Whether you’ve read Jane Austin or not, if you’ve ever taken an English lit class, you’ve no doubt heard of the British writer who created a legacy of intelligent, independent young heroines in a time where marriage was a woman’s chance at success.
What cemented Jane Austin’s legacy was not only her sharp wit and riveting romantic plots, but her intelligent and dynamic female heroines. Heroines that did not excel in their roles as women by societal standards – most of her protagonists are not talented artists or musicians as young women were meant to be – but instead were well-read, witty women that did not shy away from healthy self-examination.
Here are quotes from 5 of Jane Austin’s best heroines to help us all be more like them:
1. Elizabeth Bennet, “Pride and Prejudice”
Strong, witty and independent, Elizabeth Bennett is one of Jane Austin’s most well-known heroines of the iconic Pride and Prejudice.
“There is a stubbornness about me that never can bear to be frightened at the will of others. My courage always rises at every attempt to intimidate me.”
“I hope I never ridicule what is wise and good. Follies and nonsense, whims and inconsistencies do divert me, I own, and I laugh at them whenever I can.”
“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! . . . But vanity, not love, has been my folly.“
2. Emma Woodhouse, “Emma”
Smart, charming, and fiercely independent, Emma Woodhouse is a wise and determined Jane Austin heroine that proves that even the strongest women can lose themselves in love and retain their strength and dignity.
“I may have lost my heart, but not my self-control. ”
“A single woman, with a very narrow income, must be a ridiculous, disagreeable old maid! the proper sport of boys and girls, but a single woman, of good fortune, is always respectable, and may be as sensible and pleasant as any body else.”
“Where little minds belong to rich people in authority, I think they have a knack of swelling out, till they are quite as unmanageable as great ones.”
“Silly things do cease to be silly if they are done by sensible people in an impudent way.”
3. Catherine Morland, “Northanger Abbey”
A day-dreamer that’s prone to flights of fancy, Catherine may let her imagination get the best of her at times, but Catherine’s maturation and growth over the course of Northanger Abbey is what makes her such a remarkable heroine.
“It was a source of constant disappointment to Catherine Morland that her life did not more closely resemble her books. Or rather, that the books in which she found its likeness were so unexciting.“
“Provided that nothing like useful knowledge could be gained from them, provided they were all story and no reflection, she had never any objection to books at all.”
“She had nothing to do but to forgive herself and be happier than ever.”
“But when a young lady is to be a heroine, the perverseness of forty surrounding families cannot prevent her. Something must and will happen to throw a hero in her way.“
4. Elinor Dashwood, “Sense and Sensibility”
Like most Austin heroines, Elinor is clever, witty and considerate – never flighty or hysterical -and finds the strength to take care of herself and her sister level-headedness, poise, and inner-strength.
“I am afraid,” replied Elinor, “that the pleasantness of an employment does not always evince its propriety.”
“Sometimes one is guided by what they say of themselves, and very frequently by what other people say of them, without giving oneself time to deliberate and judge.”
“I have many things to support me. I am not conscious of having provoked the disappointment by any imprudence of my own, and I have borne it as much as possible without spreading it farther.“
5. Fanny Price, “Mansfield Park”
Shier and more timid than others that hold the title of Jane Austin heroines, Fanny is self-reflective and it is her quiet strength that saves her through the tumultuous plot of Mansfield Park.
“I think it ought not to be set down as certain that a man must be acceptable to every woman he may happen to like himself.”
“I cannot think well of a man who sports with any woman’s feelings; and there may often be a great deal more suffered than a stander-by can judge of.”
“One cannot fix one’s eyes on the commonest natural production without finding food for a rambling fancy.“
“When I look out on such a night as this, I feel as if there could be neither wickedness nor sorrow in the world; and there certainly would be less of both if the sublimity of Nature were more attended to, and people were carried more out of themselves by contemplating such scene.”