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.
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.
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.
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.
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.