I get funny looks when I defensively respond to the friendly question of “who is your favorite Jane Austen character?”
Most people assume I love the intelligent, witty Elizabeth Bennet, who stands up for herself, acts with strength and reason, and refuses to give in to societal norms (Pride and Prejudice).
Others think of the fun-loving, passionate Marianne Dashwood, who lives on poetry and music, hurtling whole-heartedly into life heedless of the consequences. Or her counterpart, the calm, rational, loving Elinor Dashwood (Sense and Sensibility).
Even Emma Woodhouse, with her misguided acts of charity and interfering notions of friendship, may come up. For all of her wealth and status, Emma still strives to improve herself and help those around her (Emma).
And for those in the Jane Austen know, occasionally the young, dramatic Catherine Morland (Northanger Abbey) or the ethical Fanny Price (Mansfield Park) may cross some lips.
And indeed I do love all of these characters!
But my heart will always be with sweet, kind, patient Anne Elliot (Persuasion). Anne doesn’t get the exciting lines, the dramatic dance moves, or the multiple love interests. In fact, in today’s Hollywood, she would be considered a B movie actress. But oh how she would stand out in those B movies!
Anne has a quiet power and strength of character that grows from a bare glimmer to a shining star. We peek into her past to learn of her struggles to find herself and the dire consequences of having listened to others instead of herself. And we walk with her as she is underappreciated and misunderstood yet stays true to herself. And we cheer her on as she finds her voice and her will and refuses to give in to the vanities of her family, the false claims of her friends, and the influence of societal standards. Best of all, we celebrate with her when, in the end, she gets all that she deserves.
So I answer defensively to the question “who is your favorite Jane Austen character?” because most people display a blank face when I respond. Just as in the book, Anne is underappreciated. But I know better.
How about you? Who is your favorite Jane Austen character?