I am working on a new story. It recently received a title – no cover yet – and it will be published in November of this year. As you can well imagine, a book titled The Austen Escape is going to be brimming with Austen characters, fun and, perhaps, some self-revelations. In many ways that is what Austen did best. She took her characters, threw them into a crucible, lit the fire, added pressure, and we all celebrated their emergence. Not all came out whole – but the heroines — Emma, Lizzy, the Dashwood girls, Anne, Catherine and Fanny — grew, righted wrongs (hmmm… did Fanny ever do anything wrong?) and enjoyed glorious ends.
At least we think they did. Austen always left us on that edge. She didn’t write fairy tales, but she always left us at… and they lived happily ever after.
Here are a few characters I’m playing with for The Austen Escape. I’ve noted only a sentence or two with the relevant attributes, for my story, I’m focusing upon. Please add in the comments any character tidbits that you like/dislike/stumbled across or just want to mention. As we all adore Austen, I thought this might be a fun way to start a discussion about our favorite characters and what became of them…
Catherine Moreland — Catherine is very intelligent and kind. She is also naive — as she has had little exposure outside of her narrow world. Throughout Northanger Abbey, she learns to think, question and take ownership for her story.
Isabella Thorpe — Calling Isabella a manipulative gold-digger wouldn’t be off the mark. It would, however, not tell the whole story. Isabella is also a beautiful young woman who relishes adoration and flattery, and has no clue as to what she wants in life — besides wealth, of course.
Henry Tilney — Clever, perceptive and kind, Henry is often a conundrum to those around him. In Northanger Abbey he comes across as occasionally patronizing, but his gentle teasing and constant questioning come from a good heart.
Anne Elliot — A character Austen described as “almost too good for me.” She is one of Austen’s older and most beloved heroines. She thinks, perhaps love and her bloom, have passed. Not so, dear Anne…
Captain Wentworth — An officer with courage, sense, and sensitivity. He is a new kind of hero — honored for his personal qualities and professional acumen than his birthright. Like many Austen heroes, he has a lesson to learn as well. He must learn to forgive and conquer his own pride to find love and happiness.
Lady Russell — She is a rich, well-meaning, practical woman who adores Anne Elliot. By the end of the story, we sense her rigid adherence to the social structure is giving way as she comes to honor Wentworth.
Sir Walter Elliot — Vanity was the beginning and the end of Sir Walter Elliot’s character; vanity of person and of situation. That is all one needs to know of Sir Walter.
Pride and Prejudice
Elizabeth Bennet — Consider almost a perfect heroine, Elizabeth is lovely, smart, witty, wise and kind. She believes her judgments are accurate and sound — and she is completely wrong. Fortunately for everyone, she discovers this. “How despicably I have acted… Till this moment I never knew myself” and all ends well.
Lady Catherine de Burgh — If vanity is the beginning and end of Sir Walter, pride is the beginning and end of Lady Catherine. She is also haughty, mean and close-minded — and gives a headache to everyone around her.
Emma — handsome, clever, and rich… Three things everyone must know about Emma Woodhouse. One also needs to know she messes up a lot — gets almost everything wrong. In the end, she sees life more clearly and values friends better and is rewarded with perfect happiness in her marriage.
Mr. Knightley — As model of common sense and honor one might find Knightley too good. Yet he marries these qualities with kindness, generosity and such a devoted love for Emma that readers can’t help but swoon.
Sense and Sensibility
Marianne Dashwood — Perhaps originally intended as a caricature of sensibility, Marianne matures throughout her story and brings balance to her life with a touch of sense.
Mrs. Jennings — A thoughtful and generous woman with the singular aim to enjoy the young people and see them all married. Her sense of humor can offend;
Austen dubbed it “vulgar.” But that should be forgiven when weighed against her good heart and solid common sense.
Edward Ferrars — A good honorable quiet man. The important fact to note is that he was secretly engaged, for four years, to the young beautiful and opportunistic Lucy Steele, and when it was exposed he stood by Miss Steele.
Mary Crawford — Think of Mary this way… Split bright and brilliant Elizabeth Bennet in half and give all her wisdom to Fanny Price (heroine of Mansfield Park) and all her sparkle to Mary. Mary enters her story as she leaves it — and causes great disruption in the middle.