Click here to enter my other blog: Jane Austen's World.

Sunday, August 22

Jane Austen Character Throwdown

In several novels Jane Austen showed the results of bad behavior by young ladies. Eliza, seduced by Willoughby and the ward of Colonel Brandon, lives in obscurity in a cottage with the child she conceived out of wedlock, her young life ruined. Willoughby's callous actions and attitude towards her showed his true character. Two other young ladies were meted out punishment by Jane for their rash actions: Maria Rushworth née Bertram and Lydia Wickham née Bennet. Whose punishment was worse? Maria's or Lydia's?

Maria was engaged to Mr. Rushworth when she set her cap on Henry Crawford. Their flirtation continued even after her marriage. When Fanny Price rejected Henry's advances, he ran away with the married Maria. His punishment? Loss of respect. For Maria the consequences were more severe. Mr. Rushworth divorced her, and her father, Sir Thomas, banished her to live in a remote cottage with Mrs. Norris.

Maria had destroyed her own character, and [Sir Thomas] would not by a vain attempt to restore what never could be restored, by affording his sanction to vice, or in seeking to lessen its disgrace, be anywise accessory to introducing such misery in another man's family, as he had known himself.

It ended in Mrs. Norris's resolving to quit Mansfield, and devote herself to her unfortunate Maria, and in an establishment being formed for them in another country—remote and private, where, shut up together with little society, on one side no affection, on the other, no judgment, it may be reasonably supposed that their tempers became their mutual punishment.

Lydia's punishment for being giddy, impetuous and foolish resulted in lifelong unhappiness. Her parents' leniency towards her brash behavior allowed her passion to rule her. Too late Lydia learned that passion rarely lasts.
"It had always been evident to [Elizabeth] that such an income as theirs, under the direction of two persons so extravagant in their wants, and heedless of the future, must be very insufficient to their support; and whenever they changed their quarters, either Jane or herself were sure of being applied to for some little assistance towards discharging their bills. Their manner of living, even when the restoration of peace dismissed them to a home, was unsettled in the extreme. They were always moving from place to place in quest of a cheap situation, and always spending more than they ought. His affection for her soon sunk into indifference; her's lasted a little longer; and in spite of her youth and her manners, she retained all the claims to reputation which her marriage had given her." free polls
Whose punishment was worse?
Maria Rushworth's Lydia Wickham's   


Anne Shirley said...

I choosed Maria. Besides all you say about her, she didn't care about her sister's feelings: poor Julia!

I love your blog!

Charity U said...

I also choose Maria. Lydia seemed pretty happy and almost appears to love Wickham. Or at least she's crazy about him. When you read the last chapter, you learn she and Wickham are perpetually short on money (to my memory), but otherwise...

Charity U said...

PS. The old P&P is better. (=

Lisa said...

I always though Maria got the worst punishment from Austen because in the end she has no husband and no respectibility. Lydia gets a husband (before any of her sisters) and doesn't care whether she is respectable or not.

Maria I almost feel bad for... Lydia, never! :)

Nonna Beach said...

I think Maria is the worst because she isn't a silly young teenager like Lydia and knows better. Since she cheated on her unloved husband in a most scandalous way, she deserved everything she got. We must live with and accept consequences of our behavior. Hurting others for our own pleasure is unacceptable.

bookwormans said...

I also think that Maria got the worst punishment of any Austen character. Can you honestly imagine having to live alone with Mrs. Norris for the rest of your life?

Jennifer said...

I think Maria gets the worst punishment but then her crime is much greater in Regency society - she commits adultery and brings shame upon herself, her husband and her family. She doesn't care for Rushworth and knew this before she married him and doesn't take the "out" from her engagement her father offers her (which too would have been a huge disgrace but less so than adultery).

suzan said...

I feel that Lydia got the worst end of the deal. Maria would still have a measure of freedom Lydia as Wickham's wife would not. She would come to know his treachery and deceit and callous ways and as a wife that is truly heartbreaking. Maria would still have a roof over her head, the necessities of life and a companion who bows to her whims with no husband to answer to. Her being with Mrs. Norris is just desserts for her dispicable behavior however Lydia was just a dumb naive young woman who really had no clue.