Jane Austen’s Leading Men

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I started these Jane Austen posts back when I finished my epic reread of her novels this year but I thought I’d save three topics for her birth-week. Today, I present my ranking of the leading men.

Edmund from Mansfield Park is my least favorite. I do appreciate that he tries to take care of Fanny when she first enters the household and is clearly overwhelmed. But he completely neglects her in favor of someone else and he takes a really long time to get the actual measure of her. Also, at the end I didn’t feel happiness or catharsis at them being together and he’s most of the problem.

Then there’s Edward. He ranks higher than Edmund but lower than anyone else because he has a backbone sometimes. He stubbornly holds to an engagement out of honor even though he knows he’ll be miserable with her and he knows he’ll be disowned. But a lot of his connection with Elinor happens off page and we just have to take the character’s words for it that something occurred. I was happy when they ended up together though.

Next is a tie. I couldn’t decide between Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice or Captain Wentworth from Persuasion. Darcy is not very nice but he can be witty and he does change a little by the end. He saves Lydia from ruin for Elizabeth. Wentworth was hurt by Anne and he proves himself by achieving exactly what he said he would. Then he sees her again and they dance around their feelings (entertaining to watch) but he never stops loving her. Wentworth also physically pulls one of Anne’s nephews off when he’s climbing on her.

Second is Mr. Knightley from Emma. He knows exactly who he is. Plus he always tries to call out Emma’s behavior when she’s not being the best. Emma’s discussions with him are entertaining when they disagree especially because they both bring out qualities in each other that no one else does.

First is Mr. Tilney from Northanger Abbey. His discussions with Catherine and his sister about books, philosophy, society, etc. are always funny and insightful. He makes fun of Gothic literature but clearly reads and enjoys it before offering critiques. I find him the smartest and kindest of the group.

What do you think of my rankings? Agree or disagree?

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