For my final contribution to I Love Austen Week, I have a post dedicated to a somewhat overlooked character in a certain Jane Austen novel.
Throughout the story of Emma Woodhouse and the few people with whom she associates, the titular character is constantly in the spotlight. But today, I would like to shine that light on the minor heroine of Emma: Jane Fairfax.
She may be shy and reserved, but Jane is overall a gentle, sweet, and sincerely caring young lady. That's why I think she deserves a bit more credit than she gets. (If you haven't read this book or seen the movies, don't worry; there are no major spoilers ahead.)
Emma is obviously the more dominant person of the two, which makes it hard for them to relate. At first, she is rather jealous of Jane. In fact, she is "sick of the very name Jane Fairfax". Why? Because Jane "seems to gain ten new accomplishments between one [letter] and the next" and she "has friends in Ireland and Weymouth" -- or, simply put, Jane has been educated as a fine young lady and has traveled to interesting places, seen new things, and made new acquaintances. Emma, by contrast, is not studious and has never traveled outside her hometown.
But no matter. That is Emma's original impression of a person she barely knows. After getting to know the real person behind the letters, she begins to warm up to Jane. Jane who is not at all as fortunate as herself. Jane who is patient and forgiving. Jane who must put up with the obnoxious attentions of Augusta Elton. That poor, dear Jane.
Think about all the trials Jane endures before she can finally have a love story moment of her own. Just think about it for a minute.
First, she comes to live with her spinster aunt and her old, widowed grandmother in a tiny little flat with little to no money. She has no friends, and the one person who should be her friend (ahem, Emma) does not give a care. The man she is in love with is not allowed to marry her because she is from a poor, unimportant family.
If you go back even further, Jane's parents die and she is sent to live with strangers because her aunt and grandmother cannot afford to care for a child.
So now that Jane is living in Highbury, she is trying to fit in. Mr. Knightley is kind to her, but so is the mysterious admirer who anonymously sends her a grand surprise: a beautiful, new pianoforte. Jane is a talented musician and is more than pleased with it. However, this unexpected gift brings on suspicion and teasing from Emma and Frank, who conclude that it is from her best friend's wealthy husband. Jane is upset at the implication that she might be in love with someone else's husband, and who wouldn't be? Especially when it isn't true at all and Frank knows it.
Not only that, but she must endure watching the man she loves flirt and fool around with none other than Miss Emma Woodhouse.
Oh, yes, and don't forget that all this time Jane is keeping a deep secret, Mrs. Elton won't leave her alone, and she must resign herself to becoming a governess in order to make some small income. Finally, Jane is so
fatigued sick of it all, she just gives up and decides to leave. She is at last forced to take Mrs. Elton's reference for a position as a governess.
Poor Jane, indeed.
And then...it all changes. (*Here come a few spoilers for Jane's story*) Her lover's guardian dies, and they are free to be together. Jane does not have to be a governess any longer. Her family will not be destitute. She can have the true love she deserves. To top it all off, she and Emma finally understand one another and can be friends.
So, you see, Jane has shown herself to be good, forbearing, and faithful, kind and generous, a true friend. And she definitely earned her happily ever after.
(Forget what Frank says; I think her hair is pretty.)
What other minor characters in books/movies do you think deserve appreciation?