Tag Archives: Jane Austen

Sense And Sensibility Character Review: Mrs. Jennings

*Warning: This post contains spoilers in regards to the narrative and characters from the novel Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen. Read at your own risk if you have not read the book or seen any of the adaptations.

There is something to be said about a well written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.

In this series of weekly blog posts, I will examine character using the characters from Sense and Sensibility to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.

Every author, regardless of genre, relies on a stable of character tropes when creating the characters that inhabit the world of their stories. One of the familiar character tropes that readers of Jane Austen will recognize is the character that induces eye rolling and internal groaning. This character for the most part, is female, older and though she has good intentions, sometimes runs her mouth off without thinking.

In Sense And Sensibility, this character is Mrs. Jennings. Mrs. Jennings is a wealthy widow who is distantly related via marriage to the novel’s heroines, Elinor and Marianne Dashwood. With both of her daughters married, Mrs. Jennings is more than happy to play matchmaker for Elinor and Marianne. The problem is that her advice/attention is unwanted by the girls. Mrs. Jennings also lacks the self awareness that she sometimes has, well, foot in mouth disease.

To sum it up: While Mrs. Jennings is peripheral character, she in her own way, contributes to the narrative. As writers, we have to remember that every character plays a role in the narrative, whether they are central to the plot or they come and go as needed. The peripheral characters may not be front and center, but they still as important as the main characters. We cannot forget them or marginalize them, for if we do that, the story loses some it’s humanity and it’s color. That humanity and color is vital to the narrative, otherwise it will be just another story with another set of characters.

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Sense And Sensibility Character Review: John And Fanny Dashwood

*Warning: This post contains spoilers in regards to the narrative and characters from the novel Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen. Read at your own risk if you have not read the book or seen any of the adaptations.

There is something to be said about a well written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.

In this series of weekly blog posts, I will examine character using the characters from Sense and Sensibility to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.

We need money to survive, that is a fact of life. Money buys us a roof over our heads, fresh food and clean clothing. But money also has a corrupting influence. It can blind us to the suffering of others and can make us forget that the person next to us is a human being.

If nothing can be said about Jane Austen, one can say that she used her characters to make statements about the world she lived in (as every writer does). John and Fanny Dashwood are the half-brother and sister-in-law to Elinor and Marianne Dashwood, the heroines of Sense And Sensibility. John has the luck of the draw, he is the first-born son and automatically inherits Norland, the Dashwood family estate upon the death of his father. That means that his stepmother and half sisters will have to find another place to call home.

Fanny is a corrupting influence on her husband. While John is more than ready to give his sisters and stepmother the income promised to them in his father’s will, Fanny convinces him to reduce the amount drastically. She is also an out-and-out snob, making it clear to Mrs. Dashwood early in the novel that the budding romance between Elinor and her brother Edward will have to be squashed. If Sense And Sensibility has a villain, these two are it.

To sum it up: When a writer wishes to make a statement, they have one of two choices. They can hit the reader over the head, which might be effective, but it also might not be. Or, the writer could find a way to weave their statement into the narrative and characters,  making the statement not only more effective and memorable in the minds of the readers.

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Sense And Sensibility Character Review: John Willoughby

*Warning: This post contains spoilers in regards to the narrative and characters from the novel Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen. Read at your own risk if you have not read the book or seen any of the adaptations.

There is something to be said about a well written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.

In this series of weekly blog posts, I will examine character using the characters from Sense and Sensibility to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.

For romantic love to last what will hopefully be a lifetime, it requires three key ingredients: commitment, compromise and the willingness to stand by your significant other through good times and bad. Unfortunately, some people are unwilling or unable to do what is stated above to make love last. John Willoughby is one of these people.

The reader is introduced to Mr. Willoughby in the most romantic way possible: he rescues one of the novel’s heroines, Marianne Dashwood. Marianne falls and twists her ankle during a rainstorm. He sweeps her off her feet, both literally and figuratively. The heir to a local estate, he is handsome, charming and outgoing. It look like Mr. Willoughby and Marianne are headed for wedded bliss, if only he would propose. Then he disappears without much of an explanation and it all goes south from there.

Like all of Austen’s male baddies, Mr. Willoughby is all charm with nothing beneath the charm. His smooth manners and easy conversations conceal a man whose motives are cold and selfish. He only cares for his own desires and does not care for the feelings of someone else.

