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Jane Austen Heroines to Take Inspiration From

Updated on June 17, 2013

Facts About Jane Austen

Jane Austen was a fascinating woman, though we know relatively little about her compared to some other literary luminaries:

  • Jane wrote an estimated 3,000 letters in her life, but only 160 remain
  • Jane was one of eight children, but had only one sister
  • Jane never married, though a few romances were speculated
  • Two of Jane's six novels were posted posthumously

Being Inspired by Jane Austen's Intelligent, Feisty Heroines

Jane Austen wrote only six full-length novels, but all six of them are deeply beloved and are considered some of the great works of the English language. She went beyond the thrill of romance in her plots to offer sharp social commentary, all while keeping her characters vibrant and her prose sparkling.

When you think of her novels, you probably immediately think of her heroines, who could be real women--passionate, clever, and true to themselves.

With the parade of celebrities and starlets behaving badly today, it may not be such a bad idea to take Jane Austen's heroines as role models--they have a lot to offer the modern woman.

A Clip from the Film Version of "Pride and Prejudice"

Elizabeth Bennet, from "Pride and Prejudice"

Elizabeth Bennet, affectionately called Lizzie by many characters in the novel, is probably Jane Austen's most beloved heroine, and the easiest from which to draw inspiration. Saddled with a socially embarrassing mother who schemes constantly to marry her daughters off and able to speak intelligently with only one of her sisters, Lizzie is nevertheless patient and deeply loyal to her family.

When she feels they are slighted by the pretentious Mr. Darcy, who refuses to dance with her at a countryside ball, Lizzie immediately makes up her mind about him--choosing instead to trust the deceptive Wickham. After a series of misunderstandings and revelations, Lizzie falls in love and finds that first impressions aren't always what they seem.

What traits should we take from Elizabeth Bennet?

  • Loyalty to family
  • Intelligence and wit
  • The ability to find amusement in absurd situations
  • A strong sense of right and wrong

Of course, Lizzie is also quick to jump to judgments and is unwilling to change her mind once it's made up--no one's perfect, and those are traits to avoid!

A Clip from the Film Version of "Emma"

Emma Woodhouse, from "Emma"

My personal favorite of Jane Austen's novels is "Emma," with its eponymous heroine. Emma Woodhouse is young and unmarried, and lives with her clingy father. She's very pleased that she managed to make a good match for her governess, and next sets her sights on Harriet Smith--a young woman of indeterminate origin. Though Harriet is perfectly happy with her courtship by a young local man, Emma decides Harriet can do better--and sets out to find "better" for her new friend.

Emma grows a lot in the course of the novel, mostly under the guidance of family friend and mentor Mr. Knightley. Emma eventually realizes her foolishness before it's too late to rectify the chaos she's created in their small social circle, and even falls in love herself.

What traits can we take from Emma Woodhouse?

  • A sense of fun and spontaneity
  • A belief in true love
  • A willingness to own up to mistakes and take instruction
  • A fierce loyalty to family and friends

As with Elizabeth Bennet, though, Emma is not perfect--far from it. We should avoid her traits of being self-absorbed, headstrong, and occasionally heedless of other's feelings and wishes.

A Clip from the Film Version of "Sense and Sensibility"

Elinor Dashwood, from "Sense and Sensibility"

Though both Elinor Dashwood and Marianne Dashwood are heroines of Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice," Elinor emerges as the clear winner when you're looking for an inspirational heroine. When they are left destitute after their father's death, Elinor is the one who holds the family together and acts as its strength while Marianne is concerned with romance, poetry, and brooding heroes.

While Marianne has her own ill-fated romance with the rakish Willoughby, Elinor falls for the quiet Edward Ferrars, who has a secret that breaks Elinors heart (though it all turns out well in the end, as it always does in an Austen novel).

What inspirational traits can we take from Elinor?

  • An adherence to logic and order
  • Devotion to family and willingness to sacrifice for it
  • Steadfastness
  • Intelligence
  • Great societal tact

Of course, some of Marianne's traits are positive too--a willingness to trust, a belief in love and happiness, and an appreciation of beauty are all good things to possess.

A Sketch of Jane Austen

A sketch of Jane Austen, author of some of the most beloved novels in the English language
A sketch of Jane Austen, author of some of the most beloved novels in the English language | Source

Fictional Heroines as Real-Life Inspiration

Jane Austen's stories and characters resonate with readers throughout the generations,and for good reason--they're entertaining, romantic, and easy to relate to. Her fictional heroines are realistic, well-rounded characters who can provide inspiration to even today's modern woman.


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    • Better Yourself profile image

      Better Yourself 4 years ago from North Carolina

      Congrats on Hub of the Day! And job well done on this hub - very good points about young women today and who their role models should be. It's not very encouraging with all the bad behavior, dress, etc from the young famous women these days. And I couldn't help but fall in love with the character of Lizzie from Pride and Prejudice and her story!

