Saturday, October 12, 2013

Edward Ferrars: The Villain

Sometimes, when I'm talking with people, I mention that I very much dislike Edward Ferrars.  The response is invariably, "WHAT?!"
Since most of the people I know seem to like Edward as much as I dislike him, I decided to do a post on why I think he is one of the villains of S&S.  Not as bad as Willoughby, certainly, but not exactly a model of deportment either.

At the beginning of the story, Mrs. Dashwood and her three daughters are staying at Norland until they can find a new place to stay.  Enter Edward...who is secretly engaged.  He gets to know Elinor, and falls in love with her.

Now, he can't really be blamed for falling in love with her.  But he doesn't stop there.
"No sooner did she [Mrs. Dashwood] perceive any symptom of love in his behaviour to Elinor than she considered their serious attachment as certain, and looked forward to their marriage as rapidly approaching." 

Admittedly, Mrs. Dashwood is overly romantic and probably he didn't exhibit plain signs of love.  But he obviously paid attention to her; enough for his sister to notice.  There are several things wrong here: firstly, he knew that he couldn't marry Elinor, but he acts like he's courting her anyway, which is deceitful and hurt Elinor.  As she confesses to Marianne, Elinor really is falling in love with him.  Secondly, he surely must have noticed Mrs. Dashwood and Marianne's expectations and changes in Elinor's behavior towards him, as well as Fanny Dashwood's evident dislike of the time he's spending with Elinor.  He can't tell about his engagement because that wouldn't be honorable, but he could stop his attentions and be merely polite.  The reason he doesn't do this seems to be because he is too weak and selfish to stop giving rise to false hopes.

Then, Mrs. Dashwood and her daughters move to Barton Park, after making Edward promise to come for a visit, which he should not have done.  For one thing, his sister evidently didn't want him to go, and surely he could tell that she would cause trouble for Elinor and her immediate family.  For another, why visit and raise hopes (and torture yourself), if you know that you aren't free to marry?

After causing Elinor grief by his coldness, Edward goes away and isn't heard of until Lucy Steele comes to visit and tells Elinor that she, Lucy, and Edward have been secretly engaged for a long time.  This, obviously, is a terrible blow to Elinor, and she tries to avoid Edward as much as possible.

When the news about Lucy and Edward is made public, Edward sticks to his promise and refuses to break his engagement, even though he'll be disinherited.  This is honorable and right, and it's one of the few times I like Edward Ferrars.  Then, Lucy breaks her engagement with him, and he rushes off right away to propose to Elinor.

Now, this is fine; if I were in his position, I'd do the same thing.  But I don't like how Edward makes excuses for his past behavior:
'He [Edward] could only plead an ignorance of his own heart, and a mistaken confidence in the force of his engagement.
"I was simple enough to think, that because my faith was plighted to another, there could be no danger in my being with you; and that the consciousness of my engagement was to keep my heart as safe and sacred as my honour. I felt that I admired you, but I told myself it was only friendship; and till I began to make comparisons between yourself and Lucy, I did not know how far I was got. After that, I suppose, I was wrong in remaining so much in Sussex; and the arguments with which I reconciled myself to the expediency of it were no better than these:- The danger is my own; I am doing no injury to anybody but myself."'

He apologizes finely, but I don't like the end.  He thinks he's doing no damage to anyone but himself?  Mrs. Dashwood and Marianne made no secret of their feelings.  However, I suppose that it's plausible; Edward redeems himself at the end of the story, changing from a selfish, rich, foolish young man to a more mature, honorable one.  However, he is still definitely not my favorite.

And that's my opinion of Edward Ferrars.


Ivy Miranda said...

The only time I ever liked Edward was when Dan Stevens was playing him in the 2008 remake and that had really nothing to do with the characters at all.

Anonymous said...

Loved it... I've had the same thoughts but I can't put them into words. :) Thanks for doing it for me!

Anonymous said...


Now, we have both stated our thoughts on the matter, LET US NOT QUARREL.

(In other words, we agree to disagree. Edward is awesome. That is my 'umble opinion.)


Rose P said...

I see your points - and, yes, he definitely did act wrong by spending so much time with Ellinor, when he wasw already engaged.
But I gotta admit that is one thing I really love in JA's writing - that the characters are humans with flaws - even the heroes

Miss Jane Bennet said...

Ivy Miranda,
Ehehehe...I'm glad you agree with me! :)
Thank you! Aw, you're welcome. I'm glad this helped! :)
Indeed, let us agree to disagree. After all, we *do* agree on a Certain Other Character...;)
Rose P.,
Yes, I love that about Jane Austen too! Edward Ferrars is certainly human, but he turns out a lot better than, say, Willoughby.

Thanks for commenting, everyone! :)