Having agonized- that’s hyperbole- over whether I will be so bothered as to ever review Jane Austen’s more acclaimed novels, I have concluded that the answer is no. We may certainly at some point visit one or two that have not been adapted by a major Hollywood studio. However, there isn’t much that an average reader and novice writer with scant literary knowledge or insights into life in 18th century England can say about those books that hasn’t already been said. I have recently read a few posts from another blogger which present a well rounded exploration of Jane Austen’s works:
Three perspectives from Adventures at Keeping House:
I trust that there you will find plenty of food for thought and controversy to mine for die hard Austen fans. Not to mention the aforementioned are much more articulate and knowledgeable than I.
I do however, have a very strong opinion on one matter that I want to address in an attempt at cathartic release after seeing yet another woman wearing an insufferable t-shirt. It is with this business of Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice extolled as the most manly and admirable leading man in all of Austen’s works. I patently disagree.
The most alluring male lead in all of Jane Austen’s works that I have read is without question Mr. Knightley from her 1815 published work, Emma. While the title character and leading lady is often very hard to take, Mr. Knightley is a breath of fresh air among male characters of any era.
He is confident, direct, and never fails to call Emma to account and a higher standard of behavior when she gets out of line. In other words, he is exactly the kind of man we post-modern sassy women need in a husband rather than a steady dose of Darcy’s “You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you”.
Contrast with this description of Mr. Knightley, the man to whom Emma is eventually wed:
Mr. Knightley, in fact, was one of the few people who could see faults in Emma Woodhouse, and the only one who ever told her of them: and though this was not particularly agreeable to Emma herself, she knew it would be so much less so to her father, that she would not have him really suspect such a circumstance as her not being thought perfect by every body.
“Emma knows I never flatter her,” said Mr. Knightley.
While Emma may not be Austen’s most acclaimed work, it is in my opinion certainly the most entertaining and humorous, and the one book in which she provides us an example of a man, stalwart, and unafraid to confront folly in the life and actions of his intended.
That in my opinion, makes Mr. Knightley rather than Mr. Darcy, Jane Austen’s most iconic male character.