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.
Jane Austen Heroine Week has been a big success (IMHO). This post will look back over all the posts that have come up this week.
Day 1: I started up a fan-fiction contest and a little blog award draw. Congratulations to Jill! She won the blog award draw. Thank you to the other seven bloggers who entered. I will be posting all the fan-fiction entries I received later on and I’ll put up a poll so you can vote on your favorite.
Poll Results: Emma Thompson received 16 votes. Hattie Morahan received 4.
Day 2: I posted a set of tag questions. Thanks to all who answered them.
Poll Results: Kate Winslet received 15 votes. Charity Wakefield received 2.
Day 3: On day three I posted a set of words to unscramble. Here are the scores.
Miss Laurie – 36
Lydia Foster – 22
Elizabeth Bennet – 32
Poll Results: Jennifer Ehle received 15 votes. Kiera Knightley received 8.
Day 4: Day four was two wonderful guest posts by two wonderful bloggers.
Poll Results: Sylvestra Le Touzel received 4 votes; Frances O’ Conner, 7; Billie Piper, 7.
Day 5: I posted the results of a Jane Austen Heroine Quiz and talked about my favorite heroines.
Poll Results: Gwenyth Paltrow received 8 votes. Romola Garia received 7.
Day 6: On day six, I posted my tag answers. I had a lot of fun!
Poll Results: Amanda Root received 5 votes. Sally Hawkins received 2.
Day 7: I started up a great giveaway for a P and P 2005 soundtrack. I highly suggest you check it out.
Poll Results: Margaret Dashwood, 6; Charlotte Lucas, 2; Jane Bennet, 8; Georgiana Darcy, 4; Mary Crawford, 1; Harriet Smith, 2; Jane Fairfax, 5; Eleanor Tilney, 4.
Please take a little time to complete a survey about JAHW.
Here are my answers to the tag questions I posted earlier this week.
What, to you, defines a Jane Austen heroine?
Miss Elizabeth Bennet wrote an excellent guest post on this subject. I would say that a sweet temper and a willingness to help others in need is one of the main characteristics of an Austen heroine.
Which Austen heroine is your favorite?
Emma Woodhouse. Even though she’s pretty irritating during the first part of the book, she is still my favorite. I enjoy watching her make mistakes, and then try to resolve them.
What is the quality you like best about her?
Despite being meddling, Emma has a kind heart. She is very kind to Harriet and after she snubs Miss Bates, tries hard to make things right.
Which actress plays your favorite best?
My favorite portrayal is Gwenyth’s but Romola Garia runs a close second. Romola seems a little too modern for my taste, while Gwenyth is perfect.
Who is your favorite secondary heroine, (e.g. Jane Bennet, Jane Fairfax, Mary Crawford)?
Which actress plays your favorite secondary heroine the best?
I prefer Rosamund Pike’s portrayal of Jane over Susannah Harker’s.
If you could have tea with a Jane Austen heroine or secondary heroine, who would you want to meet and why?
I think Fanny Price would be interesting to talk to. I would really like to know more about her.
Who is your least favorite Jane Austen heroine?
Anne Elliot. Even though Anne has many wonderful qualities, she is my least favorite heroine. I still like her, but she’s not my favorite.
Why is she your least favorite?
I don’t really relate to her but I can’t really pinpoint the exact reason.
What is your favorite Jane Austen heroine quote?
“I dearly love a laugh.” (Everyone can guess who said that :))
Heroine of the Day – Anne Elliot
Anne Elliot is a kind and steadfast heroine. She is the oldest of all Austen heroines. Even though Anne is not my favorite heroine, she does have some first-rate qualities. Anne is not snobbish like her father and sister, and to some extent, Lady Russell. She very much deserved to marry Capt. Wentworth.
Today I will posting two lovely guest posts by two lovely bloggers – Miss Laurie and Miss Elizabeth Bennet. The first one is by Miss Laurie.
