Saturday, November 12, 2011

Defending Edward Ferrars

Miss Georgiana Darcy

"Edward Ferrars was not recommended to their good opinion by any peculiar graces of person or address. He was not handsome, and his manners required intimacy to make them pleasing. He was too diffident to do justice to himself; but when his natural shyness was overcome, his behavior gave every indication of an open, affectionate heart."
~Sense and Sensibility, chapter 3

Though he's not at the top of my Favorite Jane Austen Heroes list, I believe that Edward Ferrars is a greatly under-appreciated character. I think it's a real shame that many people find him boring and bland. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Edward is a wonderful person with character, integrity, kindness, a sense of humor, blah blah blah, and, yes, a great deal of awkwardness. But he's not inanimate, nor is he "un-heroic". I realize that many people do believe that he's boring, and I do hope I won't offend anyone by contradicting them in this post. I respect all your opinions, but I'm going to freely state my own. Besides, if no one ever wrote anything controversial, we'd never have anything interesting to talk about, would we? Blog posts would be dull and predictable, and the comments would consist merely of "How true!" and "Yes, I agree entirely!" and we blogging ladies would kill each other with boredom.

Ahem. Back to my point.

Jane Austen describes Edward better than I ever could--see the quote at the top of this post. Edward Ferrars is not the kind of guy who leaps off the page. He's quiet. He's not strikingly handsome. (No, I am NOT going to digress into a litany about the respective appearances of Hugh Grant and Dan Stevens. Sorreeee.)

But Edward, though his manners "require intimacy to make them pleasing" is a kind and tenderhearted person. He thinks primarily of making other people happy, and isn't focused on impressing those around him. The more I think about it, the more I realize that Edward honestly doesn't care what people think of him. I like this little thing he says in the '95 movie: "All I want, all I've ever wanted, is the quiet of a private life, but my mother wants me distinguished." Edward doesn't care about pomp and splendor. He's not a knight on a white horse. (I didn't say anything about a black horse, though...)

Edward's rapport with Margaret Dashwood exemplifies this. Okay, so he and Margaret didn't have much interaction in the book, but the movies really do a good job of showing their relationship. Think about it--most young men from Respectable Families in those days didn't go around playing pirates with little girls. It simply wasn't Proper. Edward, however, is more interested in making Margaret happy than in being Proper and Stuffy and sitting on an Uncomfortable Chair in a dark and gloomy Parlor.

Plus, Edward is FUNNY. Yes, he is. Maybe he's not laugh-out-loud hilarious like Henry Tilney, but he does have a sense of humor. When he and Margaret are discussing what the Dashwoods would do if they had "a fortune a-piece", he suggests that Marianne would buy up every copy of her favorite books "to prevent their falling into unworthy hands; and she would have every book that tells her how to admire an old twisted tree. Should not you, Marianne? Forgive me, if I am very saucy." (ch. 17)

(Love this scene. Just sayin'.)

But when I say Edward isn't interested in being Proper, I'm referring to endless rules and regulations about Polite Society. I'm not talking about good manners, character and integrity. Because Edward has all those, without a doubt. Now, when he was younger he might not have had much sense. I don't dispute that. I mean, seriously, who falls in love with a moron like Lucy Steele? There are a thousand reasons: he was young, she was pretty, her uncle encouraged the match, he didn't want to marry some other goofy girl his mother was trying to force him on, etc. etc. etc. (Et cetera, according to a friend of mine, stands for End of Thinking Capacity. This struck me as being highly amusing, and though it has nothing to do with this post, I thought I'd stick it in there.)

Anyway, though we don't know why Edward proposed to Lucy Steele in the first place, we do know that he is much too honorable to break off the engagement. He made a promise, he's going to stick to it. I admire that. Too many romance stories involve someone promising to marry someone else, then meeting their soulmate and snapping off the engagement without another thought. Look, that may sound romantic, but it's not. Think about it. How do you know that the said person isn't going to break off THIS engagement?

Hmmm, I seem to be going off on a lot of irrelevant tangerines tangents today. My apologies.

Let me also add something here on that topic. I've heard it said that Edward had no business "leading Elinor on" when he was engaged to Lucy, and that he should have told Elinor exactly what was up with him and Miss Stingy Steele. I don't agree. Edward promised Lucy that their engagement would be kept secret, and he kept his word. Lucy didn't keep hers, but what else would you expect from a girl like her? (Oh, and Edward did not lead Elinor on, for the record. It wasn't his fault that Marianne and Mrs. Dashwood read too much into his friendship with her.)

