I’m Elinor Dashwood

Julie Fairey sent me a link to this quiz: Which Austen heroine are you? I turn out to be Elinor Dashwood, which surprised me a little, because in recent years the Austen woman I have most identified with is Anne Elliot: I like her reserve, her confidence, as a mature woman, in her own judgement, her constancy and loyalty, and the way she constantly balances the claims that society and her family have on her, with what she thinks she really ought to do. She doesn’t disregard the social context in which she moves, but she is sufficiently self-assured make her own assessment of a situation, and act accordingly.

However I do like Elinor Dashwood too, who takes responsibility, looks after other people, allows herself to feel deeply, but doesn’t force her feelings on everyone around her. She is someone to be admired, though she is not so immediately appealing as Elizabeth Bennett (anyone who doesn’t like Elizabeth Bennett is a fool).

So, take the quiz. Which Jane Austen heroine are you? Post your answers in comments, if you feel so inclined.

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24 responses to “I’m Elinor Dashwood

  1. Another Elinor. Thank heavens I didn’t come out as that odious prig, Fanny Price. Would have said something quite improper. :)

  2. Anne Elliott, but I identify most with Elinor Dashwood.

  3. Well, I came out as Anne Elliot. Had to take a bit of license on some of the questions though. Who would play me was tough, but in the end I plumped for Kate Winslet.

  4. Elizabeth Bennet. A dirty job but somone has to do it.

  5. But are you Jennifer Ehle or Keira Knightly? Or some other version of Elizabeth?

  6. that odious prig, Fanny Price

    Ouch! Craig, don’t you know that one of the prime rules of Jane Austen netiquette is that you must never, ever start a Fanny Price flame war.

    I was never very fond of Fanny Price, until a friend of mine told me that she identified quite strongly with her. Fanny is an outsider, forever the poor relation, excluded from her own family, excluded from the Bertram family, and treated as being of little importance, overlooked and slighted, while all the time having a warm and loving heart, and not looking for special privileges, but just acceptance and inclusion. Once I heard that view of Fanny, I became much more sympathetic to her.

    However, I do far prefer Mary Crawford.

  7. Ouch! Craig, don’t you know that one of the prime rules of Jane Austen netiquette is that you must never, ever start a Fanny Price flame war.

    Ow… I feel like Emma after her famous post-picnic ticking off (gentle, pointed and on the money) from Mr. Knightley. :) I guess I’m just one of those people who finds Fanny’s imperfections a little less ‘endearing’ than others; though even Elizabeth Bennett’s judgment is less than flawless (as she acknowledges herself, wasn’t her good opinion of Wickham based more on his solicitude, and Darcy wounding her vanity and pride, than a proper assessment of either man). Thank heavens for that, otherwise Pride and Prejudice would be a rather uninteresting short story.

    I’ll give Miss Price the benefit of a closer acquaintance. :)

  8. I prefer Jennifer Ehle. Keira was just too skinny in that role. She gave a lovely performance, but I think Austin women need more of a Kate-winslet look to them.

  9. I got Elinor also, which is fitting as I think Sense and Sensibility was the first Austen film I ever saw and I did overly identify with Emma Thompson’s portrayal.

    After much reflection I actually prefer Knightley’s Elizabeth now. I felt Ehle’s was a bit venal – particularly in regard to her change of heart about Darcy came after she saw his big house…

  10. I prefer Jennifer Ehle. Keira was just too skinny in that role. She gave a lovely performance, but I think Austin women need more of a Kate-winslet look to them.

    I guess you can’t win, because I read a fascinating interview with Jennifer Ehle where she said, despite the reams of (well-deserved) praise she received, the one story that stuck in her mind was a typically nasty tabloid hack slagging her off as ‘dumpy’ compared to Susannah Harker.

    After much reflection I actually prefer Knightley’s Elizabeth now. I felt Ehle’s was a bit venal – particularly in regard to her change of heart about Darcy came after she saw his big house….

    Well, blame Miss Austen for that because despite adapter Andrew Davies’ reputation for ‘sexing up’ the classics, he actually played P&P very close to the book. (The generous running time of six 55-minute episodes, and a comparatively lavish budget for location shooting helped.)

