- Elizabeth Bennett, Emma Woodhouse Maryanne Dashwood.
Jane Austin has been responsible for creating some of the most frequently adapted and analyzed women in the English, literary cannon.
Along with Buzzfeed quizzes, asking which "Sex in the City" or "Little Women" character you are, there is always fanfare about which Jane Austin heroin you are, but beyond the big three, well, mostly big two who are the women of Jane Austin's completed novels.
How do they reveal to us her modern audience, any insight into her growth as an author, her politics and just how she feels about what makes a girl boss and a #girlboss.
This is Austin's ladies night.
Oh, what a night.
Let's go in reverse cool girl order and start with Fanny Price, the heroin of Austin's second longest novel, "Mansfield Park".
Unlike a lot of Austin's they're protagonists, Fanny is poor poor and is only sparred an orphan's existence because her aunt married well.
She is brought in as the poor cousin to the rich Bertram family to be a companion to their daughters.
All the while Fannie is constantly being reminded by everyone, especially her aunt Mrs. Norris, that she is the there as charity.
She doesn't belong.
Well, almost everyone but her cousin Edmond, who is her love interest in the story.
And yes, I said cousin, first cousin, but it's Regency era England.
And they are pretty okay with that.
Write your think pieces.
Fanny is not an active player in her story.
Years of being told she is nothing has done immense damage to her self-esteem.
As a result the reader is constantly in her head, frustrated at how little mobility Fanny has to change her fate.
In the journal, "The 18th Century", George Haggerty says of Fanny, "Austin creates a heroine "who stands apart from the central action of the narrative.
"None of her other heroins behave this way, "but then none of them is wrenched out of her home "and forced to come to terms with a family "in which she is not fully welcome.
"The novel shows nothing more vividly "that it shows Fannie's mettle "for even when she is most frustrating, "she is struggling to be herself "in a world that is distinctly unfriendly.
"In a sense the real action of the novel takes place "in Fannie's responses to everything around her "for if she is shunted off to the side "of what seems at times like the main action of the novel, "then so are the readers who attend to her."
What makes Fannie interesting from a character stand point is she is a victim of emotional abuse.
She has been mistreated so deeply but remains almost martyr like in her devotion to the family.
We also see that the Burtrums may be rich but have no moral fortitude which might be Austin's own political commentary.
Since it is established, that part of their money comes from slavery.
Clara Calvo, Professor of English at the University of Mercia has called Fannie Priggish.
But I think what makes Fannie so unlikable is that she's not Gilmore girls poor.
That noble wish fulfill poor, where you somehow pulled yourself up by your bootstraps, are endlessly witty and you have your pick of fine suitors.
Nah, Fanny is broken and does not have the mobility, money or opportunities to have more in her life.
She can only endure, because that is what she's been trained to do.
It's not fun, but it's real.
Continuing our class discourse.
There is Anne Elliot, the heroin of "Persuasion".
"Persuasion" was the final completed novel to be published by Austin.
And in it, you see the continued evolution of Austin as a writer.
Anne Elliot is 27 years old when we meet her.
So she's basically a #Spinster to everyone around her.
We find out that she was once engaged to marry a man named Frederick Wentworth, a young fine common Naval officer, who was clever, but poor.
Sadly, the people in Anne's life had never seen Aladdin and persuaded her to break off the engagement.
Now nearly a decade later, Wentworth is a self-made rich hotty and a Navy captain.
So now Anna is singing "Sk8er Boi" to herself, ♪ watching the guy she used to know ♪ be hot and cool and rich.
Also is "Sk8er Boi" kind of an adaptation of "Persuasion"?
Let know in the comments below.
Class wise, Austin tears a hereditary aristocracy to shreds and portrays its men as either villains, wasteful or vain in contrast to Wentworth who create his own money.
He's working class, baby.
Unlike the rest of Austin's heroins, it's Anne who comes from and privilege.
And her partner is the lower class person.
Unlike Darcy or Edmond or any of the other men in Austin's novels, Wentworth, isn't a savior from poverty.
He is a savior from blind elitism.
And through Austin's very insular writing of Anne, we get a character who is considered to be the most perceptive of Austin's heroins.
As Harvard Professor Deirde Shauna Lynch explains "Austin cast her protagonist "as the silent and sympathetic observers "of other people's stories "and the repositories of their secrets.
"Their participation in situations of spectorship "and secret sharing endows Anne Elliot "and Eleanor Dashwood, "in particular with the qualities "that novel readers in Austin's lifetime "were learning to associate "with third person narrators.
"Likewise, the capacity that each has "for a self-possession that seems to numb her sense "of self-interest.
Like Fanny, Anne is not a sexy heroine, but she represents the growth of Austin's authorship.
Her work was very class conscious and these two books have some of her most thoughtful commentary on class, wealth and love.
And then you get "Northanger Abbey".
"Northanger Abbey" is a satirical coming of age novel that pokes fun at Gothic novels, but let's be real here.
