Comical Characters in Novels

The comical character in Jane Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice is Mr. Collins. He is pompous, overly pleased with himself, and filled with a sense of his own importance. He spouts inanities to anyone who will listen to him. Overawed by having been chosen by the haughty Lady Catherine de Bourgh to be the rector in her parish, he uses every opportunity to gush about her attention to him (invitations to dine at Rosings!), the size of the rooms in her mansion, the number of windows, and the price of the staircase and the fireplace! He bows and scrapes and hangs on her every platitude.

He is the heir to the Longbourn estate which is entailed (only a male can inherit it). He pays a visit to Longbourn with the intention of marrying one of the Bennet sisters. Having no doubts about his attractiveness, he is offended when his proposal to Elizabeth Bennet is rejected.

When Lydia Bennet elopes with Mr. Wickham, Mr. Collins hastens to Longbourn to offer his hypocritical condolences which do not mask his delight at the family’s downfall. Oozing insincerity from every pore, he assures them that they will never recover from disgrace.

He is the epitome of schadenfreude (the malicious enjoyment of others’ misfortunes). Mr. Collins: created for the reader’s amusement by an author with a satirical eye and a sharp wit.

What are some of your favorite comical characters in novels? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Heroes in Novels: Mr. Darcy in Jane Austen’s Novel “Pride and Prejudice”

Mr. Darcy is not one of those heroes who rescues people from physical danger. However, he rescues the Bennet family from disgrace and loss of their good name. He is ashamed at the way he had proposed to Elizabeth Bennet, denigrating her family, thus insulting her. To make amends, he rescues the family from the shame of the elopement of Lydia Bennet with the dastardly villain, Mr. Wickham. Mr. Darcy pays off Mr. Wickham’s debts, ensuring that the marriage will take place and that the good name of the family will be restored. He does this anonymously with the understanding that his deeds will not be acknowledged. He wants no thanks or praise. Mr. Darcy–a gallant hero.

Dear readers, have you ever known anyone who was not a hero in the obvious sense, but radiated heroism in his or her daily actions? I’d love to hear about your everyday heroes in the comments below!

Jane Austen – An Appreciation

While I am not a scholar or expert on Jane Austen, I am an appreciative reader. It’s remarkable to think that the novels she wrote 200 years ago are still relevant today. The human condition hasn’t changed; jealousy, spitefulness, gossip, hypocrisy, and rumor mongering are the traits still prevalent in today’s society.

How was she able to capture all these characteristics while living in a vicarage within an isolated village? She had no formal education, but with the encouragement of her brilliant father she started to read at an early age. She devoured books, and as a young woman she became a master of the English language.

This branch of the Austen family was poor. However, they were upper class; many of their relatives were gentry and aristocrats.

When Jane and her sister Cassandra visited these relatives at their large estates and grand houses, they were exposed to a wide variety of people in these social settings. Balls, dinners, card parties, and picnics were the settings for many of her novels.

With her satirical eye and sharp wit, Jane observed and made mental notes. When she returned to the vicarage, she used this knowledge in her novels.

The family also visited Bath, the beautiful town with its exquisite architecture, its squares and crescents. Here was another opportunity to study the foibles and peculiarities of the gentry and leisured classes. Balls and concerts in the great assembly halls, the constant parade of elegantly dressed men and women–all were grist to her mill. Everything she wrote about is still pertinent in today’s society.

And the mothers–oh, those mothers! Vying with each other, scheming to ensure that their daughters would capture the most eligible (and rich) bachelor.

The famous first sentence in Pride and Prejudice says it all: “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”

A hundred years from now, when all the bestsellers of today are long forgotten, Jane Austen’s novels will still be read and enjoyed.

Do you have a favorite Jane Austen novel? Who is the classic author that continues to inspire your work today? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

On Writing: Villains in Novels

As in most novels, there is a villain in Too Late for Regrets. I don’t want to reveal the plot, so I’ll say no more. But the reader will spot this villain immediately. At the top of my list of  favorite villains in literature is Mrs. Danvers in Daphne du Maurier’s “Rebecca.”

