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Jealousy in July: Who is Jane Austen’s Most Jealous Character? — 32 Comments

  1. I thoroughly enjoyed your post. It is amazing how many of the main characters harbored jealous feelings, and it is not so amazing that jealousy made for so many uncomfortable moments.. I had not really considered how many there were. I would,say Wickham’s was the most jealous and his jealousy was destructive, with far reaching consequences. Second place goes to Caroline Bingley, hands down. I liked your vignette very much; it was well imagined, and made me smile. I have had trouble sleeping lately and waking up can be such a wrench. Today it wasn’t because I found this in my inbox. It was actually a pleasure to wake up! Thank you for giving us something to think about, and something to laugh about. Also, how can it be July already?!

    • I’m so glad if anything I wrote made you feel better, Mari! That’s great. And Jealousy in July is a most absorbing subject, isn’t it!

  2. I must agree that Carolinr takes first place. So many authors have taken a crack at Caroline’s behavior, and this one was very well done!

  3. I must agree with you about Caroline being the most jealous. I enjoyed your little vignette and how she refused to believe her sister’s warning as the announcement was so much more shocking to her. Thank you.

    • Thanks, Glynis – well, one can *almost* feel sorry for her, losing Mr. Darcy, but what an unrealistic expectation in the first place!

  4. I am not so sure the most jealous in Austen’s world would be Caroline. Even if she didn’t marry Mr. Darcy, she had a decent dowry and could marry elsewhere.

    • Very true, Kristine. But I had to pick someone, and Caroline is fun to write about! 🙂 Thanks for commenting.

  5. Love the article. I agree with your summations and your final decision

    Caroline Bingley by far is the most yellows eyed of them all!

    Enjoyed the vignette!

    • Thank you, Carol. There were a lot to choose from, but Caroline, I felt, led the field! 🙂 And I don’t see anybody arguing the point.

  6. Well done! Caroline will continue to be jealous even if she does find someone to marry that needs her dowry but has a title! Thank you!

  7. Let us hope the poor girl does not marry another Mr. Hurst! Though there is NOT another Mr. Darcy. Thanks for your comment, Carole, which has started me thinking about what kind of match “poor Caroline” might make…

    • That would be rather delicious, Ann. “Give a loose to your fancy,” as Lizzy wrote to Mrs. Gardiner, and write it!

  8. This was such a fun post. Caroline was totally oblivious to the fact that Darcy would not choose her. I love how you portrayed that in this post. One thing Caroline would never acknowledge was that Elizabeth was above her socially….Caroline was a tradesman’s daughter while Elizabeth was a gentleman’s daughter. And talk about scheming, who was scheming? And I do think she was green with envy over the fact that Darcy was attracted to Elizabeth, more jealous than any of Jane’s other characters. Thank you for putting a smile on my face this morning.

    • Deborah, so glad you got a smile! And you gave me one too, reading about Elizabeth being socially above Caroline. You’re right of course…but Caroline would be as oblivious to that as she was to Darcy’s indifference. Come to think of it, she and Mrs. Hurst spend all their time cackling over Lizzy’s low connections in trade – here we see Jane Austen’s fabulous humour and irony, considering THEIR money came from trade!

  9. As ever, Diana, you bring out the truly or literally there overt actuating impulses among the characters and show the parallel patterns in Austen’s novels. You prompt me to think about which character(s) experience this emotion to the point they destroy themselves and seek to destroy others, a kind of seething passion that goes beyond wanting something or someone for themselves. They can’t bare that others should have what they can’t or don’t, a kind of envious spite. We see this in her harridans (Lady Catherine de Bourgh, Mrs Norris), her victims (Maria Bertram), those who show a tenacious seeking for power (Mrs Ferrars, Lady Denham). But the tragic dimension seems to be lacking; the jealousy is limited in its purchase. No Iagos or Margarets (I’m thinking of Shakespeare’s women in his historical plays), with the fiction arranged so that the world’s spite (say the longing of characters to see Lydia on the stteet) is limited too. Her villain males are too selfish and careless about others to be bothered in this way, and jealousy emerges as a good motive in the cases of say Mr Knightley and Wentworth as they want the best for their beloved too. If we might posit true sexual anxiety and a need to possess, the character is kept at such distance (Manwaring in Lady Susan) or so burlesqued (in the juvenilia), or just given their way quickly, the fictions are inoculated. One begins to ask good questions, like why readers remain satisfied and return to read again.

