Friday, 16 October 2009

Dancing with Mr Darcy and Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice Question 16


                (a collection of short stories inspired by Jane Austen and Chawton House)

Yesterday I attended the launch of Dancing with Mr Darcy at "London's most famous bookshop," which is... Foyles, of course (established 1903). Before the event, I met up with fellow author Jane Odiwe (Lydia Bennet's Story and soon to be released Willoughby's Return) in Leicester Square. I really enjoyed comparing notes and discussing our reasons for choosing less popular characters in Jane Austen's cannon to write about.

We sauntered down full-of-life Charing Cross Road, narrowly avoiding being run over by the abundant bicycle rickshaws (pedicabs) on our way to Foyles. I couldn't help reimagining the scene in my mind, with the rickshaw runners carrying ladies to the theatre or a ball amidst the bustle of carriages instead of cars.

At the entrance to the Gallery at Foyles we were met by Helena Earnshaw, from Honno, the Welsh publishers of the book, and, wine glasses in hand, Jane (Odiwe, not Austen) and I took our seats.



Award winning author Sarah Waters talked to us about the judging process and her rather tough criteria for selecting the entries (I have to say I was quite intimidated), and introduced the winner of the competition, Victoria Owens.


(Victoria Owens)

An excerpt from the winning short story followed, with Victoria giving us a wonderfully dramatized reading of Jane Austen being judged in the afterworld (no spoilers here) which revealed a quirky sense of humour and a wonderfully creative look at JA.

Afterwards, we got a chance to take photos of a number of the authors with stories in Dancing with Mr Darcy.


It was a lovely occasion, with a definite air of excitement prevailing around the room. I obtained signatures from a number of contributors as well as from Sarah Waters, and I also met Tom Carpenter, trustee of Chawton House. There's a picture of Tom with Jane Odiwe on her blog.

And now for the daily ritual:

Pride and Prejudice Question 16

Jane Austen has her share of youthful male villains, from Willoughby (sorry, Jane!) to John Thorpe and Henry Crawford, though generally she tends to underplay their villainy. What do you think of Wickham as a villain? How is he presented?

14 comments:

  1. I think Wickham is presented as the worst sort of villian because for Wickham it is a lifelong habit. Thorpe, Crawford, and even Willoughby show flawed characters that cause them to do things they shouldn't, but they do seem to repent. Wickham just lies his way through each misdeed, cheating and stealing, with no apparent regret or remorse, until he gets caught. No one seems to believe that Wickham will reform.

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  2. Wickham is a sociopath. He seems to genuinely believe his story that he was wronged by Darcy, and he lies without a second thought. It seems like he was very calculating about how he went after Georgianna and Lydia, and he almost seems to feel he's entitled to do whatever he wants with them--there's no thought at all that they'll be ruined, as well as their families. His first impressions are those of a charming and intelligent person, but underneath he's a horror show. Monica, it'd be interesting to see what your friend Jane did with Lydia's story, because it doesn't seem like it would be a happy one unless Wickham got run over by a carriage.

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  3. I've always thought that Wickham was the worst of the villains in Austen's novels. His manner, his actions, and his past with the darcy's are all laid out to bear....and readers are left with a sort of one dimensional picture of his actions.

    But really why did he do those things...what makes this man tick. Austen doesn't reveal that. Its almost as if she doesn't want to delve into those areas of the human psyche with any of her villains.

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  4. Wickham is just awful. He is a leech and completely takes advantage of others, especially young girls. He only cares about himself, even if his feelings for some others might be genuine. I'm so glad that Darcy swooped in and made him face the music, marrying someone who will probably drive him batty for the rest of his days. Although I somehow doubt he would ever be monogamous for long.

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  5. I think I may be in the minority here, but I feel Mr. Willoughby is every bit the villain as Mr. Wickham. A lot of Austen villains seduce young or unavailable women, but Willoughby is the only one we now of to abandon a woman who is carrying his child. To me that is a worse act then being a patholigical liar.

    However, I think the reason Wickham is thought of as the worst of villains is because he never shows a good side, repents, or tries to better himself. Henry Crawford attempted to be a better man, Willoughby repented his actions and was truly in love with Marianne, but Wickham he loves no one and never sees the wrong in his behavior or actions. He appears to have no conscience, when the others do.

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  6. Monica - it looks like you had a wonderful evening! Thank you for sharing with us and posting the pictures!

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  7. Without a doubt Wickham is a villain by the time we meet him. But how did he become the villain? Was he shocked to find out that he was not really a Darcy and not going to get the perks of being a Darcy? Did that start him on the road to revenge with Georgiana? There is probably more to his story that what we are told as a plot point for P&P. Sometimes circumstances beyond our control take us down a path, and we can't go back.

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  8. I think that Wickham is one of the worst kids of villains, because he truly believes that he's in the right! He's also in love with himself.

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  9. Why is it that we always love the Austen villians that are so bad? I recently did a poll on my blog and Willoughby won as the favorite Austen bad boy (I still need to write up the results!) Even looking through these comments, most people seem to still forgive Willoughby. It would be easy too if he looks anything like Greg Wise in the 1995 movie (LOL!). Willoughby seduced, impregnated, and abandoned a young woman. And what exactly did he want to do with Marianne? Did he indeed love her? Colonel Brandon states that he did in the movie, but that key line is missing from the book.

    Austen writes wonderful "bad boys." They are good looking charmers that take one off guard until it is too late.

    Wickham is just like Willoughby in this regard. Everyone in town and the family thinks he is good looking and charming. It is not until he has left town that Elizabeth finds out the truth about him. He is a serial seducer and a man on the prowl for a good time on one hand, and a woman with money on the other. If Lydia's family and Mr. Darcy had not intervened before it was too late, I think Lydia would have shared a similar fate to Eliza from S&S.

    These understated villians are a lot like real life. How many times have you met a charmer that seems to take everyone in, only to be deceived? This is more likely than the cardboard one dimensional villians of other novels.

    Great questions!

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  10. I sort of like the idea of Wickham as a sociopath- after all, his main acts of evil were inspired by jealousy; he was incredibly self-centered, unable to deal with committment {as evinced by his treatment of Georgiana, Lydia, and the woman who bore his son}; and he never repented or showed any signs of remorse, beyond perhaps regretting circumstances which forced him into marriage with Lydia--and that was not HIS fault, but rather that of the nefarious Mr. Darcy. Indeed, Wickham does not seem to be properly human. And, like the perfect delusional, he succeeds in manipulating the rest of the world into seeing things from his own twisted, martyred perspective.

    All in all, I think Wickham is a fantastic villain, but would have been improved by a good look into his thoughts and motivations. If he was indeed a psychopath, that lowers him a notch on the Scale of Villainy- it's harder to hate someone mentally ill, cause to an extent they're not responsible for their actions.

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  11. Sarah -- Did Wickham have a son?

    I don't think Wickham was mentally ill. I think Austen's villians all have overly large egos and inflated sense of their personal charms. Why would anyone with any sense attach themselves to Wickham (except the romantic in Lizzie)? He had no fortune, title or land or any other prospects. At least Willoughby was a gentleman by birth, if not actions.

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  12. Pardon, Jeannette- that was written in an awful rush. I believe I must have confused him with Willoughby!

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  13. Hi Sarah!

    I thought maybe you had read a P & P follow-up and Wickham had a son. It gets confusing after a while! :)

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  14. I don't think Wickham as a villain, and I really think that he was a little interested about Elizabeth. I just see all the JA "villains" as a Players. :D

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