Signs You Might Be in a Jane Austen Novel

Annika Barranti Klein

Staff Writer

Annika Barranti Klein likes books, obviously.   Twitter: @noirbettie

You’re a fictional character: a heroine, or perhaps a love interest; you are a parent, a sibling, an aunt, uncle, or cousin, a family friend; you’re a villain, or at least out for yourself, or possibly, just maybe, you’re misunderstood; And you find yourself wondering, are you in a Jane Austen novel? And if you are, which of those roles do you fill?

Perhaps your family had long been settled in Sussex, or no one who had ever seen you in your infancy would have supposed you born to be a heroine; it may be you are that handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence, with very little to distress or vex you; of course it is even possible that your aunt, with only seven thousand pounds, had the good luck to captivate Sir Thomas Bertram, of Mansfield Park, in the county of Northampton, and to be thereby raised to the rank of a baronet’s lady, with all the comforts and consequences of an handsome house and large income — though you are not often invited to join in the conversation of the others, nor do you desire it, your own thoughts and reflections habitually your best companions; or perhaps the case is that your father, a man who, for his own amusement, never took up any book but the Baronetage, where he could read his own history with an interest which never failed.

In any of these cases, or indeed several others, you might be a Jane Austen heroine. (Take this quiz to find out which one.)

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife; indeed, so must several other Austen hero types, and you may be one of them — especially if you have ten thousand pounds a year.

If your sister’s husband inherited his father’s house and put out his sisters, including one with whom you share a budding connection but cannot love openly because you are engaged to another woman, and if you are so honorable that you will not break the engagement even though it means being disinherited; if your dear friend, whom you’ve known since you were sixteen and she was a baby (um, weird), and who insists upon matchmaking until she has managed to marry off the man you believe she loves, confesses that in fact she loves you; if your family has invited a young girl with an overactive imagination to the country estate, then forced her to get home on her own upon learning that she is not wealthy, although she never claimed to be, and you break with them to ask her to marry you; if you are half agony, half hope, or your feelings will not be repressed; then indeed you may count yourself among the love interest heroes.

Are you altogether very engaging — not inconveniently shy, not unwilling to talk — and yet so far from pushing, shewing so proper and becoming a deference, seeming so pleasantly grateful for being admitted to Hartfield, and so artlessly impressed by the appearance of every thing in so superior a style to what you had been used to, that you must have good sense and deserve encouragement? Or are you indeed not romantic, ask only a comfortable home, and convinced that your chance of happiness with him is as fair as most people can boast on entering the marriage state?

You may be the rare close female friend to the heroine who is not her sister and does not betray her (unless we think marrying Mr. Collins counts as betrayal).

But perhaps most interesting of all is the possibility that you, dear fictional character, are the villain.

Are you a known womanizer, social climber, or flirt, perhaps named Willoughby, Wickham, Crawford, Thorpe, or Elton? Are you an aunt with designs for your nephew? Do you tell lies about other people’s stations for your own amusement or gain? Indeed, you are likely the villain of this story. Are the shades of Pemberley to be thus polluted?

Of course there are other signs that you might be in a Jane Austen novel, but these are the major ones. So: Which role do you fill?