My Favorite Jane Austen Heroines
Jane Austen’s heroines are definitely my favorite ladies in all of English Literature. I’ve spent so much time reading their stories, watching their film adaptations and dreaming about their lives beyond the books that I sometimes feel I know them better than I know myself! It’s difficult to choose which of the Austen heroines are is my favorite because they are so wonderful! Here I’d like to talk about the ladies who make it into my top three favorites.
Anne Elliot of Persuasion – Anne’s virtues are many! She is sweet, patient, kind, selfless, tenderhearted and mothering. She loves her family even though they frequently neglect her. She is a faithful friend, a caring aunt, a good listener and acts upon what she knows to be right. Her one fault is having not believed in her own good sense and worth enough to marry Captain Wentworth when he first asked. I identify with her in a way but until I had patience like a saint I could never be as constant as Anne. Loving as she did when all hope is gone can only come from a deeply attached heart. Her heart aches with regrets and yet still her sense is invaluable and she is always of use to those around her. She has the great elegance and sense that I especially admire in a heroine and hope to have myself. I admire her greatly and rejoice in her final gain of the man who truly loves and appreciates her. Miss Anne has been a favorite for a long time and each time I re-read Persuasion I just grow to love her more!
Catherine Morland of Northanger Abbey – As the heroine of my favorite Austen novel Catherine has a lot of charm for me. She is young, a home school graduate, a minister’s daughter, loves her family very much and has a bit of a curious and adventurous spirit. She was a bit of a tomboy as a girl but is finally growing up into a lovely young woman with a taste for feminine things. She has a great love of books and enjoys their mystery and romance. Her faults are few but one of them is an overactive imagination (fueled by the novels she reads) that gets her into trouble sometimes. One great thing about her is that she is so pure of heart and makes decisions based on her good heart and a desire to do what is right. I have identified with Catherine many times over the past few years – like her sometimes my love of mystery and romance tales makes my imagination run away with me. Being young she has a lot of time to grow into the wonderful wife and mother that she will be.
Fanny Price of Mansfield Park – In the last few monthsMiss Price and I have become fast friends! Every time I read about her I find more to admire! I used to think that Fanny was just painfully shy, but she’s not really, she’s more methodical and chooses her words carefully. Even though Fanny is young she is so sweet, kind, caring and helpful to the people around her. She was a good big sister to her many siblings and when she’s transplanted it takes a little bit for her to start growing out of her shell but Mansfield Park really does become her true home. She has a good heart and a good head and always tries to make right decisions. She’s a good judge of character and stays firm to her purpose. Fanny has an abiding faith in God which guides her actions, even Henry Crawford sees this. She loves her hero faithfully and prays for his happiness even when he seems to be in love with another woman. I love Fanny dearly and strive each day to reach her level of Christian faith and virtues!
And I can’t finish without briefly mentioning dear sensible Elinor Dashwood of Sense and Sensibility. She’s a favorite too and I love everything about her story but sometimes she’s a bit too much like me! I hope to have as nice and happy an ending to my story as she has to hers.
Thank you Eva-Joy for hosting this lovely Jane Austen Heroine Week and for inviting me to talk about my favorite Austen heroines!
Miss Laurie is the admin of Old-Fashioned Charm. It’s a wonderful blog about Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, and ‘Everything Old-Fashioned Under The Sun’
Defining the Austen Heroine
After reading one of her books, we really get a sense of who Jane Austen’s heroines are. We learn their habits, their virtues, their vices, we understand what they are thinking and how they are feeling, we could read a quote and say “Yep, that sounds like a Lizzy Bennet.” But what is it that defines an Austen heroine? What characteristics do they all share that define them as Austen heroines? After all, not all Austen Heroines are the same. Jane Austen’s heroines reflect people that we may see in our lives (or maybe even ourselves), and though they are not identical, they share similarities that make them heroines. Some could even be considered opposites. For example, Emma Woodhouse from Emma and Fanny Price from Mansfield Park are pretty different when it comes to personality: Fanny is shy, and Emma is outgoing; Fanny has been described as dull, while Emma has been described as vivacious. But despite those differences, they have those qualities that make them heroines (for example, both attend and are involved in their church). As you read this post, keep in mind that some of the characteristics that I mention may apply to some heroines more than others.
