With PBS Masterpiece Classic broadcsting Sense and Sensibility (2008 ) again on Feb 1 and 8, it’s good time to muse on the question: Which Austen heroine was Jane herself most like? You can see the poll on my side bar, and the results so far.
As you watch Sense and Sensibility once again, look closer at Elinor and Marianne. Mind you, if you have a chance, watch the 1995 movie too, then you’d appreciate Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet in bringing out the differences between sense and sensibility even more clearly I think.
No doubt, we all like to perceive Jane herself as the very source that had inspired the creation of our all time heroine, Elizabeth Bennet of Pride and Prejudice, intelligent, witty, self-assured, sharp in her critique of social norms, and brave enough to challenge, and diverge. She dominates our popular votes here with a 44% lead… so far.
But Anne Elliot of Persuasion is also a popular choice, mature, patient and wise. The silent lover is a strong second with 23%.
After reading the biographies of Jane, knowing how she had loved the burlesque and to play a part in the family’s performances, how openly she had engaged in activities with her brothers and the student boarders in her home, how she had written satires while still a youngster, how critical she could be, and above all, upon my reading Claire Tomalin’s incisive analysis of Jane’s relationship with her older sister Cassandra, I tend to lean toward a very unpopular choice.
I think Jane by nature was more like Marianne Dashwood, passionate, spontaneous, expressive and bold. It’s Cassandra, like Elinor, who reminded her to rein in her emotions, to keep her skepticism in check, and to help her fit into a world that was not ready for a female like her. Have you wondered why Cassandra needed to burn so many of Jane’s letters to her after Jane’s death?
Is it sense and sensibility we’re talking about here, or rather nature and nurture?
No matter. It’s best that our favorite writer remains an enigma. But, if you have to choose, thinking back to all the Austen heroines in her six novels, who do you think Jane resembled the most?
Cast your vote and let Janeites decide.