(1775-1817), English

Jane Austen’s 7 Finest Heroine Characters

Jane Austen’s novels contain unforgettable female characters whose lives are at the center of the stories.

These come from her six major novels, including Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Northanger Abbey, Mansfield Park, Emma, and Persuasion. Here are seven of the most important heroines in Jane Austen’s novels. 

Jane Austen's Heroines

Elizabeth Bennet 

Elizabeth Bennet is the best-known of Jane Austen’s heroines. Her story, which can be found in Pride and Prejudice, is beloved by readers all over the world. She’s the novel’s protagonist and one of five sisters born to her parents in a world where families really wanted sons. Elizabeth is well-educated and more serious than some of her younger sisters. 

She’s beautiful, but not the most beautiful in the room this is something she’s aware of, and that affects the way she interacts with men. Elizabeth is very well-spoken and more than capable of taking care of herself. Her confidence serves her well, mostly, until it comes to her initial judgments of Mr. Darcy. She spends the novel dealing with her family, irritating female characters outside her family, and her own prejudice against Mr. Darcy, who she ends up falling in love with and agreeing to marry. Although stubborn, Elizabeth eventually realizes her initial perceptions of Darcy were incorrect. 

Elinor Dashwood 

Elinor is generally considered to represent “sense” in the novel Sense and Sensibility. She’s the oldest of the three Dashwood sisters and is very good at controlling her emotions, even when she suffers. She’s always polite and tries to say the right thing as she learned while growing up. This means she often contrasts with her sister, Marianne, who is much less concerned about how she’s perceived by others. Elinor prioritizes manners to a greater degree than her sister. 

Throughout much of the novel, Elinor tries to suppress her love for Edward, believe that he’s already taken. Finally, at the end of the novel, she finds out that he’s not married to Lucy, and her emotions break free. The end of the novel suggests that the two marry and begin a happy life together. 

Marianne Dashwood

Marianne Dashwood is one of the three Dashwood sisters in Sense and Sensibility. While her sister represents sense, Marianna represents sensibility. She’s the middle sister and is more emotional and freer with her words that Elinor is. She’s often embarrassing her family and sister with her lack of concern for how she appears.

Marianne is quick to fall in love, and when abandoned, such as with Willoughby, she freely expresses her sorrow. This is in stark contrast to Elinor, who is restrained throughout most of the novel. Just as Elinor changes at the end of the novel, so does Marianne. She sets some of her stubbornness and childishness aside until she’s fallen in love with Colonel Brandon. 

Fanny Price 

Fanny Price is the protagonist of Mansfield Park. Throughout the novel, unfortunately, fanny is not entirely likable. She’s uptight and often morally judgemental. Fanny gets upset easily and learns, as a young woman, proper manners while living at Mansfield Park. Her health improves, making her somewhat more likable, but she’s plagued with guilt due to the way she’s been treated by her cruel Aunt Mrs. Norris, who often comes to the house to berate Fanny.

While irritating at some points, Fanny’s understanding of what’s right and what’s wrong helps her through the novel. She falls in with Edmund while fending off Henry Crawfords’ attempts to woo her. 

Catherine Morland 

Catherine Morland is the protagonist of Northanger Abbey. Catherine is a traditional Gothic novel heroine, something that Austen specifically sought out. Catherine takes her life very seriously while Austen describes it in a more humorous manner. Catherine has trouble reconciling the truth of the relationships around her. For example, James and, her friend, Isabella.

Catherine accidentally leads on John Thorpe, unaware that how she’s acting is making him think that she’s in love with him. In Northanger Abbey, Jane Austen describes Catherine as a lover of books, which she reads and understands easily, but she’s less adept at reading people. Despite these failings, she’s loving and caring, features that endear her to Henry and lead her to happiness. 

Emma Woodhouse 

Emma Woodhouse is the protagonist of Jane Austen’s well-known novel, Emma. When the novel starts, one of the first things the reader learns about Emma is that she’s very lucky. She’s beautiful and rich. She lives in a great house and is only twenty-one years old. There is, Austen says, very little in her life to bring her sadness.

But, as one might expect, Emma’s seeming control over everything in her life ends up getting her in trouble. She had “too much her own way,” and she thought “a little too well of herself.” She’s very stubborn and often self-centered. This makes her one of the less-likable heroines in Jane Austen’s novels, but her character does improve over the course of the book.

She makes a series of mistakes in her effort to matchmake and control the people around her. These mistakes don’t have lasting consequences, but they do outline for the reader Emma’s flaws. By the end, Emma realizes that her controlling and vain attitude are not benefiting her, and as a good person at heart, she changes the way she deals with those around her. Although at one point, she decides to remain single, she does eventually marry Mr. Knightly. 

Anne Eliot 

Anne is the main character in Austen’s novel Persuasion. She’s clever, thoughtful, and likable. She is not the most beautiful of the women in the story, but her qualities far improve her overall likability in regard to everyone she meets. Anne takes pride in her patience and intellect but is hurt when she finds out that Captain Wentworth believes her appearance has changed for the worse. Despite this, several men, including Captain Wentworth, profess a desire to marry her. Anne’s personality is well balanced, leading her to good decisions, even though she’s swayed easily. 

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Emma Baldwin
About Emma Baldwin
Emma graduated from East Carolina University with a BA in English, minor in Creative Writing, BFA in Fine Art, and BA in Art Histories. Literature is one of her greatest passions which she pursues on Book Analysis.

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