Characteristic #1: A Strong Sense of Morality
When you read through a Jane Austen novel, you will notice that the book you are reading may fall under multiple categories. They’re works of satire, they’re comedies, they’re romances (though not in the mushy sense), but they are also morality stories. Jane’s heroines are a strong moral rock through which we watch the story in front of us unfold. Here are a couple of examples of this:
Elinor Dashwood (Sense and Sensibility)
Though not to say that her sister, Marianne, has no sense of morality, Elinor has both good sense and morality that makes her the strong moral rock in Sense and Sensibility. While reading Sense and Sensibility, there are times where Elinor tries to think the incidents of the novel with her good sense and morality. She tells Marianne when she is acting improperly (like when Marianne was touring Allenham with Willoughby: Elinor says to Marianne, “”I am afraid…that the pleasantness of an employment does not always evince its propriety”).
Elizabeth Bennet (Pride and Prejudice)
Elizabeth has a very strong sense of morality and the right way to act. She knows her younger sisters act improperly: they shamelessly flirt with all of the officers and don’t seem to have any propriety. When Mr. Bennet refused to take all the Bennets to visit Brighton to visit the militia, Elizabeth is relieved since she knows how her younger sisters would act and how it would look to all of the Bennets. But when Lydia tells her that she is to go with Mrs. Forster, Elizabeth, with her sense of morality and knowing what Lydia is capable of acting like, pleaded with her father saying that he cannot let her go to Brighton because of Lydia’s wild behavior. She knows that Lydia’s behavior would affect all of the Bennets, and she proves to be correct when Lydia elopes with Wickham.
Now, having not completed Mansfield Park (which I really need to get back to), I cannot fully comment on all of Fanny’s behavior, but I think I have a clear enough of a picture of her to write up a short section. Fanny has a very high sense of morality, which can lead to many readers finding her dull (though I certainly do not!). That is what I like about Fanny, that in contrast to Mary Crawford she has a very strong sense of right and wrong. When Mary Crawford makes inappropriate remarks at dinner, Fanny realizes that it was wrong of her to do so.
Characteristic #2: Honesty (It is the best policy, after all)
How many of Jane Austen’s heroines can you say are liars and cheaters? None. Every one of Jane Austen’s heroines are honest. Not all of them are bluntly honest since some of them say things a little more delicately than others, but they are all honest. Here are some examples:
Catherine Morland (Northanger Abbey)
“I cannot speak well enough to be unintelligible.” This is one of Catherine’s most well known quote. Catherine, though she is a bit naive, is very honest. She doesn’t always put things delicately, but you can never accuse her of purposely misleading anyone. When she was caught exploring Mrs. Tilney’s room at Northanger Abbey, she doesn’t cover up why she was there: she tells Henry Tilney up front why she was there; now, perhaps in that instance, she didn’t need to mention her suspicions of General Tilney, but she didn’t lie about why she was in Mrs. Tilney’s room.
Marianne Dashwood (Sense and Sensibility)
Could anyone accuse Marianne of saying anything that she did not have her full heart in? No. Because she has so much heart in everything she says and does, Marianne is very honest…Sometimes too honest. If she doesn’t like the way Mrs. Jennings is acting, she doesn’t hide it. In some instances, she can sometimes say some mean things because of her severe honesty. She probably needs to work on putting things more delicately, but she ought to keep her honesty.
Characteristic #3: A Good Nature
All of Jane Austen characters have a good nature. There are many levels to having a “good nature”, but Jane Austen’s heroines have a good nature in more than one way. For one thing, there really isn’t any malice in any of them. Sure, they may be wronged, but we don’t see them say that they wish ill on those who wronged them. For instance, in Sense and Sensibility, when Marianne recovers from her illness and though Willoughby was the cause of it, she didn’t wish ill on him: she only wishes that he will suffer no more than she has.