To sum it up: Willoughby is a jerk, to say the least. However, the reader/audience member does not know that initially. That is the fun of reading and where the writer’s work truly begins. It’s like a magic act where the magician is telling the audience to look at their left hand, but the real trick is in their right hand.

A complete 180 switch for a character is never easy, especially when the audience/reader thinks that they have an idea of who this person is. The writer must create such a convincing character, that when this 180 switch occurs, it creates a ripple effect that completely changes the rest of the narrative and how this character is viewed. Without that complete convincing of knowing who this character is, the reveal will lose its power and the reader will not be compelled to continue with the story.

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Thoughts On The Anniversary Of The Publishing Of Pride and Prejudice

*Warning: this post contains spoilers about Pride and Prejudice. Read at your own risk if you have not read the book or watched any of the adaptations.

There are some books that continue to speak to us on a broad cultural level, regardless of the era when they were published.

Pride and Prejudice is one of these books. Written by Jane Austen and published in 1813, Pride and Prejudice continues to be one of the most popular and relevant books in our culture.

While on the surface, Pride and Prejudice is the story of the rocky courtship between Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzilliam Darcy, it is much more than that. Austen was an astute observer of her era, using her novels to subversively point out the human foibles of her characters and the social misfires that are as relevant today as they were in 1813. Whether it was the disenfranchising of women (the Bennet girls automatically disqualified from inheriting the family home because they are women), the snobbery of the upper classes (Lady Catherine de Bourgh) or the foolishness of marriage for marriage’s sake (the not so happy marriage of Mr. and Mrs. Bennet), Austen was not afraid to use her writing to reveal some hard truths about her world.

In addition to Pride and Prejudice, Austen published five other novels in her lifetime. She died at the age of 41, not knowing that her popularity would last centuries after her death.

I am going to end this post with Thug Notes edition of Pride and Prejudice because, I can’t think of a better way to honor Pride and Prejudice.

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Sense and Sensibility Character Review: Edward Ferrars

*Warning: This post contains spoilers in regards to the narrative and characters from the novel Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen. Read at your own risk if you have not read the book or seen any of the adaptations.

There is something to be said about a well written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.

In this series of weekly blog posts, I will examine character using the characters from Sense and Sensibility to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.

One of the more common narratives that has been used since the beginning of storytelling is the needs and wants of the individual versus the needs and wants of those around the individual. This is the struggle of the character of Edward Ferrars.

Edward is the oldest son from a wealthy family. He is to inherit quite a tidy sum from his mother upon her passing. Both his mother and sister (who is sister in law to Elinor Dashwood) have grand plans for Edward, but Edward wants a quieter life.

The reader meets Edward after Mr. and Mrs. John Dashwood when he is invited to Norland, the ancestral estate of the Dashwoods, which has come into John Dashwood’s possession after the death of his father.  Mr. Dashwood’s stepmother and younger half sisters will soon be displaced from Norland and will have to find a new home. But that doesn’t stop a spark from lighting between Elinor and Edward.

The problem with this spark is that it stands in the way of Edward marrying a woman whom they would deem to be a more appropriate wife. After Mrs. Dashwood and her daughters leave Norland, Edward visits them in their new home at Barton cottage, but something about him seems elusive, as if he is hiding something.  Quiet, noble and honorable, Edward has a secret that may forever sever his ties with Elinor and force him to marry a woman for the sake of marriage and not for love.

To sum it up: While some Jane Austen fans have griped about Edward Ferrars, I happen to think that he is one of her most underrated male leads. While he starts off quietly acquiescing to his mother and sister, fate will force him to make a choice between love and duty, between his needs and the needs of those around him.

When a writer chooses this narrative of love vs. duty, their main goal is to create tension and to force the character to ask difficult questions. Without that tension and those difficult questions, it will be hard for the reader to get involved with the narrative and want to stay with the character throughout the story. The key is both the tension and the questions and if done right, the reader will stay glued to the edge of their seat until the final page.

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Sense and Sensibility Character Review: Colonel Brandon

*Warning: This post contains spoilers in regards to the narrative and characters from the novel Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen. Read at your own risk if you have not read the book or seen any of the adaptations.

There is something to be said about a well written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.

In this series of weekly blog posts, I will examine character using the characters from Sense and Sensibility to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.

