Just before I start this post I want to point out that some of theses villainesses aren’t really villainous – just irritating and/or vulgar. BTW, you should check out my Jane Austen heroes and villains post.
Sense and Sensibility
The Villainess: Lucy Steele is a true villainess. She heard Edward speak of Elinor with commendation and then forced the news of her engagement on poor Elinor and then gloats over her. Then, when Edward behaves so honourably towards her, she breaks the engagement and marries Robert for mercenary reasons. Lucy Steele is one of the meanest women Jane Austen created.
The Heroines: The Dashwood sisters are two of my favorite literary heroines. Marianne is passionate and romantic while Elinor is calm and cool-headed. The two sisters are as different as possible, but they have a very strong bond between them that no-one can break. Marianne shows her heroism by comforting and supporting her sister while Elinor must keep Lucy’s secret to herself and never breath a word of it to anyone while all the time her heart is breaking. The Dashwood sisters are true heroines.
Pride and Prejudice
The Villainesses: Louisa Hurst and Caroline Bingley are mean spirited – Caroline even more than her sister. Caroline is jealous of Lizzy because Mr. Darcy is interested in her. They pretend to be friends with Jane, and then meanly ‘cut’ her in London. And in the end, Caroline does not get her wish – to be mistress of Pemberly.
The Heroine: Elizabeth Bennet is one of the finest examples of a literary heroine. She sparkles with life and wit. She doesn’t stand in awe of Mr. Darcy, but rather argues with him and refuses his first proposal, which, in the eyes of society would be madness. She doesn’t conform to norm of marrying for money, but instead turns down two good offers of marriage.
The Villainess: Mary Crawford is something of an enigma. She witty, beautiful, charming – in short everything that one would want in a heroine. She would be a perfect heroine if she would not let her selfishness get in her way. She is kind to Fanny, likes Edmund, and is admired by all the Bertrams (is that a recommendation?). But she has corrupted morals which lead her into talking slightingly about Edmund’s decision to join the clergy, and blaming Fanny for Henry’s running off with Maria.
The Heroine: Fanny Price may be shy and timid, but she is not dull or boring. She stays firm when everyone pressures her to be in the play and in refusing Henry’s proposal. Fanny has a quiet, inner strength. While not as engaging as Mary Crawford, Fanny has many wonderful qualities.
The Villainess: Mrs. Elton isn’t really a villainess – she’s just vulgar and rude. She does influence Mr. Elton to snub Harriet, but that’s pretty much the extent of her villainy. Other than that, her greatest faults are calling her husband Mr. E and prosing on endlessly about Maple Grove.
The Heroine: Emma is my favorite Jane Austen heroine. She’s a bit of a snob but she’s kindhearted and always means well. Sometimes you get irritated with Emma’s meddling but you can’t help liking her despite her faults her faults.
The Villainess: Isabella Thorpe is very, very shallow and self-interested. I remember the first time I read NA I first thought that she was a good friend for Catherine, but as I got deeper in, I reversed my views. Isabella engages herself to James, flirts with Captain Tilney, and lies to Catherine. Not a very nice person.
The Heroine: Catherine Morland is a sweet girl. She is innocent and does not believe that Isabella could do any wrong. However, her eyes are opened when Isabella writes a letter full of lies and contradictions. She does not lie to Henry Tilney for her reason for being in his mother’s bedroom. Her worst fault is probably that she reads too many novels. 🙂
The Villainess: Elizabeth Elliot isn’t very much developed in Persuasion but we do know that she’s mean and rude to Anne.
The Heroine: Anne Elliot is probably one of the kindest heroines in literature. She doesn’t become angry with her father and sisters, even though they take unfair advantage of her. Anne stays true to Captain Wentworth even though it seems that he has no interest in her anymore.
Please tell me who your favorite heroines (and worst villainesses) are.