Jane Austen's Heroes Posted on

Jane Austen’s Heroes

Share this: I’d like to take up the question of why we like some Austen heroes better than others. I don’t think it’s just a matter of having nothing to forgive them for, because some things are easier to forgive than others, and when we decide what we find easier to forgive, we are telling more about our own morality vis-à-vis Austen’s than Austen’s own. Still, I’ll bite. Type 1- Ashley Wilkes The heroes who are often not liked, not favorites, are those who are deeply moral; let us call them the Ashley Wilkes (of Gone with the Wind) types: sensitive, kind, loyal, impeccably behaved from the standpoint of true tact, gentility, and altruism, and very conventional in their sense of what a gentleman is; Austen of course plays tricks on us, and adds to this weak soup characteristics like reserve, manly hauteur in order to protect the self (how I see some of George Knightley’s behavior to Emma), and being more than a little gauche, very bad at gay repartée — for which many of Austen’s readers cannot forgive Edmund Bertram, Edward Ferrars, Colonel Brandon, and George Knightley. As Rhett Butler says, they’re gentlemen caught in a world which worships handsomeness, suavity, the man who can master others. Edward Ferrars and Colonel Brandon are weak in that battle of domination between people that is perhaps the essence of life, as in “life is a war of nerves”, “a battle”. These types are “dolts”, “dull”, “prigs”, “starchy”, common epithets thrown

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