Well, Edward might be much too honorable to break off his engagement with Lucy, but we have to be glad that Lucy wasn't that honorable. "I'll marry Edward! He'll have lots of money when his mother dies. Oops! His mother found out that he's going to marry me. I need to get some duct tape for my sister Nancy's mouth... Where was I? Oh, yes, Edward isn't rich anymore. Ooh, but his younger brother IS... Hi Robert! Want to dance?"

So we can all give Lucy a round of applause. (Why? Because now the E's can get together, that's why!) Whether or not you are armed with rotten tomatoes as you "applaud" Lucy is your business and I will not be held liable.

And so Mr. F and Elinor were married. And Edward's mother's sister came to live with them soon after, and was known as Mr. F's Aunt. Okay, not really, but I had to stick that in.

And they lived happily ever after.


Abby said...

Hear hear! I couldn't have put it better myself :) I love how you highlighted how important it is that Edward doesn't break this proposal to Lucy...I feel like Elinor wouldn't have been able to respect him if he had.


Miss Laurie of Old-Fashioned Charm said...

Oh dear, this post made me laugh so much!
Thank you for this post, it reminded me why I like Edward Ferrars so much (even though other heroes are at the top of my list)! I always forget about his humor, it's gentle like his personality but it's greatly suited to Elinor's personality. I don't think this Elinor would have like the whit of a Henry Tilney. :)
Edward doesn't really lead Elinor on, he befriends her whole family as you said. The Dashwood girls are genuine people and I this Edward feels drawn to them because they aren't phony society ladies, Elinor just also happens to be the woman of his dreams as well.
I LOVED your remarks about Lucy Steele! I shall be one armed with a tomato! I'm sure she was very demure and persuasive when capturing Edward-from-the-rich-family. And if Edward hadn't been engaged to Lucy then we might not have known just how honorable he actually was, funny that.
Haha, the bit about Mr. F's aunt from Little Dorrit made me laugh. :)

Alexandra said...

(clap) (clap) (clap)

It's so nice to see someone defending Edward Ferrars!

While he wouldn't make it on the list of "top ten favorite literary heroes", Edward is so sweet and so stinking HONORABLE, people. He's the most honorable guy in the whole story. And I love his interaction with Margaret...and the restrained dignity he had with Elinor. And he *did* try to tell her, you know, in the '95 film.

Anyway. I really enjoyed this post! And for the record, I never had a problem with Hugh Grant's portrayal. His stammering, awkward Edward just made him more sweet...and totally someone sensible Elinor would fall for.

Hayden said...

"Mrs. F's aunt..."!!!'t...

And yes, I would applaud Lucy with tomatoes...or other rotten fruit :)

Miss Dashwood said...

Exactly. In order for a literary guy to be a real hero, I have to be able to respect him. So Edward definitely fits the classification.

Miss Laurie,
You are so right--I never thought of Elinor and Henry Tilney together before, but I don't think they would get along too well!
I do appreciate how Edward got along well with ALL the Dashwoods. Not like Mr. Darcy, who didn't exactly endear himself to the rest of the Bennet family (despite his TEN THOUSAND a year!) Glad you enjoyed the Mr. F's Aunt joke. :)

Yes, he did try to tell her about Lucy in the film, but I honestly think that was kinda a mistake on the filmmakers' part--Edward's so honorable, he wouldn't break a confidence. Although he wanted to spare Elinor's feelings... ahhhh, that would be a hard call. Oh, and I like Hugh Grant as Edward too. I like his little stammer, and I personally never considered him to be too handsome for the role (not being one of those girls who drops dead every time he comes on screen).

Would you like a glass of water? Haha, glad you liked that part. Mr. F's Aunt is a standing joke in our household. :)

Melody said...

How true!
Yes, I agree entirely!

Sorry if I'm boring you to death, but I do agree. In fact I was thinking about doing a similar post myself. =)

One of my favorite 'funny' Edward parts is when he teases Marianne about Willoughby -- "Let me guess...Mr. Willoughby hunts?" (Or whatever he said) made me laugh. ;-D

Miss Dashwood said...

Melody, you make me laugh out loud, girl.
Ooh, yes, I do love the part you mentioned--in fact, I agree entirely. "I have been guessing. Shall I tell you my guess? Well, I guess that Mr. Willoughby hunts."

Melody said...

Haha, well, that's the intention. ;-)

Yes! Exactly, precisely. That's just the quote I was thinking of. =)

I haven't heard back from you in emailing for a while! I never got to hear what you thought of my Josie Pye idea. ha ha ;-) Oh, I thought of something else today too...what was it...

Miss Dashwood said...

I know, I really need to e-mail you... my sincere apologies. What time I haven't spent in NaNoWriMo has been used for blogging, and e-mailing has taken a back seat. :( Loved the Josie idea, though!

