and rescue her, as some spin-offs of Sense and Sensibility portray it. In S and S, Marianne clearly recognizes the danger that she was in when she was so friendly with Willoughby and ‘renounces’ him.
The Villain: Henry Crawford is charming, kind, and attentive. He is devoted to Fanny. But she sees through him and remembers his treatment of her cousins, Julia and Maria. Even when he is kind to her and her uncle pressures her, she still holds fast to her refusal of his proposal. Her instincts prove right when he scandalously elopes with the now married Maria.
The Hero: Edmund Bertram is quiet and unassuming but honest and capable of deep feeling. His earnest desire is to go into the church which he does. He is infatuated with Mary Crawford from the first, but Fanny still maintains her love for him. After Mary shows her true (unsavory) colors, Edmund turns back to the one woman who always gladdened his heart – Fanny.
The Villain: I wouldn’t exactly classify Frank Churchill as a villain. He’s just a man of weak character. But I didn’t like the way he treated Jane Fairfax. He was very villainous there. He led Emma into doing some awful things (dreadful gossip about Jane Fairfax, insulting Miss Bates) and for that I cannot forgive him.
The Hero: Mr. Knightly is one of the best heroes Jane Austen created. Generous, kind, and so much more. But he’s sixteen years older than Emma which made her take so long to find out she loved him. Mr. Knightly is probably my favorite Austen hero (especially when he’s played by Johnny Lee Miller :))
The Villain: I never really paid much attention to Mr. Elliot but I do know that the only reason he came to see Anne and her sister and father was to see if Sir Elliot was going to marry again. I can’t really say I think he’s much of a villain (correct me if I’m wrong).
The Hero: Although Capt. Wentworth isn’t my favorite Austen hero, he does have many good points. He’s kind and caring and he still loves Anne, although he tries to deny it. And he does write a wonderful, love letter. 🙂
The Villain: Although he doesn’t elope with anyone, or anything like that, John Thorpe is still (to me) a villain. He tries to propose to Catherine, he swears a lot, and he’s really irritating (like his sister). And in the 2007 NA, he’s very creepy.
The Hero: Now we get to everyone’s favorite Austen clergyman – Henry Tilney! As I read in a Jane Austen book yesterday NA is the only Jane Austen novel where the heroine is in danger of being eclipsed by the hero. Henry Tilney is charming, witty, and well…just perfect in every way.
I hope that you enjoyed this post. Please tell me your favorites and least favorites of the villains and heroes.