I had an opportunity to read Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility and Mansfield Park along with her contemporaries such as Edgeworth and Wollstonecraft. What I loved about Jane Austen was her frank discussion of female interiority on the themes of love and marriage in which we understand the societal norms in the 18th century England. Each novel features a female protagonist whose character defines the nature of her romantic affair.
Elizabeth “Lizzy” Bennet (Pride and Prejudice): beautiful and headstrong second child of the Bennets. Falls in love with the wealthy and arrogant Mr. Darcy who is attracted to her wit and “easy playfulness.” I like Lizzy Bennet for her “good sense” that differentiates her from the other four Bennet girls who have been influenced by their mother’s emotional excess. (too anxious, too tiresome…) I don’t consider Lizzy much as a romantic figure despite her status as the heroine of one of the most beloved ‘romance’ novels in English literature… There should be more ‘thinking’ than ‘feeling’ going on in her interaction with Mr. Darcy, and there’s much room to debate on whether Lizzy chooses Darcy purely for love other than economic security… After all, she’s a charming modern woman who is smart enough to decide what’s good for her.
Elinor Dashwood (Sense and Sensibility): Elinor aligns with Lizzy Bennet in Austen’s attempt to present woman as “rational creatures”. Elinor’s “cool judgment” and “strong understanding” function as the backbone of the crushed Dashwood family. Austen draws the contrast between Elinor and her sister, Marianne, not as obviously as in the title in order for the reader to find a number of relatable characteristics between their own dealings with love. Elinor’s romance with Edward Ferrars is not as prominent in the novel as Lizzy’s with Darcy in Pride and Prejudice because of the more emphasis between the two sisters than the lovers. After all, Elinor Dashwood is interesting to read in the ways she displays the complexities between the two dichotomous virtues of “sense” and “sensibility”.
Fanny Price (Mansfield Park): To be frank, she is somewhat less dynamical for me to read than Lizzy Bennet or Elinor Dashwood for simply lacking a ‘sister’ character to compare to…(just kidding) Fanny Price is a character defined by the ‘social circumstances’ that surround her more than the character’s interior emotions. Fanny is easily identifiable by many female readers for her introversion which is actually a product of her inferiority in the prosperity around her… Her gradual romance with Edmund was not intense enough to ease my sorry feelings towards her. Her strong will concealed under her outlooking submissiveness gives the reader unexpected pleasures… 🙂