*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.