Tag Archives: Henry Dashwood

Fathers in Jane Austen’s Novels

A father is the first man in a woman’s life. No matter who she is or what she does in life, he is the blue print for how she will judge every man she meets.

The fathers in Jane Austen’s novels range from apathetic to excellent. In honor of Father’s Day, I am going to discuss how these men have an influence on their daughters and by extension, then men their daughters marry.

1. Jane Austen’s first completed novel is Northanger Abbey. The heroine of the novel, Catherine Moreland, has the best of the fathers. Mr. Moreland is a member of the clergy and a father of ten children. He is practical, compassionate and gives his children the best life he can.

2. Jane Austen’s most famous novel, Price and Prejudice follows the tumultuous courtship between Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy. While Darcy is the man that Elizabeth will marry, the first man in her life is her father. Mr. Bennet prefers the company of his books and the solitude of his library over the company of his wife and daughters. In his youth, Mr. Bennet married for looks and not for brains. He delights in openly mocking Mrs. Bennet. In not preventing Lydia from going to Brighton, he nearly lets her ruin the family reputation. But it is his love for his second daughter, Elizabeth that redeems him in the eye of the reader.

3. In Sense and Sensbility, the reader meets the patriarch of the Dashwood clan, Henry Dashwood, for a short amount of time.  He dies very early on in the book, setting the plot in motion. The rules of primogeniture dictate that John Dashwood  as the only son, inherits, Norland, the Dashwood’s family home and the income that comes with the property. Elinor, Marianne, their mother and their youngest sister Margaret only receive a small inheritance, forcing them into genteel poverty and out of their home. While the reader does not know Mr. Dashwood as they do other Austen fathers, I get the feeling that he loved his daughters and he wanted to what was right, regardless of custom or law.

4. In Emma, Mr. Woodhouse is the father that makes many a reader groan. A widower, he raised his daughters with the help of Mrs. Weston (formerly Miss Taylor). A hypochondriac who fears that death and disease are forever around the corner, Mr. Woodhouse’s conversations revolve around the health of his daughters, son in law, grandchildren and neighbors. In worrying about the health of others, he indirectly allows Emma to be who she is and make the mistakes that she will have to learn from. But, at the end of the day, unlike some of the fathers in Austen’s fiction, he loves his children and wants the best for them.

5. Fanny Price, had things turned out differently, might have born into the household of a gentleman and had the privilege of being a gentleman’s daughter.  Instead, she was born to a father who was former Naval office and a mother who disobliged her family by marrying said Naval officer. Mansfield Park is Austen’s most controversial novel and the father figures are questionable. Fanny’s father is a drunk and her pseudo-father/Uncle, Sir Thomas Bertram is distant (emotionally and physically), authoritarian and happily bound to the social structures of the era. But, to his credit, he does agree to take his niece into his home and raise her as if she was one of his daughters.

6. In last place, is Persuasion’s Sir Walter Elliot. Another widower, when his wife was alive, Sir Walter was kept in check. But she has been dead for years. A vain, selfish man, Sir Walter thinks of nothing but status, outward appearance and fortune.  His youngest daughter, Mary is only of use to him because she has married and provided him with two grandsons, one of whom is his namesake.  Sir Walter favors his eldest daughter, Elizabeth, because she is exactly like him. The novel’s heroine, Anne is nearly forgotten by father, except when she is useful to him.

Now that is my list. Readers, who would you choose as the worst Austen father?

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Filed under Books, Emma, Jane Austen, Mansfield Park, Northanger Abbey, Persuasion, Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility

Flashback Friday-Careers That Could Have Been-The Parent Trap (1998) & What A Girl Wants (2003)

There are two types of child stars. There are the child stars, who despite their pasts, grow up to be healthy, well adjusted adults and have long, successful careers.  Then there are the ones who end up in the newspaper tabloids. These former child stars are known more for their nightly activities and their day trips to court more than their latest movie.

The latter is the subject of this flashback Friday post.

Hollywood is all about remakes. One cannot go to the movie theaters without seeing at least one trailer for a movie that is being remade. In 1998, Lindsay Lohan burst into Hollywood with remake of the 1960’s movie, The Parent Trap.  Like Hayley Mills in the original 1961 movie, Lohan played identical twins whose divorced parents (Dennis Quaid and the late Natasha Richardson) split the girls up as infants. They unknowingly send their daughters to the same summer camp. When the girls realize that they are sisters, they hatch a plan to bring their parents back together.