We all deal with grief and heartbreak in different ways. Some of us grieve and then move on with our lives. Others go about our business and try to not let the past get in the way of our present.  When the reader/audience meets Colonel Brandon in Sense and Sensibility, he introduced as the good friend of the cousin who is renting a small cottage on his property to the newly widowed Mrs. Dashwood and her daughters. He is all manners and amiability, holding his metaphorical cards to the chest.  Marianne Dashwood, Mrs. Dashwood’s 17-year-old daughter sees nothing but an old man who is boring and has resigned from life.

But Colonel Brandon is a different man from the readers initially meet. The younger son of wealthy landowner, in his youth, he was in love with Eliza, his father’s ward. She was equally in love with him and ready to run away with him, but they were discovered and stopped. Sent away by his father, Colonel Brandon learns that Eliza, who is an heiress was forced to marry his older brother. It was not a love match, to say the least.

A few years later, Colonel Brandon discovers that Eliza is now divorced from his older brother and is dying in a poorhouse. Forced to earn her bread by selling her body, Eliza has a young daughter. Though he cannot save Eliza, Colonel Brandon takes in Eliza’s daughter, raising her as his ward.

Though it is not immediately obvious to the reader (nor to Marianne, who only realizes who her heart belongs to at the end of the book), Colonel Brandon, though appearing to be outwardly boring, is very much the ideal life partner. He is loving, loyal, generous, considerate and the knight in shining armor that Marianne thinks she has in John Willoughby (who will be discussed in two weeks).

To sum it up: In creating Colonel Brandon, Jane Austen created a character who surprised the audience/reader. When a writer can surprise the audience and totally change the way the character or the narrative is looked at, then they have done their job. It is just a question of how to weave the surprise into the existing narrative and character arc.

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RIP Alan Rickman

*Warning: the post contains minor spoilers about the narrative and characters in Sense and Sensibility. Read at your own risk if you have not read the book or have watched any of the adaptations. 

Two years ago today, the world lost of one this era’s greatest actors: Alan Rickman.

My favorite Alan Rickman performance will always be Colonel Brandon in 1995 film adaptation of Sense and Sensibility. Playing opposite Kate Winslet as Marianne Dashwood, his character (as it was faithfully adapted from the novel of the same name by Jane Austen), was a man who held the proverbial cards to his chest. When the audience meets Colonel Brandon in the film, he introduced as the good friend of the cousin who is renting a small cottage on his property to the newly widowed Mrs. Dashwood and her daughters. A bachelor in his mid 30’s,  he is amiable and a gentleman, but his character and his past are a mystery at that juncture in the narrative.

Over the course of the story, Colonel Brandon is revealed to be a man whose past is filled with grief and heartbreak. Rickman played the part with nuance and sensitivity, elevating the character to a new level, reminding Janeites why Colonel Brandon is one of the favorite leading men within the Jane Austen universe. Rickman himself became a fan favorite, gaining new fans and a new level of respect from the Janeite fan base.

RIP Sir. While your physical remains are gone, your spirit and your body of work will live on forever.

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Sense and Sensibility Character Review: Marianne Dashwood

*Warning: This post contains spoilers in regards to the narrative and characters from the novel Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen. Read at your own risk if you have not read the book or seen any of the adaptations.

There is something to be said about a well written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.

In this series of weekly blog posts, I will examine character using the characters from Sense and Sensibility to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.

When we are young, some of us are so certain in our beliefs that it takes an act of G-d to show us otherwise. In Sense and Sensibility, Marianne Dashwood is only sixteen when the book starts. She has just lost her father and is soon to lose her home to her older half-brother and his wife. She is romantic, dreamy-eyed and so certain of everything she is thinking and feeling. That will soon change.

Forced to relocate to a new and smaller home with her mother and sisters, Marianne meets two different men: the, young, dashing and romantic Mr. Willoughby and the seemingly old, austere and silent Colonel Brandon. Marianne’s meet cute with Mr. Willoughby is straight out of a fairy tale: after twisting her ankle on the wet grass, Mr. Willoughby carries Marianne home. It looks like Marianne may have found her own version of Prince Charming, but Mr. Willoughby is not all he seems to be.

Colonel Brandon, on the other hand, is not young, dashing or romantic. He is 35 (which always seems old when your sixteen), according Marianne probably wears flannel waist coats and does not match the romantic fantasies that have colored her view of the world. When Mr. Willoughby break’s Marianne’s heart by abruptly disappearing without an explanation, this sets on her a path to realize that maybe the beliefs she once held near and dear were not always correct.