    • Thank you for commenting Ellen – yes, much food for thought in a subject like Jealousy, isn’t there? It was me who came up with the topic suggestion and it was indeed interesting to think and to write about. You of course take it fascinatingly farther, thinking about which of Austen’s characters are actually destroyed by their own jealousy. In the first place, I would think she thought people don’t destroy themselves they survive, despite living in a hideous stew of their own making (the Norris/Maria menange). And she wasn’t going in for tragedy (“let other pens…”). So she didn’t play out the tragic aspects, though remember her comment on Crawford and the unjustness of his fate, spectulating there may be juster appointments in the hereafter. Well, well, one does begin to ask good questions! And readers are NOT satisfied – that’s just it – they return again and again to try to figure it all out!

  10. Such is JA’s genius that she could make Caroline Bingley her most openly jealous character, and then make her adversary, Elizabeth Bennet, her most covertly jealous character–because the person Eliza is most jealous of is…..Jane, as I spelled out in the following three posts in late 2014:

    http://sharpelvessociety.blogspot.com/2014/11/does-lizzy-wrongly-rationalize-not.html
    http://sharpelvessociety.blogspot.com/2014/12/lizzy-bennet-selfish-being-who-never.html
    http://sharpelvessociety.blogspot.com/2014/12/prudence-forbad-disclosure-is-undercut.html

    In a nutshell, I suggest that Elizabeth was so (unconsciously) jealous of Bingley falling in love with Jane, that Eliza did not lift a finger at any point when she had chances, in order to undo Darcy’s meddling, and to help bring Jane and BIngley back together again — and she did this out of jealousy and selfishness, because she wanted Darcy more for herself than she wanted Bingley for Jane.

      • Meg, I believe there are two versions of the story in P&P, both of which are plausible readings that Jane Austen intended.

        For an explanation of my shadow story theory, read these two earlier blog posts of mine:

        Austen’s 6 novels are double stories (2 parallel fictional worlds) undetected for 200 yrs http://tinyurl.com/onftqz7 http://tinyurl.com/jyfet25

        So, there is an Elizabeth who is not jealous of Jane, but there is another Elizabeth who is…..

    • Arnie, it’s certainly interesting to speculate that Elizabeth is the jealous one, jealous of Jane’s romance; s I mentioned, it’s not unlike the situation when Cassandra was engaged, and Jane was not…was she jealous, just a little, just enough to be able to intuit that Lizzy might be, too? And might that be why she did not “fix” the Bingley/Jane situation when she could have done? But there we don’t agree. Jealousy of Jane for being beloved, would evaporate when Jane was “crossed” in love and lost Bingley; Lizzy would feel pity for her then. However, she could not fix the situation. She could not write to Bingley, and it’s even more absurd to think that she could “send” her father to intervene. No, she was powerless, and the only thing she could have done differently was to tell Jane that of the deception. But that would only make Jane feel worse, because she, too, could not write to Bingley, and she would have the pain of knowing friends’ machinations, in addition to losing him. I’ll grant Lizzy might have had some pangs of envy early on, but they would have gone when Jane lost Bingley. These feelings would have nothing to do with any calculating eagerness to marry Darcy. If she were a calculating scheming jealous man-hunter, she would have snapped him up at the first proposal!

      • Thank you for your reply, Diana, but you’ve mis-taken one of my key points — I never suggested that Elizabeth was a consciously scheming husband hunter— the brilliance of this depiction by JA is that it is completely unconscious on ELizabeth’s part- she would have been deeply mortified if she had become aware of her jealousy of Jane, and she then would, as you say, have done the right things.

        Recall her famous line

        “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.”

        Add that to the list of exquisite ironies — this is what Elizabeth ought to have thought NOT about Darcy, but about Jane!!!!!

  11. “Pass the salt, Louisa” I have to eat my words.

    Thank you for your added words for Jealousy in July. A scene which fit the billing.

  12. Love Louisa and “pass the salt,” Sheila! Caroline just wouldn’t see it until it happened, which makes her situation all the more pathetic…

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