    And I think you’re being rather unfair to Elizabeth. She isn’t a complete and utter clot — being mistress of Pemberly, and the husband of a man of great wealth and standing is nothing to sneered at. Especially by the second daughter of family which (to be vulgar) has nothing to draw a stream of suitors to Longbourn.

    But let’s give them both a little credit. Look at chapters 34-36 of the novel. Darcy proposes to Elizabeth, and I think she’s quite aware of what she’s say when she accuses him of nor behaving like a gentleman. His response is to withdraw in a civil manner, and do something I suspect Fitzwilliam Darcy has never done before. Explains himself. This deeply reserved man shares an episode that could only be embarrasing and discreditable not only to his family — but utterly disgrace his much-loved sister — if it was maliciously made public. If she is going to reject and despise him, at least let it be based on a right understanding of who Wickham really is.

    And Elizabeth’s reaction is, quite simply one of the most beautiful (and moving) passages I’ve ever read in a novel:
    “How despicably I have acted!” she cried; “I, who have prided myself on my discernment! I, who have valued myself on my abilities! who have often disdained the generous candour of my sister, and gratified my vanity in useless or blameable mistrust! How humiliating is this discovery! yet, how just a humiliation! Had I been in love, I could not have been more wretchedly blind! But vanity, not love, has been my folly. Pleased with the preference of one, and offended by the neglect of the other, on the very beginning of our acquaintance, I have courted prepossession and ignorance, and driven reason away, where either were concerned. Till this moment I never knew myself.”

    Till this moment I never knew myself.

    Those three chapters are where both Darcy and Elizabeth have to put aside their considerable reserves of pride and prejudice; and begin to know themselves, and each other.

  11. I don’t think Elizabeth is venal, either in the book, or in Jennifer Ehle’s portrayal of her. There’s a lovely scene between Jane and Elizabeth when Elizabeth reveals her engagement to Jane. By then, Lizzy is laughing again, and she jokes about how her attachment to Mr Darcy began to grow.

    “My dearest sister, now be, be serious…. Will you tell me how long you have loved him?”

    “It has been coming on so gradually, that I hardly know when it began. But I believe I must date it from my first seeing his beautiful grounds at Pemberley.”

    Another entreaty that she would be serious, however, produced the desired effect…

    Lizzy knows that people will say she is grasping, and she is just a little self-conscious about it. So I think that takes her out venal territory.

    I wasn’t so fussed about Keira Knightly’s version of Elizabeth – she wasn’t quite as poised as I think Elizabeth should be. However one thing I did like about that particular interpretation of Pride and Prejudice (aside from Matthew McFadden, who is to die for) was the way it foregrounded Mrs Bennett’s economic concerns for her daughters. I thought it made the point very well that there were very, very few options for young women, other than getting married. Hence the emphasis on husband hunting, and preferably, rich husband hunting.

  12. I wasn’t so fussed about Keira Knightly’s version of Elizabeth – she wasn’t quite as poised as I think Elizabeth should be.

    I agree, but really think that was more about the creative direction director Joe Wright
    and writer Deborah Moggach were going for than any great lack on the part of Keira Knightley. (Her Celia in Atonement is so bleeding ‘poised’, you’d expect her to collapse into a pile of glass shards at the slightest breath.) A little too self-consciously trying to , so to speak, get a bit of pigshit on the petticoats.

    (aside from Matthew McFadden, who is to die for)

    Indeed, but I really thought the charaterisation was really off. Fitzwilliam Darcy isn’t a constipated Heathcliffe with piles, Matty.

  13. And Charlotte Lucas is there to remind us that pure venality can put you in a pretty grim situation… but staying unmarried can be worse (see: Miss Bates in Emma).

    (I was Elizabeth Bennet too, for whatever that’s worth.)

  14. Hmmn. Venality? Maybe, but forced on her by circumstances. It’s a reminder of the powerlessness of women and the terrible choices they had to make.

    PS. The BBC Mr Collins makes a great appearance as Cicero in “Rome” – the mini series.. A marvelous combination of erudite self-absorption, hypocrisy, wit and egotism. A kind of Oscar Wilde without enough redeeming features.

