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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Charming Villain Vs The Boring Hero?

In her recent post, Raquel from Jane Austen in Portuguese discussed how she’s always in doubt if Marianne would have been happy, or not,  had she married John Willoughby. She asked her readers if that was simply a female romanticist view on life and would men think in a different way.

Heroes and Villains 

Lovely collages provided by:

Interestingly, I’ve had this conversation over and over again with a Jane Austen-sceptic friend. He is a typical Brontë-ite, believing that literature should bring out our passions and our deepest emotions and describe characters that are vivacious and passionate, even mischievous.

“Why do Jane Austen’s heroines always end up with the boring type? Why are the charming, handsome men always portrayed as villains?” “Look at Sense and Sensibility – Marianne ends up marrying the old, brooding Colonel Brandon, in Pride and Prejudice Elizabeth goes for Mr Darcy instead of the charismatic Wickham, Emma ends up with the patronising Mr Knightley instead of the mysterious, irresistible Frank Churchill…the pattern repeats itself again and again.”

Strictly speaking, that isn’t always the case  - Persuasion’s Mr Wentworth is certainly as charming as any man, beating Mr Elliott any day. In Northanger Abbey, Mr Tilney is far more attractive than the bragging John Thorpe. In Mansfield Park, Mr Crawford appears too snooty and self-important to strike one as an attractive character.

What I feel Jane Austen is trying to imply is that a woman will always be happier with a sensible man with good morals. In her stories, she often “tests” her heroes to find out if they are responsible characters. Mr Darcy shows his kindness by paying off Wickham. Colonel Brandon rescues Marianne and looks after her, showing that he has been there all along despite her flirtation with the irresponsible Willoughby. We also know that the Jane Austen heroes improve on acquaintance,  once we have seen their true colours.

What are your views on this? 


  1. I agree with you Anna, "that always isn't the case."Jane Austen isn't that simplistic. She actually creates complex, emotionally intriguing, relationships. I think they say just as much about Jane as they do about her characters. What will happen to them next and in the future? How will their relationships develop? In many cases the prospects are quite startling.
    I think there are some strange pairings, not at all safe, stable and secure. Is the intelligent, sharp witted, teasing Henry Tilney the best choice for Catherine Moreland? How on earth did Fanny Price captivate Henry Crawford and finally get Edmund Bertram? As for Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet, can that really work out? Mr Knightley and Emma Woodhouse? Who would want an Emma Woodhouse? She is too long in the tooth to ever change.There is nothing boring there.It's all quite worrying for the future.

  2. Anna and Southerner,

    as I have said (at my post) I have a penchant for bad boys!

    Marianne & Colonel Brandon and Fanny & Edmund, I am not sure about their happiness. Perhaps Marianne like Lady Glencora (The Palisers) could respect Colonel and call him "Brandy"! But Funny I have no hope for her... Edmund, in my opinion will love Miss Crawford forever!

  3. Interesting observations, Tony :) It is a bit worrying with these character combinations, and that's part of the reason why I don't like reading sequels!

    @Raquel: It does make you wonder! The twist at the end happens so quickly and you don't really get to see their feelings developing into love... hmm.

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  5. Althought of change of character after Marianne's disease, i think she never forgot completely of Willoughby. Yes, she is more quiet now, she wants other things for her life, things reals like Brandon but i think that their union was only for friendship and gratitude that she had for her beloved friend.
    I think Austen was a little hard with those two characters (Marianne and Willoughby), she saved Marianne and gave to her the gift of matureness while Willoughby was condemned to a life with an unfriendly wife instead of changing him.
    I´m not trying to defend this character but for me the end of Marianne was all resignation instead of happy.
    Sorry for my poor and bad english but i really liked the topic of this entry.

  6. AnneDarcy, I agree that Jane Austen was quite hard on the two characters, and the truth is that she is a moralist writer. With her plots she is trying to bring out her views on morality and what kind of a person is a good person, and the irresponsible characters always get punished at the end.
    Don't worry about your English, it is quite comprehensible!


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