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 4 years ago from The Beautiful South

      Books from authors like Jane Austen's never lose their popularity with readers who are after the qualifications you mention. Running a book store for years I know there was a steady income from readers who liked writers like her.

    • Maria Cecilia profile image

      Maria Cecilia 4 years ago from Philippines

      Congrats for being the hub of the day... ok Jane Austen this reminded me of my highschool book report, and that was Emma Woodhouse. It was a great novel for me, I was very young when I first read this and I wonder if there is a difference reading it again now that I am an adult.

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 4 years ago from southern USA

      Indeed, Austen's heroines have much to offer the modern woman!

      Not a bad idea at all. Really interesting hub here. I love Jane Austen's work too. What we can all take away from her great work is that her characters are truly memorable!

      Congrats on Hub of the Day! It is an awesome write.

      Voted up ++++ and sharing

      Bless you, Faith Reaper

    • hisandhers profile image

      hisandhers 4 years ago from Toronto, Ontario, Canada

      Congratulations on being Hub of the Day! I am a huge fan of Jane Austen's work so it was a lot of fun to revisit some of my favorite heroines. I think what makes her characters ultimately so memorable is that we can identify easily with them. They have many traits from which we can draw inspiration- like Elizabeth's deep loyalty to her family- but her quickness to judge Mr. Darcy makes her more accessible to the reader because we can relate. The flaws in her characters make her work that much more realistic.

    • Phyllis Doyle profile image

      Phyllis Doyle Burns 4 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

      SafronBlossom, congratulations on your award for Hub of the Day, well done!

      I really enjoyed this hub and find a lot of information to benefit today's women. I would be wise to use these women of Jane Austen's as role models.

      "With the parade of celebrities and starlets behaving badly today, it may not be such a bad idea to take Jane Austen's heroines as role models--they have a lot to offer the modern woman. " So very true!

      Voted up, useful, interesting. Well done.

    • melbel profile image

      Melanie Shebel 4 years ago from New Buffalo, Michigan

      LOVE this article. Found a small mistake, though: "Though both Elinor Dashwood and Marianne Dashwood are heroines of Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice,"

      Keep up the amazing writing!

    • watcher by night profile image

      watcher by night 4 years ago

      It's nice to see the spotlight shone upon Jane Austen's heroines-- there seems to be a shortage of similar role models at large in the world today. My own personal favorite Jane Austen book is 'Northanger Abbey.'

    • rose-the planner profile image

      rose-the planner 4 years ago from Toronto, Ontario-Canada

      Congratulations on HOTD, well deserved indeed! I love Jane Austen novels and I loved this article about her. I enjoyed all of her books but my favourites were Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility. Thank you for sharing. (Voted Up) -Rose

    • Mel Jay profile image

      Mel Jay 4 years ago from Australia

      Enjoyed your assessment of Lizzie Bennet - you are spot on there! One of the best things about Austen, apart from her wit and brevity of description, is that her protagonists grow and change and often, like Lizzie, become increasingly endearing as the story progresses. Great hub, thanks, Mel

    • Jean-ette profile image

      Jean-ette 4 years ago

      Congratulations on hub of the day. How I love reading Jane Austin and to escape into that simple and slow world of long ago. Great hub that makes me want to read one of her novels.

    • heidithorne profile image

      Heidi Thorne 4 years ago from Chicago Area

      Kudos on Hub of the Day! I think it's interesting that the characters that Austen and many of her contemporaries created still have relevance today. Beautiful hub!

    • W1totalk profile image

      W1totalk 4 years ago

      This is just a strong article. Thank you for highlighting these characters qualities and Jane Austen so well.

    • Nancy Owens profile image

      Nancy Owens 4 years ago from USA

      Congratulations once again! You are a good writer and your insights are expressed eloquently.

    • LastRoseofSummer2 profile image

      LastRoseofSummer2 4 years ago from Arizona

      Emma is my favorite too. Jane Austen had said something about "creating a heroine whom no one but myself will like". But I like her and I think a lot of other people do too. Emma meddles, but she has a heart.

    • ishwaryaa22 profile image

      Ishwaryaa Dhandapani 4 years ago from Chennai, India

      An engaging hub! I have read these novels as well as seen the movie versions. Jane Austen was indeed a wonderful authoress and her heroines were really vibrant characters as well as role models for today women. These heroines mentioned by you are elaborately described. I agree with your well-presented views. Congrats on the Hub of the Day! Well-done!

      Thanks for SHARING. Useful, Awesome & Interesting. Voted up

    • SaffronBlossom profile image

      SaffronBlossom 4 years ago from Dallas, Texas

      Thank you so much! Your comment made my day. :)

    • lambservant profile image

      Lori Colbo 4 years ago from Pacific Northwest

      This is fabulous. Very well done. And I learned a new word which I had to look up - eponymous. Bravo and congrats for hub of the day.