Mrs. Danvers is the embodiment of evil; spiteful, manipulative, and filled with hatred for the second Mrs. de Winter. This innocent and inexperienced young girl is thrust into a situation which she is unable to handle. Mrs. Danvers, soft spoken and persuasive, convinces the girl that Max de Winter was obsessed with the beautiful Rebecca and is brokenhearted at her death. However, it is Mrs. Danvers who is obsessed with Rebecca. She wants to oust the young girl from Manderley, thus keeping Rebecca’s memory alive. Mrs. Danvers’ last tragic act destroys her and Rebecca’s legacy.

Can readers share with us their favorite villains?

Reviewing Romance: “Moon Tiger” Part Two

A few weeks after Claudia returns to Cairo, Captain Southern calls her–he has a two day leave. They meet and this is the beginning of their passionate love affair. For the next few months, they meet whenever he has a few days leave. Claudia realizes that for the first time in her selfish life she has met a man who has captured her heart. On his final leave, he asks her to marry him. He wants her to bear his child.

For several weeks after his return to the desert, Claudia hears nothing from him. Rumors start to circulate in Cairo that a huge battle is being waged–a titanic struggle to defeat Rommel. Knowing that Tom will be in the thick of this battle, Claudia is frantic with fear. She scrutinizes the casualty lists; Captain Southern is missing!

Though not religious, Claudia visits a cathedral to pray that he has only been taken prisoner. The thought that he might be lying injured, dying of thirst and unable to reach his water bottle, tortures her.

Her prayers are unanswered; the casualty list officer calls her to tell her that Captain Tom Southern has been killed. His body has been recovered.

A few weeks later, she discovers that she is pregnant. Many years later, she receives a package from his sister–his desert diary, which had been found in his effects.

To be continued in the next “Reviewing Romance” Series…Captain Tom Southern’s Desert Diary.

Great Romances – A Memorable Love Affair

Moon tiger is a green coil which is placed in a saucer; when it is lit, the smoke repels mosquitoes. Moon Tiger is also the name of the 1987 novel by Penelope Lively; winner of the Booker Prize in the U.K. For those of you looking for an epic love story to read after finishing Too Late for Regrets, here is the first part of my Moon Tiger review.

An elderly woman lies dying. The story of her long life is told through her memories. The central section of the book is her heartbreaking love affair with Captain Tom Southern, a tank Commander.

The Time: 1941-1942

The Place: The Libyan desert where tank battles are being waged. The British tanks are pitted against those of the Germans under the command of the Desert Fox, Rommel.

Claudia Hampton is a journalist; she is beautiful, independent, and willful. She wangles a ride in a truck which is traveling through the desert to headquarters where she is to interview some of the top brass.

The truck becomes bogged down in the sand. Through the murk of a sandstorm, a jeep appears. The driver is Captain Tom Southern who offers to take her to headquarters. Sitting next to him and dazed from lack of sleep, Claudia naps. Through half-closed eyes, she observes his hands on the steering wheel.

Forty years later, as she lies dying, she can recall with clarity those hands. The author’s description of the carnage Claudia sees as the jeep ravels through the desert is vivid and unforgettable.

To Be Continued Next Week…

On Writing: Choosing Your Cover Photo

One of my favorite parts of the publishing process is choosing a cover photo. Like clothes to a person, a cover represents the book and affects how readers will perceive the story. With my gardening books, Celebrating a Small English Garden, A Medley of Gardens: Denver Style, and Magical Gardens: Denver Region, the task was much easier because flowers are always undeniably beautiful.

Elizabeth as I had always imagined her.

Elizabeth as I had always imagined her.

As for Too Late for Regrets, the cover photo would forever influence how the reader imagined our main characters. I could describe their every inch in the text, but the cover photo would be the image emblazoned in the reader’s mind.

From the four photos sent to me, I chose this one for Elizabeth. The other three faces were beautiful, but they seemed to be too sophisticated. This photo looked like the Elizabeth I’d imagined and written about. Lovely, natural, and with an intangible sense of innocence; a joy in living that seems to shine through her ethereal expression.

Timothy’s photo on the back cover was–I thought–perfect. He is handsome, with strong features, and the characteristic slightly brooding aspect. Yet there is a certain wistfulness in his expression

The brooding image of Timothy that I always envisioned.

The brooding image of Timothy that I always envisioned.

which I thought embodied all of his characteristics.

What do readers think of my choices? If you had read the novel prior to seeing the photos, would the faces you imagined for Timothy and Elizabeth be similar or different? Which celebrities could play Timothy and Elizabeth in a movie based on the novel? I want to hear your thoughts in the comments below!