Jane Austen's 'Forgotten' Characters by Priyanka Chavda

By Priyanka Chavda Jane Austen has many beloved characters - Fitzwilliam Darcy, Elizabeth Bennet, Emma Woodhouse and Marianne Dashwood. There are a few, however, who are lesser known and often less appreciated, whether it be due to the continued growing admiration of her more popular characters or simply the story and characters themselves. For many Jane Austen fans some of these characters may not be under-appreciated- for them there could be others that need to be added to the list. Nevertheless, here are few who aren't as recognised as perhaps they could be. Frances O'Connor as Fanny Price. Fanny Price is one of the most underrated Austen characters. Even more, Mansfield Park is underrated as a novel in comparison to Austen’s other publications. For many, Fanny comes across as “insipid” (s quoted by Austen’s own mother.) For others, Fanny comes as a demure heroine. Unlike previous heroines such as Elizabeth Bennet, Fanny is not strongly spoken or particularly daring. She is placed in a household where her value is undermined, where she is floating in the middle; forced between what she knew and what she’s forced to learn. Yet Austen has cleverly created her character, suggest literary authors who examined Mansfield Park and Fanny Price for the novel’s anniversary--and pushes us to follow through. She has created someone who stands in full opposition to many characters within Mansfield Park and someone who comes in on her own as the novel progresses. In fact much could be said about Mansfield Park and the characters within. But it is not only a protagonist of Austen who is under appreciated. Within the novels, supporting characters are often underdeveloped or neglected. Whether this is intentional or not, two characters who are not often seen as they should be are Mrs Weston and Mary Bennet. Jodhi May and Romola Garai as Mrs. Weston and Emma Woodhouse, 2009. Mrs Weston, previously known as Miss Taylor, is/was the beloved governess in Emma. At the start of the novel she is the governess and companion for Emma Woodhouse, being part of the family even before Emma’s birth. However, upon her marriage to Mr Weston, Mrs Weston gradually disappears from the appreciation she deserves as a successful Austen character. Despite marrying and moving away from Hartfield, she continues to hold a special place in the Woodhouse household and in Emma’s life - meeting daily with her, and being the one to tell Emma about Frank’s engagement. Yet in spite of all this, for some, she isn't as appreciated or recognised as being Emma most trusted confidant and in many respects Emma’s role model. Talulah Riley as Mary Bennet, 2005. Despite being one of the most loved novels of all time, and containing some of Austen’s most popular characters, Pride and Prejudice does have one person who is not appreciated. Mary Bennet is an underdeveloped character, but stands out in her own right. Bookish, solemn and often outspoken, she remains throughout the novel often unappreciated, even by the characters themselves. Mary Bennet is the forgotten sister of the five. The novel explores Lizzie, Jane, Lydia and even Kitty but Mary is often marginalised. Being the middle child, Mary does not share the closeness that Lizzie shares with Jane, and Lydia shares with Kitty. Due to this she spends much of her time in her own company and when in the company of others she uses her knowledge gained from books as a way of communication even when others disagree. And it is not only readers who are hard on Mary, but some may say even Austen herself. For example, the possibility of her relationship with Mr Collins-- yet Austen decided on Charlotte Lucas. Why? Even though Mary has been overlooked, there is much scope to her story, which many contemporary authors have explored. A few of Mr. Darcy's companion heroes: Now with Mr Darcy, other heroes of Austen’s novels had competition. One character some believe doesn’t get the appreciation he deserves is Mr Tilney from Northanger Abbey. A fascinating character, his personality and simple charm makes him unique. Although, he differs from previous heroes, his traits and uniqueness places him as a perfect companion opposite Catherine Morland, the novel’s self-proclaimed heroine. He is unafraid to say things as they are, and is not afraid to stand up to what he believes – even defying his father to marry Catherine. Similarly, John Knightley and Captain Wentworth are also not seen in the same light as Darcy. Knightley is genuine, good-looking, caring, unafraid of risks and strongly spoken; Captain Wentworth is charming, good-looking and caring. However, it seems none of these traits are able to match that of their predecessor. Despite all this, these characters stand out in their own right. They all tell a different perspective within the novels, and are open to new stories and adaptations which present them in a whole new light. Mary Bennet becomes the protagonist of Jennifer Paynter’s novel ‘The Forgotten Sister: Mary Bennet and Pride and Prejudice and ‘Henry Tilney’s Diary by Amanda Grange retells Northanger Abbey through Henry Tilney.
 Priyanka is an English Literature graduate, aspiring to be a writer and work in the film industry.

1 comment

[…] the lesser known category, like Anne Elliot, Captain Wentworth, Mr. Woodhouse, and Mr. Collins, so I was delighted to see this article by Priyanka Chavda. We all connect with different characters in the written word, and for my money, we spend way too […]

5 Friyays: May 11 - Abbey Research July 26, 2020

Leave a comment