Monday, January 07, 2013

Top Ten Jane Austen Characters

With the bicentenary of Pride and Prejudice fast approaching, I imagine that there will be lots of Jane Austen related articles in print and online. I saw the first of these yesterday, a list of the Ten Best Jane Austen Characters by Paula Byrne, in the Observer newspaper. You can read it here. Paula Byrne's choices included some of the lesser known Austen characters such as Isabella Thorpe, described as "boy-mad... chasing unsuspecting young men along the streets of Bath" and Sir Walter Elliot "almost a caricature of dim-witted upper classes" as well as Mr Darcy, "Austen's most sexy hero... the ultimate conquest."

I couldn't resist playing the game. Choosing your top ten Austen characters opens things up much more than favourite heroes or heroines or which book you like the best. There is so much wonderful choice. Here are three of my favourites:

1. Lady Susan Vernon. Lady Susan made an impression on me from the first. Even as a child I recognised that Lady Susan was bad with a capital B and yet there is something charismatic and compelling about her. All the way through the novella I'm hoping she gets her just desserts but at the same time I can't help but have a sneaking admiration for her. Mary Crawford in Mansfield Park strikes me as the sort of woman who will develop into a Lady Susan when she is older.

2. Mrs Gardiner in Pride and Prejudice. I like Mrs Gardiner. She is warm and wise, a good friend to Elizabeth Bennet. Sometimes it is easy to overlook understated characters and not appreciate their steady qualities. Mrs Gardiner is the aunt I would like to have myself.

3. Frederick Wentworth. I don't dispute the description of Mr Darcy as sexy and the ultimate conquest but give me Frederick Wentworth instead. He's less aloof, more open about his feelings and I'm a sucker for a man in uniform (unless it's George Wickham).

What about you? Any favourites?


Eleonora Amalia said...

I would definitely add Emma Woodhouse! :) Though she may seem a bit annoying and naive sometimes, I admire the overall personality.

Amanda Grange said...

Oh, it's a difficult choice, there are so many brilliant characters. Leaving aside the heroes and heroines for a moment, I'm going to choose Mrs Bennet because she makes me laugh. I'm going to have to think hard about the other nine, the problem is going to be limiting the number.

Elizabeth Hawksley said...

What a lovely game!

It's Captain Wentworth for me: he's a warm-hearted man and that gets my vote. He gets things so wrong with his determined flirting with Henrietta and Louisa: he could easily have ended up with Louisa and been miserable.

I love the fact that he can admit he's wrong (and how many men can do that?) and he does what he can to get himself out of the mess he's got himself into.

I feel sure that he and Anne will have a very happy marriage.

Christina Courtenay said...

I quite like Mr Bingley - he's always kind and never snooty in any way. He may not be very bright, but at least he's happy!

Nicola Cornick said...

It's a fun game, isn't it! Emma is an interesting choice, Eleonora. Not everyone likes her (I'm a bit ambivalent towards her myself though I think her heart is in the right place!) Of course Jane Austen herself thought that no on would like Emma, didn't she.

Nicola Cornick said...

I agree, Amanda. It's so tough to limit the choice. Maybe that's one of the many reasons that make Jane Austen's books so irresistible. I like Mrs Bennet too. She is funny but maybe a little bit tragic too which is again part of the clever characterisation.

Nicola Cornick said...

I totally agree, Elizabeth. Wentworth is lovely!

LOL, Christina! Yes, there's a lot to be said for Mr Bingley's uncomplicated niceness.

Julie B. said...

I adore Captain Wentworth. How can you not love a man who tells the woman he loves, "You pierce my soul?"

I'm also fond of Catherine Morland and Elinor Dashwood.

And Mr Darcy, of course!

Anonymous said...

It's a tricky one.

I've always had a soft spot for Anne Elliott, probably the most mature of Austen's heroines. Captain Wentworth is a great hero, too. And Henry Tilney is deliciously witty and attarctive,

But in terms of amusement, the minor characters take top billing:

Mr Collins, Mr and Mrs Bennet, Mary Crawford, Lady Bertram and her pug, Mrs Elton and her noxious 'caro sposo' all add the deft touch of classic Austen satire.

Eve F

Alison said...

I really like Fanny Price, she's so put upon but quietly goes with her own conscience and eventually gets what she wants.

I also agree with Mrs Gardiner, she's a lovely character and Elinor Dashwood and Anne Eliot - they seem to go through much more than some of the other heroines.

Anonymous said...

I've always been drawn to the nervous chatterbox Miss Bates from "Emma."

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