What can also fall under a good nature is good intentions. In Emma, Emma Woodhouse makes a lot of mistakes, but you have to remember that she means well. She doesn’t mess up on purpose, but she genuinely wants to help out her neighbors, though her attempts are usually met with failure.
There is also a caring nature apart of that good nature. Persuasion’s Anne Elliot is possibly one of the most caring characters in literature: she is a good listener and listens to all of her family’s problems (even when it’s about other family members) and she helps wherever she can.
Sure, for a good nature, some Austen Heroines have different elements of a good nature, but they are all good-natured women.
Those three characteristics are some of the ways that an Austen Heroine can be defined. Jane Austen has created a variety of characters and a variety of heroines that though they are very different from each other have those characteristics that bind them together. In each of her heroines, we can see the role models that Jane Austen intended.
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.
I will be hosting a Jane Austen Heroine Week (JAHW) from March 11-18. This the introductory post. I’m putting this up early so that you can have lots of time to post about it on your blog and spread the word. I’ve been planning this for weeks and I hope that it goes well.
Here are the buttons. Please put one (or two) up on your blog and link back to me.
Here is an overview of the posts of the JAHW.
Sunday – Fan-fiction contest, blog award
Monday – Tag questions
Tuesday – Jane Austen Heroine-related games
Wednesday – Guest Post
Thursday – Misc. Jane Austen Heroine stuff
Friday – My tag question answers
Saturday – An AWESOME giveaway…don’t miss it!
I will also be featuring a different Austen heroine. Here they are in order of when I’ll be featuring them.
Do you know what I used as a rule for the order in which they come?
I wrote a post a couple of months ago called Defending Mansfield Park. You can read it here. This is post is by far the most controversial and the most commented post. It received five comments by other people and two by me. There are conflicting views expressed in the comments and I will post the different comments I received:
You really believe that Fanny Price is mature? I don’t. I find her to be a hypocritical bore. – ladylavinia1932
I can’t decide which between Persuasion and Mansfield Park is Austen’s most mature work. Anne Elliot and Fanny Price are two unlike characters, having been brought up in vastly different environments. One cannot expect Fanny to trust her own mind and be as lively and pretty as Anne…
Mansfield Park is a very interesting novel. Not only did Austen explore to some depths the human mind but also wrote a story that seemingly runs on its own–almost independent of the author’s hand–letting the characters struggle, suffer the consequences of their ambition and ideals, and work themselves through the world they’d been placed in.
(I raise my glass.) To your valiant defense of Mansfield Park! – auxochrome
I remember seeing this post a few days ago and felt glad you were defending MP. It’s rather strange to some, perhaps, that I defend my least favorite Jane Austen book so much; but that just says how much I love all her works, that though it may be my technical ‘least favorite’ I still love it!
The main thing I like about it is Fanny Price. I sympathize with her and love her. I’m not really a fan of Edmund – mainly for going for Mary – but I still like him tolerably well enough. =) He is such a nice fellow. Now if Miss Austen had included a redeeming proposal quote, I might be more disposed to rate him highly. tehe…
It drives me nuts when people say Fanny is judgmental, or boring, or whatever else they say about her. They just don’t understand her if they do! =)
I think the main thing to boost MP’s popularity would be a good miniseries of it. I hope one comes soon! – Melody
Mansfield Park may not reach my top three favorite Austen books, but I found it neither dull nor boring. It was, in fact, interesting. Fanny’s a lovely character with wonderful, strong qualities. Although Edmund doesn’t rank high as my favorite Austen heroes, I agree: he still has many good character traits as well. – Jemimah C.
So as you can see, I received conflicting views and opinions. However, I welcome all your comments, positive or not-so-positive, as long as they are kept polite.