To sum it up: Sometimes, regardless of our age, we have to learn things the hard way. There is no other way to learn. But, on the other hand, when we are young and forced to learn the hard way, it’s calling growing up. And growing up is never easy. As writers, when we are creating characters in the mold of Marianne Dashwood, I believe that we have to have to end in mind. When we are sending this character on this journey, what will be the end result? Will they be wiser, smarter, more flexible, bitter, angry, etc.?  The journey is taxing on both the writer and the character. But, if done right, the reader will remember the learning experience and perhaps come to learn a bit more about life along the way.

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Sense And Sensibility Character Review: Elinor Dashwood

*Warning: This post contains spoilers in regards to the narrative and characters from the novel Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen. Read at your own risk if you have not read the book or seen any of the adaptations.

There is something to be said about a well written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.

In this series of weekly blog posts, I will examine character using the characters from Sense and Sensibility to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.

Life sometimes hands us lemons. We have two choices when we receive the figurative lemon. We can either get emotional or we can be rational and figure out what needs to be done in spite of receiving that lemon. In Sense and Sensibility, Elinor Dashwood is given a lemon by life.

Born into a wealthy, landowning family, her world is uprooted when her father dies. Her older half-brother, who was their father’s only son and heir takes what is rightfully his. That means that Elinor, her sisters and her now widowed mother must find another place to live. On top of that, her sister-in-law convinces her husband the reduce the income left to the girls and their mother by her late father.

Forced out of the only home they have ever known, Elinor faces her new reality with aplomb, while her mother and sisters are not quite ready to face the fact that their lives are about to change. She also falls for Edward Ferrars, the younger brother of her sister-in-law. Edward seems to respond with equal affection, but the lemon that life has thrown her way is also giving her mixed signals about Edward.

However, there is a downside to the rationality and calm when dealing with the lemon. Human beings are emotional creatures, when we are unable to let out our feelings, especially when dealing with stress or loss, it can take a toll on us.

To sum it up: On the surface, Elinor is a vision of serenity and doing what needs to be done. But underneath that calm are emotions that have been pushed aside and at some point, must be released. In Sense and Sensibility, Elinor represents duty, thinking rationally and basically just doing what needs to be done. Austen asked the question, through Elinor, is thinking rationally and using logic the best way to deal with a tough situation? Or is it better to be emotional and wear your heart on your sleeve like Elinor’s younger sister Marianne (who shall be discussed next week)?

Good writing makes a reader think. It makes them ask questions, not just about the narrative and character choices the writer made, but also about how those questions can be applied to a larger canvas. Through those questions, the reader becomes involved with the story and will not put the book down until the last page has been read.

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Top Ten Book Reviews Of 2017

2017 was a good year for the publishing industry, at least from my perspective. Below are top ten books for 2017.

  1. The Genius Of Jane AustenJane Austen was a genius, this book explains why.
  2. Growing Up Fisher: Joely Fisher’s unconventional autobiography is a look into her very unique Hollywood family.
  3. What HappenedHillary Clinton’s brutally honest reminiscence of the 2016 Presidential Election is one for the ages.
  4. Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud: The Rise and Reign of the Unruly Woman: This must read book examines how female celebrities are questioning what is acceptable for a woman.
  5. The Making Of Jane AustenJane Austen was not born a writer, she made herself into one.
  6. Journey to Star Wars: The Last Jedi: Leia, Princess of AlderaanThe book tells the story of Princess Leia two years before the events of A New Hope.
  7. Daring to Drive: A Saudi Woman’s Awakening: Saudi Arabia is known the world over for its oppressive laws against its women. Manal Al-Sharif is fighting to change that.
  8. Mr. Rochester: Written from the point of view of Edward Rochester, Charlotte Bronte’s most famous hero, the book is an eye-opening story on the man readers thought they knew.
  9. You Can’t Spell America Without Me: The Really Tremendous Inside Story of My Fantastic First Year as President Donald J. Trump (A So-Called Parody): Alec Baldwin co wrote this hilarious book from the mind of you know who. Ridiculously funny.
  10. The Great Gasbag: An A-to-Z Study Guide to Surviving Trump World: Written by The View co-host Joy Behar, this novel is for anyone who needs a laugh, especially considering what has come out of D.C. this year.

Honorable Mentions

 

This will be my last blog post for 2017. Wherever you are, have a safe and happy new year. See you in 2018.

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