It is quite vexatious.

I just finished reading Emma by Jane Austen.

Then I watched the really old 6-part miniseries of Emma (because it’s an instant download on Netflix).

And whenever I finish reading anything by Jane Austen, no matter how many times I’ve read it, my brain starts thinking in old English.  And, upon my word, it is quite tiresome. I half expect a servant to announce my arrival as I go from room to room.

You may recall that I’m an adoring Austen fan.  I can’t really discern why, as I’m not extremely formal nor romantic; nevertheless, I can return to her books and the adaptions of them over and over again and never find them tedious.  Sorry, I just can’t get the tainted language out.  I shall exert myself.  🙂

Anyway, Emma has never been my favorite Austen heroine.  Like Mr. Knightley does on occasion, I find her indulged and careless.  But this time around, I saw a lot of myself in Emma, and that surprised me.  For the first time, I realized some parallels between her love story and my own, especially how she tried to help a friend to make a match and was surprised to find out that his affections were directed toward herself.  (Of course, in her case, it led to shock and disgust.  In my case it led to shock and then marriage.)  Also, like Emma, I like to laugh, and sometimes I find myself in an annoying situation (for those familiar with the novel, think about the outing on Box Hill), and I use my own humor or wit to make it tolerable.  Once at a boring and tiny-bit contentious PTO meeting, I cracked a few jokes to “lighten things up” a little, and like Emma did with Miss Bates, ended up offending someone unintentionally.  So, when I saw the comparison, I too felt personally rebuked by Mr. Knightley when he expressed his disappointment in her– “Badly done, Emma.  Badly done.” — and I felt her shame as she rode home in the carriage in tears.  I’m still not sure what to make of the fact that I’m more like a character I’ve never really liked than I thought I was.

I like to think that the Austen heroine I’m most like is Elinor from Sense and Sensibility.  In many ways, I relate to her the most.  She is the oldest child, the responsible one.  She is practical and realistic, but has deep feelings.  She is clever and consoling and gives good advice.  I like Elinor.  I love Lizzie from Pride and Prejudice, too, especially for her wit and spunk.  One thing I like about both of them is that they do not have a brooding nature; they forge on with what must be done even when they are suffering or confused.  My favorite heroine is Anne Elliott from Persuasion.  I don’t think I am like her, because she is too kind and patient, but she is the character I most admire.

How about you?  I know there are some more Austen fans out there.  Who is your favorite heroine and why?  And which one do you think you are the most like?  We’ll have to save the discussion of favorite male characters for another day.  Good heavens, that deserves a discussion of its own.

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21 thoughts on “It is quite vexatious.

  1. I want to hang out with you after you read an Austen novel. I love me some old English. Dearly. (but can neither think nor speak in it)

    I recently watched the Emma with Gwyneth Paltrow (I own it) and I just really, really like it. Almost as much as I like the book. It’s not my favorite, of course, but I remember a year or two ago a few people were talking about how they just couldn’t get into/didn’t like Emma. I just do like it.

    I like them all. I really couldn’t say which I like best. I also like the Bronte sisters books very much and feel that they don’t get as much love from the world as they should (simply because Austen was so very good). I miss heroines that I can really admire, and I think the Bronte sisters were good at creating those. Austen’s characters have plenty of depth and good qualities but I think . . . Oh, I don’t know. I’ll have to back and read them all. I just like really good characters, something lacking in most of Thomas Hardy, Henry James, etc. And I love Dickens, too, if I’m in the right mood.

    Um, you didn’t ask about what authors I like and why, did you? So here’s your answer: I think I like P&P, Persuasion and Mansfield Park in that order, then the others.

    Chick lit of the 1800’s ROCKS. (novel over)

    • Lizzie is definitely my favorite. I love how she patiently endures, loves her family in spite of their frequently obnoxious nature, and I love the nature of her relationship with Jane.

      But mostly, I love that she ends with Darcy. Because he is the ultimate hero.

    • Lisa, I actually read Jane Eyre for the first time about 2 years ago and it quickly became one of my favorites of all time, if not my favorite. I found Jane to be one of the most powerful heroines I’ve come across. Bronte managed to make her good without being shallow; a fully developed character that, though humanly flawed, was still wholly good and strong. I loved that.

      • Jane Eyre is also my favorite. I found out through family history – that I am directly decended from Emily DIckinsons family. Not her – she never had any children, so I have been reading up on her – also a very facinating person.

  2. How to choose between Anne and Elizabeth?! I love Anne’s consistency of character. She doesn’t change much throughout the story so the reward is in seeing her relationship with Captain Wentworth. I love watching Elizabeth’s paradigm shift in her relationship with Darcy. I love them both. I also love Fanny in Mansfield Park. It’s not my favorite book, and you have to get past the fact that Edward is her first cousin, but she has great judgment and integrity.

  3. Like everyone, I do love Lizzy in P&P, but I think my favorite is Elinor from S&S. I’ve just always loved her patience, and her goodness and willingness to do what had to be done, like you said.

    Emma has never been a favorite of mine. Not sure why, but I still have never made it through the book. Perhaps I should pick it up again…I do own it and all.

  4. I am Emma to a T! In fact, I think I married Mr. Knightley. I always thought I was wiser than Emma (probably am now), but I find I’m a tad more trusting than Lizzie.

    Jane Austen is my hero in many ways. Like you, the books and movies never get old for me. I think the reason so many of us enjoy her stories is because they are so incredibly relate-able. All of her protagonists are flawed, but in an endearing and understandable way. Her characters are realistic and represent all walks and opinions of life –and consequences of actions are realistically met. But, of course, what I think may be the most endearing aspect of it all is the end result: people really do find true love. Or at least their idea of it.