It's YA novel.
Our leading lady, Catherine Morland is a heroin in training who loves Gothic novels a lot.
Due to her lack of real life perspective coupled with a ramp it imagination, she creates realities in her mind in order to fill the gaps within her own social naivete for better or for worse.
Catherine is fine.
She's kind of boring, because her story doesn't have that many real stakes.
She's just silly and eventually stops being silly.
Buildings, Roman classic.
If anything, what makes Abbey a fun novel is seeing how petty Jane Austen felt about the Gothic novel with its overly perfect characters.
Catherine is made plain and middle class.
Her love interest, Henry Tilney, is a passive soft boy instead of some handsome, brave, hyper masculine man.
It is interesting as literature, but not as a story.
The big three of Jane Austin's novels are "Emma", "Pride and Prejudice" and "Sense and Sensibility".
If they were 90s, 2000s teen movies, they would be "Jawbreaker", "Mean Girls" and "Clueless", respectively.
"Emma" is the "Jawbreaker" of the big three in my opinion of Jane Austin's novels.
Because while as a teen classic it's a little more cutthroat, especially because while people might find Fanny boring and Anne a little too clean cut and Catherine is just Catherine.
Emma is kind of a mean girl, and that has been rubbing people wrong since 1815.
And yes, I know that "Clueless" is based on "Emma", but for the sake of this argument, the point is moot.
I'm making a larger point, but yes, "Clueless" is based on "Emma".
Emma is rich.
In fact, the novel begins with saying that Emma Woodhouse is handsome, clever and rich with a comfortable home and a happy disposition and had lived nearly 21 years in the world with very little to distress or vex her.
Must be nice.
Throughout the novel convincing herself that she's an apt matchmaker, Emma attempts to manipulate the love life of her friend, Harriet Smith.
However, due to her elitism she almost ruins Harriet's own chance for happiness, when the girl falls in love with a handsome farm boy who Emma deems not socially good enough for her friend.
And it's like, Emma is not about you.
Jane Austin even said that with Emma, she wanted to create a heroin that only she would like.
Emma is spoiled, over confident and likes to meddle in the lives of people like dolls, because she simply has the standing in society to do so.
But that is intentional.
As Austin Scholar, John Mullan so aptly puts it concerning Emma snobbery, "Of course is, "but Austin with a refusal of moralism "worthy of Flaubert, "abandons her protagonist to her snobbery "and confidently risks inciting foolish readers "to think that the author must be a snob too.
"Emma's snobbery pervades the novel, "from that moment, we hear Mrs. Goddard, the mistress of the little girls' boarding school, "and Mrs. And Ms. Bates described as the most come-at-able "denizens of Highbury.
"Meaning that they are at the beck and call "of Emma and her hypochondriac father.
"Austin has the integrity to make Emma snobbish "even when she is in the right."
This might come as a shock, but female characters are allowed to be unlikeable.
Character development is good actually.
Emma grows from being a snob to a more thoughtful person.
It's called a character journey.
"Sense and Sensibility" is Austin's first novel and it is a very good one.
My personal favorite.
It gave us the Dashwoods and the two important sisters of the novel, Eleanor and Maryanne who encompass the titular sense and sensibility traits.
Eleanor is a pragmatic softie who tries to hold it together but she is brimming with lust and just wants to hold hands very much with Edward Ferrars and in the novel, she finds out, Edward made a promise to marry Lucy Steele when he was younger even though he doesn't want it anymore.
And he forces himself to give up Eleanor and they're both sad about it, but in the end they both make noble decisions and were rewarded for it with the happily ever after.
It's very sweet but that's not what we're here to talk about.
For real, for real.
We're gonna talk about Maryanne and Willoughby.
Maryanne meets a bad boy named John Willoughby and she fall in love with F boy so hard.
It's like F boy island out there, but later finds out that he is not that innocent.
He is a rake who has already seduced a 15 year old girl and then abandoned her even though she was pregnant.
He's a jerk.
He was cut off from his family and therefore is in need of a rich wife.
He does love Maryanne, but she broke.
So he abandons her and this leads to Maryanne becoming distraught but eventually she returns the affections of the older, more stable and secretly low key by Ronick, Colonel Brandon, played in the movie by Allen Rickman, rest in power, and it's great.
This ending has been seen as controversial for some readers that feel Maryanne is shamed into not loving as deeply.
A lot of fanfic explores the idea of Willoughby being redeemed?
Why is that explored and even hinted at, but not Canon?
Well it's because people want a good bad boy return story.
Cultural historian and literary critic, Mary Poovey makes the following point.
"Consistently, Eleanor makes the prudent choice, "even when doing so is painful.
"Almost as consistently, "Maryanne's decisions are self-indulgent and harmful, "either to herself or to someone else.
"But this neat design is less stable "than an absolute and authoritative moral system "would seem to require.
