05 October 2010

Miss Austen's Icky Characters

Miss Austen does a good job of creating some really icky smarmy characters.With few words, describing certain characters and letting them speak for themselves, she creates characters that just make your skin crawl because of the ick factor. Here are a few for consideration in no particular order.

Mr. Collins: I do think he is the height of icky in Miss Austen's works. He's just sleezy in trying (ha!) to attract on the Bennet girls because he feels some (supposed) responsibility to them for the entail. Even Elizabeth acknowledges that is just dumb. "He must be an oddity, I think," said she (Elizabeth). I cannot make him out - There is something very pompous in his style -- And what can he mean by apologising for being next in the entail? -- We cannot suppose he would help it if he could - Could he be a sensible man, sir?" I think we all know the answer to that. He certainly came to admire the Bennet daughters, but it certainly didn't stop him from admiring his future home either (creepy). I do enjoy Mr. Bennet's ability to poke fun at Mr. Collins without the latter being aware. But his confession of love and admiration for Elizabeth are just disgusting, insincere, pompous - completely false as proven by his engagement to Charlotte Lucas only days later - blech.

Mr. Elton: What's up with the clergy? Insinuating, haughty, and false. He pretends to be paying attention to Harriet Smith, which is exactly what Emma wants, but all the time, he's trying to make himself attractive to Emma herself. Just a BIT above his station, but he didn't seem to recognize that. That was until the painful truth was brought to bear on him on the way home from the Christmas party at the Weston's. "It is impossible for me to doubt any longer. You have made yourself too clear. Mr. Elton, my astonishment is much beyond any thing I can express. After such behaviour, as I have witnessed during the last month, to Miss Smith - such attentions as I have been in the daily habit of observing - to be addressing me in this manner - this is an unsteadiness of character, indeed, which I had not supposed possible! Believe me, sir, I am far, very far, from gratified in being the object of such professions." As one can imagine an declaration like that to a pompous man, can seriously damage his ego. So, off to Bath he goes to find a wife....

And his lovely wife Mrs. Elton: Who turns out to be even worse that him, if that's possible. While she may have ten thousand pounds (though we're never really clear on that, are we??), she is base, crass, insinuating and just plain annoying. "When the visit was returned, Emma made up her mind. She could then see more and judge better. From Harriet's happening not to be at Hartfield, and her father's being present to engage Mr. Elton, she had a quarter of an
hour of the lady's conversation to herself, and could composedly attend to her; and the quarter of an hour quite convinced her that Mrs. Elton was a vain woman, extremely well satisfied with herself, and thinking much of her own importance; that she meant to shine and be very superior, but with manners which had been formed in a bad school, pert and familiar; that all her notions were drawn from one set of people, and one style of living; that if not foolish she was ignorant, and that her society would certainly do Mr. Elton no good."
The way she tries to become top of society and place herself with Emma is just too much and such a benefactress to Jane Fairfax. Poor Jane, she deserves so much better. I think Emma says it best. ""Insufferable woman!" was her immediate exclamation. "Worse than I had supposed. Absolutely insufferable! Knightley!—I could not have believed it. Knightley!—never seen him in her life before, and call him Knightley! —and discover that he is a gentleman! A little upstart, vulgar being, with her Mr. E., and her caro sposo, and her resources, and all her airs of pert pretension and underbred finery. Actually to discover that Mr. Knightley is a gentleman! I doubt whether he will return the compliment, and discover her to be a lady. I could not have believed it! And to propose that she and I should unite to form a musical club! One would fancy we were bosom friends! And Mrs. Weston!— Astonished that the person who had brought me up should be a gentlewoman! Worse and worse. I never met with her equal. Much beyond my hopes. Harriet is disgraced by any comparison." Enough said. 

Mr. Elliot: Smarmy - that's about all I can say. Anne describes him as being correct in manner and information, but he's not open. Do you know if what you see is what you get with Mr. Elliot - em no. Thank goodness for Mrs. Smith confirming what Anne had all along suspected. She was never in any danger from falling for him since her love for Capt. Wentworth knew no end, but it's nice to have the confirmation and the ammunition. His ending in London with a certain freckled woman was perfect if you ask me. "Mr Elliot was rational, discreet, polished, but he was not open.There was never any burst of feeling, any warmth of indignation or delight, at the evil or good of others. This, to Anne, was a decided imperfection. Her early impressions were incurable. She prized the frank, the open-hearted, the eager character beyond all others." Mrs. Smith describes him as, "Hear the truth, therefore, now, while you are unprejudiced. Mr Elliot is a man without heart or conscience; a designing, wary, cold-blooded being, who thinks only of himself; whom for his own interest or ease, would be guilty of any cruelty, or any treachery, that could be perpetrated without risk of his general character. He has no feeling for others.Those whom he has been the chief cause of leading into ruin, he can neglect and desert without the smallest compunction. He is totally beyond the reach of any sentiment of justice or compassion. Oh! he is black at heart, hollow and black!" Pretty damning condemnation.

Mrs. Clay: What can one say but insinuating? She's certainly out for what she can get out of her relationship with Elizabeth Elliot and dare we say also with Sir Walter. "From situation, Mrs Clay was, in Lady Russell's estimate, a very unequal, and in her character she believed a very dangerous companion; and a removal that would leave Mrs Clay behind, and bring a choice of more suitable intimates within Miss Elliot's reach, was therefore an object of first-rate importance." It seems everyone is on to Mrs. Clay's game, but it does not deter her. "Mrs Clay had freckles, and a projecting tooth, and a clumsy wrist, which he was continually making severe remarks upon, in her absence; but she was young, and certainly altogether well-looking, and possessed, in an acute mind and assiduous pleasing manners, infinitely more dangerous attractions than any merely personal might have been. Anne was so impressed by the degree of their danger, that she could not excuse herself from trying to make it perceptible to her sister." She just really creeps me out.

John Thorpe: I've said he's hateful, but he's also icky. He's pushy and bossy. He lies to elevate himself and then lies to sink Catherine - which he almost did. "Could she have foreseen such a circumstance, nothing should have persuaded her to go out with the others; and, as it was, she could only lament her ill luck, and think over what she had lost, till it was clear to her that the drive had by no means been very pleasant and that John Thorpe himself was quite disagreeable."Indeed.

Lucy Steele: Is Lucy Steele the female version of Mr. Elliot? She seems like it to me. All for what she can get. Smarmy, inscinsere. calculating. Everything a true lady is not (see: Elinor Dashwood). "Could he ever be tolerably happy with Lucy Steele; could he, were his affection for herself out of the question,with his integrity, his delicacy, and well-informed mind, be satisfied with a wife like her - illiterate, artful and selfish?" Not likely. 

1 comment:

  1. I think you have described these "icky" characters perfectly. One doesn't often hear the adjective "smarmy" used, but it certainly fits Elton and Collins. Thanks for the chuckle.


Have your say if you must.

Don't be rude.