The British are known for their stiff upper lip and strong adherence to tradition. But what happens when an American teenager, convinced that a British politician is her father, forces herself into his life?

Daphne (Amanda Bynes) was raised in New York City by her single wedding singer mother, Libby (Kelly Preston). Daphne has been told stories about her father, but has never met him. Without telling her mother, Daphne travels to England to meet her father, Henry Dashwood (Colin Firth). Henry has aristocratic lineage, but has given up to the title to run for Parliament.  All is well in Henry’s world, until the American teenaged daughter he never knew he had crashes into his world and could possibly ruin his election.

These movies are so good. Lindsay Lohan and Amanda Bynes are naturally gifted performers.  Sadly, we talk of their careers in past tense instead of present tense.

 

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Reprimand

*-As usual, these characters are not mine, they belong with respect and affection belong to Miss Austen.

*- The section in italics is the original text from Sense and Sensibility.

Reprimand

It was another sleepless night for Mr. John Dashwood, son to the late Mr. Henry Dashwood and the newest master of Norland Park.

It had been nearly a fortnight since Mrs. Dashwood and her daughters had departed Norland for a small cottage on the property of a distant cousin in Devonshire.

His father’s dying wish was that John offer financial compensation to his stepmother and stepsisters. But it was Fanny, who convinced him otherwise and John was in agreement.

“He did not stipulate for any particular sum, my dear Fanny; he only requested me, in general terms, to assist them, and make their situation more comfortable than it was in his power to do. Perhaps it would have been as well if he had left it wholly to myself. He could hardly suppose I should neglect them. But as he required the promise, I could not do less than give it; at least I thought so at the time. The promise, therefore, was given, and must be performed. Something must be done for them whenever they leave Norland and settle in a new home.”

“Well, then, LET something be done for them; but THAT something need not be three thousand pounds. Consider,” she added, “that when the money is once parted with, it never can return. Your sisters will marry, and it will be gone for ever. If, indeed, it could be restored to our poor little boy—”

“Why, to be sure,” said her husband, very gravely, “that would make great difference. The time may come when Harry will regret that so large a sum was parted with. If he should have a numerous family, for instance, it would be a very convenient addition.”

“To be sure it would.”

“Perhaps, then, it would be better for all parties, if the sum were diminished one half.—Five hundred pounds would be a prodigious increase to their fortunes!”

“Oh! beyond anything great! What brother on earth would do half so much for his sisters, even if REALLY his sisters! And as it is—only half blood!—But you have such a generous spirit!”

With a clean conscious that he had provided for his stepmother and stepsisters as his father wished, John began his life as master of Norland Park.

Then the sleepless nights and the dreams came.

It was the same dream every night. His father calling his name, but when awoke, the night was silent.

“Perhaps my dear, Mr. Jones might help” Fanny offered. Mr. Jones was the physician who Mrs. Ferrars would recommend to anyone who would listen.

“No, I don’t think he is necessary”. But the nightmares and the sleepless nights continued.

“John!” he woke up with a start, his father’s voice.

“Why did you defy me?” his father’s voice boomed as a cold breeze came from nowhere.

“Father, I…I don’t understand”.

“Your stepmother and the girls, I asked you to take care of them and you have not. Why did you defy me?”.

“It was Fanny’s idea, she…”.

“Do not blame your wife, boy; you are master of Norland Park, not your wife. I am still your father and you will do as I have bid you to do”.

With that declaration, the other worldly voice and the cold breeze disappeared.

John finally woke up to find Fanny sleeping beside him and the light of the moon in the distance.

In the morning John hied a messenger as quickly to Derbyshire as quickly as he could.

“My dear, where have you sent him?” Fanny asked, noticing the man hurrying out of her husband’s study and towards the stables.

“To Derbyshire, with a note for £3000”.

“My darling, we agreed, that they do not need that money”.

“I have made up my mind, Fanny; we will not speak of this subject any further”.

In Derbyshire, Mrs. Dashwood’s maid announced the visitor.

“A letter for you ma’am, from Norland Park”.

After reading the letter, she collapsed into tears.

“Mama?” Margaret asked.

“We are saved, my dears. Your brother has come through”.

For the rest of his days, John Dashwood never dreamed of his father returning from the other world.

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