"Many readers have found Maryanne's spirit "more appealing than Eleanor's cautious, prim, "and even repressive reserve.
"And they have found Maryanne's passionate romance "with Willoughby more attractive "than the prolonged frustration "to which Eleanor submits."
Maryanne's passion and young love is engaging and beautiful in some ways, especially since she does meet a great love.
But the moral is not that loving deeply is bad.
Instead it is more that love without respect and morality means nothing.
Which brings us to Elizabeth Bennett.
The final boss of Jane Austin heroins.
Lizzy, the Bennett.
The protagonist of Jane Austin's second novel, "Pride and Prejudice".
Published in 1813, "Pride and Prejudice" concerns itself with the fortunes and misfortunes of the Bennett family.
The family's patriarch, Mr. Bennett is a gentleman farmer with a modest income of 2000 pounds a year and five daughters.
Meaning none of his children can legally inherit any of it, because you guessed it, systematic misogyny.
You've seen "Downtown Abbey", you know how it goes.
Likewise, Mrs. Bennett has no fortune to her name and thus the predicament that spurs on the plot.
Will the Bennett sisters be able to find suitors rich enough to care for them before their father dies.
Enter Lizzy Bennett, the sarcastic high spirited second daughter who watches as her older sister Jane falls for the gentle Mr. Bingley, a wealthy bachelor that has moved into a nearby estate, who much to Lizzy chagrin seems to always be accompanied by his grumpy and blunt friend Fitzwilliam Darcy.
See like, who does he think he is, or something.
Much of the novel follows the constant misunderstandings and reconciliations between Lizzy and Mr. Darcy as they grow close to one another, while family and society seem to do everything they can to keep them apart.
Whether it's Mrs. Bennett's attempt to marry Lizzy to her male cousin set to inherit the Bennett estate.
Ew mom, no, Collins is gross.
Mr. Bingley's vain sister, who also has her eye on Mr. Darcy, back off.
Or Mr. Darcy's cold aunt who would have him marry her sickly daughter, Anne.
No Lizzie and Darcy.
Lizzie is the most popular Austin heroine.
Is it because she made Darcy into a simp?
Is it because she has the best bars?
Is it because she gives lower middle class brown haired girls hope that they can marry into wealth or at least an Avenger.
Not unlike Eleanor, Lizzy's wellbeing is outwardly presented as solely dependent on good marriage and her love for someone above her social standing.
Says Jane Austin Scholar Claudia L Johnson, "In all of Austin's novels, "but especially in "Pride and Prejudice" "pursuing happiness is the business of life.
"Austin trots out character after character "before our attention "so we may consider what pleases or conversely, "vexes and mortifies them, "thus inviting us to assess the quality "and durability of their happiness."
What sets Lizzie apart from other Jane Austin heroins is her absolute disregard for the morays of courtship and station that would have added to Eleanor's distress.
Lizzie doggedly listens to no one.
She spurs the snobbery of Miss Bingly, bites back at Mr. Darcy's aunt when she is mocked.
She is not gifted with the station Emma has, nor does she have any taste for social engineering.
While it still ultimately has to bend to early 19th century convictions, Lizzy is the mistress of her own happiness in "Pride and Prejudice" in a way that her other beloved fellow female characters are not.
And the novel ask us to consider what happiness means in a world with limited opportunity.
To an extent all the Bennett sisters go through this journey.
Lydia scandalous love affair versus what society would say of it.
Quiet moralizing Mary and her disinterest in love games.
And Jane whose happy ending is dangled in front of her from the very beginning and might have been the protagonist in any other book.
And then there's Mrs. Bennett, do we have time to discuss Mrs. Bennett?
Do I have the energy?
Do I have the mental energy to discuss whether or not she's a villainous caricature or a misunderstood mother doing the best she can?
No, I do not.
Academic and writer, Janet Todd condenses the appeal of Jane Austin's protagonist as such, "Which strikes me as contributing most "to Jane Austin's universal popularity "is her ability to create the illusion "of psychological believable and self reflecting characters.
"Her novels are investigations of selfhood, "particularly female, "the oscillating relationship of feeling and reason, "the interaction of present and memory "and the constant negotiation between desire and society."
And as much as the world has changed over the last 200 years along societal expectations of how women are supposed to behave and what roles and dreams they can aspire to the conflict between duty and self fulfillment will always be present.
And so the eternal appeal of dance cards, rainy encounters with the love of your life, and the enduring spirit of Jane Austin's characters remains.
When you look at the heroins of Jane Austin's books you see the evolution of a fiercely independent author building upon the foundation of female authors before her.
Shout out to Frances Burney, who we never covered on this show, but I love and she's great, Wikipedia her.
Austin died at 41 years old.
If she had lived, who knows what kind of heroin she would have created, what politics she would've explored, but in six novels she has delivered the stories of six amazing women who make up the most amazing Buzzfeed personality quiz that everyone she'd said anyway to get Lizzy Bennett in the end.