In my everlasting effort to capture the the magic of Jane Austen’s work, to understand and contain it and eventually to imitate and emulate it, I have drawn up profiles of some of her heroes and heroines that would fit nicely within any modern dating site.
I’ve done this because I often find Austen’s matches to be imperfect, even though they are described as heavenly. Obviously, logic does not apply to matters of the heart (Ron and Hermione, I’m looking at you!) but still, it seems to me that the woman’s happiness in these matches is often inferior to the man’s. In vain I have struggled to come to terms with this. It will not do. So here, for all of the judgmental gentlemen of Austen’s world, I shall judge them just as harshly. The verdict is as follows.
Emma Woodhouse & George Knightly vs Frank Churchill
I love Mr Knightly so much that I didn’t even bother to make Frank Churchill a slide. My only objection to the union is that I find Emma to be utterly undeserving of a sweetheart like Mr Knightly. He can be somewhat critical of Emma at times, to the point of being condescending, but that is easily forgiven. After all, he is morally superior to her and all of her scheming ways.
I do understand that character development and plot development go hand in hand in this novel, and that Emma must grow as a person before she becomes deserving of Mr Knightly’s love. It takes her a considerable amount of time, even, to see that she loves him.
Yet the resolution of the love story remains bittersweet. I can’t help thinking that Mr Knightly would have been better served with a more loyal and compassionate wife, one more on his level intellectually and psychologically. Elizabeth Bennet, perhaps?
Elinor Dashwood & Edward Ferrars
Elinor Dashwood might be my favorite of all the Austen women. This is due in part to the brilliant portrayal by Emma Thompson in the 1995 movie adaptation of Sense & Sensibility, but it also has a lot to do with Elinor as a character and the way she fits into the dynamic of the Dashwood family.
Elinor is practical to a fault. She is incredibly selfless and loyal and I adore her. She is in love with Edward Ferrars from quite early on in the novel, and to see her get the man she wants is very satisfying. This satisfaction is even stronger because I also think that Edward is the man she deserves. Just like Elinor, Edward is a sensible person. Although he might come off as shy at first, a trait which Marianne Dashwood dislikes in him, he is never anything but honest and loyal and he seems genuinely besotted with Elinor. Edward proves himself to be loyal and kind when he refuses to break off his engagement with Lucy, even though his heart belongs to Elinor. Fortunately, our dream couple gets the happy ending they deserve and all is well.
Marianne Dashwood & Colonel Brandon vs John Willoughby
Now here is a match I dislike. Marianne, after having been madly in love with Mr Willoughby, who is more suited to her in character and closer to her own age, marries Colonel Brandon.
It seems to me that Marianne’s eventual marriage is something of a punishment for her frivolous behavior earlier on in the novel. She falls too deeply in love with Willoughby, and too quickly. So, she ends up with a husband that others regard as suitable, even though she herself does not.
Of course, Mr Willoughby is a cad. Marianne doesn’t know what’s good for her, that’s the idea. But should a sixteen-year-old be punished for her frivolity and naivety by means of an unwanted marriage to a man almost twenty years her senior? I rather think not. For this reason, in spite of Elinor Dashwood’s luck in love, the ending of Sense & Sensibility has never really satisfied me. However, it does succeed in making a point about the constraints of Austen’s society, and the terrible circumstances under which women had to live during her time.
Elizabeth Bennet & Fitzwilliam Darcy vs George Wickham
Note the absence of Mr Collins, who is such a bore he isn’t even worthy of consideration.
Elizabeth Bennet is my role model. She is so brilliantly witty and sharp, intelligent, loyal and kind. Her relationship to her father always makes me think of my own father, who I love more than almost anything in the world.
Elizabeth deserves so much better than Mr Darcy. However, Mr Drcy is superior to both Wickham and Collins in every conceivable way, so I suppose she got the better end of the bargain. And there is something quite satisfying in Mr Darcy’s character development, if only because it is always satisfying to see an arrogant character swallow their pride. Still, there’s not a doubt in my mind as to who calls the shots in the Darcy household, and it isn’t the gentleman.
What are your thought on the matter? Tell me about the most epically mismatched couples in the history of literature, and why you think they’re incompatible.