One of the questions that I have heard is why do we have villains in our stories. What purpose could villains have when we want happiness?
What would our stories be without a villain? Would you like to have a syrupy sweet story that is all love and joy, without any angst at all? It is not natural in life to have nothing rear its ugly head from time to time, making us strive to conquer our foes and make a better life, so how could we relate to such a story? In reality, we battle against odds in an attempt to earn our happily ever after, so that is what we see in stories that are written. We want to see people who also struggle, yet come out on top. The hero and/or heroine struggling against the odds and coming out stronger.
We all have our share of evils in our lives. We have the truly horrid villains who have no redeeming qualities to them, then those who are bad but have some redeeming qualities still in them, and finally, the minor frustrating people who do things irritating. It is a fact of life, and so we like to see the main characters battle the wrongs that come their way along the path to happiness by the end of the story, which is what we all want in our real lives. Anyone who has read my stories can tell you that, no matter what I put our Darling Couple through, in the end, Darcy and Elizabeth have a Happily Ever After.
Jane Austen gave us a multitude of baddies to dislike. Some we just despise, some we can understand why they were pushed to be baddies, and then some who are just too foolish to realize they are bad.
Take for example the first type. Those who are just plain bad. Personally, I rank Wickham and Willoughby in this category. These men have had plenty given to them, and they plain do not care that they injure others. They seduce women to fill their desires, not caring of what it does to the women. Unwanted pregnancies bring shame on the women, and the Wickhams and Willoughbys of the world slither away to their next conquest. Debts to shopkeepers and debts of honor left behind, robbing people of their income, simply due to the selfishness of the character. There is no redeeming these men, they do not care what others think of them. They feel that life owes them, and when they are not given what they want, then the world is being cruel to them.
To me, Lady Catherine could go either way. Perhaps she is just out right cruel and heartless, demanding her nephew and daughter wed. Or is there a reason for her desire? Perhaps the reason for her demands was to protect Anne de Bourgh. Perhaps there is something in her husband’s will or some health issues that Lady Catherine is suffering from that pushes for her to ensure Anne is safe. Or Lady Catherine could wish to control Pemberley as she does Rosings.
Lady Russell also could go either way. Did she ruin Anne Elliot’s chance at happiness due to cruelty and demanding things done her way, or did she attempt to assist her dear friend’s daughter? Was she being controlling or was she making decisions that she thought were for the best?
Then we have the category of fools. Jane Austen has given us a multitude of fools to dislike. In Pride and Prejudice, we have the ever toadying Mr Collins. He does not seem to have a brain in his head. Though, in the original, Mr Collins is annoying, is he hurtful? Does he act cruelly? Not really. He is more or less the fly in the soup type of character who is more of an irritation than a pain. Once flicked out of the way, he is easy to forget.
Same with characters such as Mrs Norris in Mansfield Park. The woman is vexing, but her being an irritant is more out of her being an unintelligent woman who is trying to be better than she truly is. In Emma, you have Mr Elton who is likewise too foolish to be likeable, yet he does not really cause harm. And in Persuasion, we have a load of frustrating people, who are not really trying to be cruel, but their stupidity makes them so. The entire Elliot family, aside from Anne, fall into this category. They think of no one but themselves and have pity parties, expecting Anne to take care of them. Does her sister, Mary, mean to harm Anne, or is Mary aggravating us because she is unhappy in her life, so she dishes it to her sister, expecting Anne to cater to her wishes?
So, whether we like it or not, villains are necessary part of a story. If our main characters lived the perfect lives, filled with everything perfect and no troubles, we would soon become bored of the story, as it is not realistic and does not grab hold of your heart.
Here’s to the villains in our lives, and may they all be thwarted from casting their evil, allowing goodness to win. And may you, dear readers, all find your happily ever after in your life’s story.