    Btw, here’s my list of the best movies of each book:

    P&P –Colin Firth one, for sure. But when I want some good music, passion, and cinematography, I go for the Kiera Knightley one.

    Emma –The new PBS one (2010? 2009?). Flawless! Gwenyth Paltrow does a good job in that version, but this one still wins. I could watch it over and over and over and over…

    Persuasion –The old BBC one (1995?). The characters aren’t as attractive as the new PBS one (2008), but it actually follows the storyline perfectly! I just bought it and I can’t wait to see it again. The letter writing scene!? Fantastic!

    Sense and Sensibility –The new PBS one (2008). I love the length and adherence (well, better adherence) to the book. Emma Thompson’s is great, but this one is still better. One of my favorite scenes in the book is when Willoughby comes to see Marianne after he learns she is sick and Elinor has it out with him. This version (2008) actually has that scene! Huzzah!

    Mansfield Park –Haven’t found one I like. The 1995 one is better than the 2008 one (imho), but still, nothing has been able to capture this book very well. At all! But how could it? Fanny is one of the least liked heroines ever written. Which, to me, just adds to Jane Austen’s genius. This is still one of my favorite books.

    Northanger Abbey — The 2008 PBS one, HANDS DOWN. The old one was way weird and psychedelic. Plus, JJ Feild is so adorable. 🙂

    P.S. Visiting Jane Austen’s home while I was in England was amazing. Not anything earth-shattering or surreal; just amazing.

  5. Sense and Sensibility and Persuasion are my favorite Austen’s so it’s no surprise that Elinor Dashwood and Anne Eliot are my favorite heroines.

    As to heroes, I don’t really like Mr. Darcy (I prefer Elizabeth Gaskell’s Mr. Thornton). I love Henry Tilney’s sense of humour, Mr. Knightley’s gentlemanly and thoughtful nature, and Captain Wentworth’s deep love for Anne.

  6. Fanny Price is my favorite. I don’t know exactly why. It has been a while since I read Mansfield Park, but goodness how I loved her! She is so kind, and watches and is constant… everything I am not (though I try desperately to be good and kind, and constant). But of course, Elizabeth and I go way back. So much so that my oldest sister reminds me of Miss Bennett. They share the same wit and spunk. And if I could be one of them, I would want to be Elizabeth. Sigh. I am eternally grateful for that Miss Austen and her literary genius. Where would we as women be without her wonderful books?

    P.S. I have the same problem of talking old english style after reading the books. 🙂

  7. Well of course Elizabeth Bennett is the correct answer, because Elizabeth Bennett is pure awesomeness.

    Sorry. She’s “divine, simply divine, darling.”

    Or something.

    Pssst. I’m trying to find more than five minutes together to call you. It will happen soon, I promise!

  8. I dont know what character I am like. I have never thought about it. I like Jane Austen, becuase it very clearly lays out social cues and situations for me, and I like that. No anxiety and I can clearly tell what is going on. While I like them at a distance, (I’m a social voyer)I dont think I would like to meet any of her characters in real life, other than Elizabeth’s friend Charlolette Lucas. I like her. Pretty even tempered and kind. Quick wit frightens me.

  9. I’m not a big Emma fan (couldn’t finish it) but I’ve reread Pride and Prejudice multiple times. Our book club is discussing Persuasion next Thursday so I need to (start and) finish it by then, but I hear it’s good so I’m kind of looking forward to it.

  10. Emma is my favorite. I love the version with Gwynneth Paltrow (however she spells her name) because I just adore that Mr. Knightly. I love everything he says, from “badly done, Emma” to “try not to kill my dogs”!!

    We read Persuasion for our book club a few years ago and then watched the movie, and I totally dreamed in Jane Austin language!

  11. Ooooohhhh I love Jane Austen! I have Pride and Prejudice on audiobook and I love listening to it. I highly recommend listening to classics on audiobook, they get the best readers.

    The last time I was reading Mansfield Park I felt like I really identified with Lady Bertram. I’m all about sitting on the couch, doing needlework, letting everyone else take care of my kids for me. That would be spectacular. Haha!

    I love that Jane Austen’s books make you think. They get your mind going and the language is so beautiful. There are a couple of her books that I haven’t read, yet. I will have to read them.

    Have you read any Charles Dickens? I LOVE David Copperfield.

  12. We’re reading Emma right now for book club since we only meet every other month and Emma has a few good Christmas-esque scenes. (“I am the perfect degree of warmness!” The others quoted above are also great). I will assume you’ve seen the Gwyneth Paltrow version, but if not you must see it–I really love it. Always watch it when wrapping Christmas presents. That and Little Women.

    Lovely post, darling. Really quite charming. (Said in an English brogue, of course).

  13. I adore Austen, and speak old English after reading her too. I’ve a sudden urge to read one of her books after reading this post. So lovely.

    I think I am most like Emma (a bit egotistical and arrogant – and in serious need of humbling, but with some awesome potential that sometimes only MY Mr. Knightley can see). But I aspire to be like Elizabeth (witty, generous hearted, intelligent, kind) and Elinor (selfless). Some day, perhaps.

  14. I took a “What Austen Character are You?” quiz once (before I realized those facebook quizzes keep coming and started blocking them) and I will never reveal which character it came up with. It didn’t help that I put I wasn’t into being cheesy romantic, I can tell you that!

    I always start speaking the same way the characters in books are talking. This is bad, since I love reading Dickens the most and Austen probably second.

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