  15. And Charlotte Lucas is there to remind us that pure venality can put you in a pretty grim situation…

    But even that’s grossly unfair to Charlotte Lucas. She’s in exactly the same boat as the Bennetts – and is smart enough to know that she doesn’t have the luxury of hanging around on the off chance Mr Bingley has another Darcy socked away somewhere.

    Anyway, I’m tempted to mount a half-hearted defense of Mr. Collins. He may be an obnoxious suck-up, with all the sensitivity of a marble nipple. But he’s not a cruel or vicious man — leave that to the much more agreeable Wickham.

  16. with all the sensitivity of a marble nipple

    You do have a way with words, Craig.

    And yes, I quite agree – Wickham is vicious, but Collins is not. I enjoyed Tom Hollander’s Mr Collins, because he made me feel some sympathy for Collins – poor, pathetic, prosey little man. Not quite how the divine Jane wrote him of course. David Bamber (he of Rome and Cicero fame) captured much more of Collins’ priggishness.

  17. Oh jeez Craig. I’m not being ‘grossly unfair’ to Charlotte Lucas. I’m saying that she had no other *real* choice – she had to put up with Mr Collins or become a Miss Bates. Neither of them are particularly appealing, are they? So the thing that really swung her was money, and I do think that that’s perfectly valid for the women of the period. (I think Austen makes that point herself.) But god, Mr Collins is such an obsequious little moron… shudder. Imagine shagging him. ‘Lady Catherine has advised me that this is the best possible form of sexual congress for the conception of an heir. It is most generous of her to take such an interest, is it not?’

    The only thing any of this proves is that if I lived in Austen’s period, I would probably have ended up a ‘fallen woman’ with no teeth, 18 children, and a reputation for unwarranted bolshiness (if they’d coined that word in the early nineteenth century). Thank you, feminist movements.

  18. In defence of my crass accusation of venality against Elizabeth Bennett in the BBC series, I’m basing that on a scene that has really annoyed me every time I’ve watched it, and which I don’t think is a fair reflection of the book. When Lizzie goes on her travels with her aunt and uncle and ends up visiting Darcy’s Big House, the BBC version has a bit where they are in a carriage going up the drive to the house and Elizabeth’s attitude to Darcy appears to change basically instantly upon seeing the size of the residence.

    This is not to say that marrying for money was not a viable strategy for survival, for women in that era. But the thing is that Lizzie is very big on her Principles, which appear to include not marrying for money (in particular after her reaction to Charlotte marrying Collins) and yet Ehle’s reaction to the Big House suggests that the size of his estate was rather seductive once she saw firm evidence of it.

  19. SNAP!! dear sister. I too am Elinor though it makes me suspect that we both have that wonderful rose tinted view of ourselves that Mrs Bennett has.

  20. Paul! Welcome aboard. And, how surprising… It does of course invite speculation about t’other brothers, but perhaps we had better engage in that off-line.

  21. Ah, Julie – good point. Your comment made me think of Wickham’s desertion of Elizabeth for Miss King, who has inherited 10,000 pounds. Mrs Gardiner wants to know what sort of girl Miss King is, because she would be sorry to think that Wickham was mercenary. Lizzy replies:

    Pray, my dear aunt, what is the difference in matrimonial affairs, between the mercenary and the prudent motive? Where does discretion end, and avarice begin?

  22. But Paul, tell us … who did you think would play you on film?

  23. the BBC version has a bit where they are in a carriage going up the drive to the house and Elizabeth’s attitude to Darcy appears to change basically instantly upon seeing the size of the residence.

    As I recall (and someone may correct me) in the book Elizabeth’s heart turns not then but a few minutes after that, upon hearing the remarkably good impression that Mr Darcy’s housekeeper has of him.

    Meanwhile I also am Elinor Dashwood. We are legion, it seems.

  24. Surprise!

    It turns out I’m Marianne Dashwood. I’m not too sure about ‘You enjoy romantic poetry and novels, and play the pianoforte beautifully. To boot, your singing voice is captivating’ but the rest is more accurate. Especially ‘a bit too brutally honest’

    I really wanted to be Elizabeth as Colin Firth, oops I mean Mr Darcy, is my soul mate.

    Happy Waitangi Day …