Posted on

Jane Austen’s Heroes

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”,

Want to read the full article?

Sign up for free Jane Austen membership.

Existing Users Log In
 Remember Me  
Sign up here to become a Jane Austen member
captcha
*Required field