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.
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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?