Victoria said...

You have defended Edward. I will love you forever.

Sorry if that sounds a little's just that Edward Ferrars is actually very high indeed on my list of favorite Austen heroes, and I'm ever so tired of hearing folks talk about how boring and horrid he is. I wuv him. And though I know that the 2008 version made him a bit easier to love than it should have, I liked the way they portrayed him. Now I must see the older version and see how they did him. *glares in advance*

Really, Edward's awkwardness is part of what I like about him. It's...adorable awkwardness. Yes, I'm odd. :p

Anyway, I just wanted to say thank you for writing this. Mr. Ferrars needs more people like you. :)

- Victoria

Melody said...

Ha, if I ever get around to writing my post defending Edward Farrars that has been on my list of possible posts since the start of my blog...I'll have to let you know. ;-)

Miss Dashwood said...

Not freaky at all--I'm delighted to find another Edward fan! (one who ISN'T referring to the dreadful Twilight nonsense... sigh)
Don't bother glaring, because the 1995 version is pretty close to perfection. I really fell in love with Edward after watching that movie, to tell you the truth. He's dorkily adorable and so, so sweet with Margaret--I love it!
I'm glad you enjoyed the post!

Ooh, do post that please!

Rachel Olivia said...

I am not a huge Edward fan myself, but I do agree with you that he is not boring and bland although I cannot think of a JA character who is. Jane Austen is not writing books about dramatic people, so her lead men are not "heros" (like for example Sir Percy)-they are just that-lead men. That is why the whole Darcy/Knightly gush bothers me-they are realistic, interesting characters-they are not amazing, and they make mistakes-just like Edward (although I prefer them both better than Edward). Edward is one on Jane Austen's youngest lead men (Darcy is 29, Captain Wentworth is in his early thirties, Colonel Brandon and Mr. Knightly are late thirties, Edmund Bertram is 26, Henry Tilney is 24-6 ish, and Mr. Bingley is 23) at 23 or 24, so of course he is going to have more problems. Let me point out that he is a year or two younger than Willoughby as well. You are right he IS funny-I forget about that. And although I bemoan his ignorance of Lucy's true characters that caused his persistence-he did at least have enough strength of character to stick with it because he thought it right, and he was not so unobservant that he could not catch Marianne's preference for Willoughby. I do not like Hugh Grants's interpretation of him though-that I believe is part of what turns people off about Edward's character-Grant's awkwardness!

Dave said...

I absolutely agree with your good opinion of Mr. Edward Ferrars. In fact, not being much of a scholar but excellently aquainted with Sense and Sensiblity, I could hardly countenance a negative view of Edward Ferrars. Possesing an eager over indulgence of Sense and Sensibility my first Jane Austen work, I found the fine character of Edward Ferrars above reproach, but also, mine, is not the mind of a lady. Edward demonstrated an air of reverential intimacy, an amiable nature, a humbleness, a quiet deference for the regard of others, winning them over with his meek but dutiful manner and an unpretentious disregard for thier recently displaced position in society. This illustration of Edward is in direct contrast of Mr. Willoughby, who with his good manners, love of poetry and superhuman virlity also professes a poor opinion of Col. Brandon, leaving us suspect of him, and his conjectural good character. We find in both a firm devotion in love, but no declaration of it. Edward being bound by honour and duty, Willoughby, by his purse and deceit. While Willoughby allows for the "exercised of riches upon a poor dependant cousin" to derail his prize in Marianne, Edward allows for no such matriarchal interference in his plans and stands by his promise, his duty, to marry the superficial Lucy Steele over the passions of his obviously broken and abused heart. We must remember that Edward did try to inform Elinor of his previous engagment to Lucy Steele in the stables. One man is steadfast and resolute, honouring God, duty and loyalty, while the other indulgently suffers himself and the want of filling his meager purse. Willoughby also revealed through a sordid past, quite ironically turns out to be the seducer of the child of Col Brandon's only love to that point. I was to say, all astonishment! (great line)

The choosing of either Willoughby, who embraced 7 times his equal in the uncongenial and frosty, Miss Grey, or Robert Ferrars who's own pointless frivolous existence is mirrored in both deed and attribute by Lucy Steele, is indeed its own reward as cautioned through the background marriage of Col. Brandon's brother and the one singular object of Col. Brandon's broken and true heart.

Edward Ferrars generosity in spirit and kindness of character has found its match in Col. Brandon. The demonstration of Marianne's burgeoning understanding of this is portrayed through her confession to Elinor when she compares her character, to that of her older sister and found it wanting. I believe it one of the most poignant illustrations in this lovely story and her aquittal of her own negative discernment of Edwards fair character and of course that of her husband to be.

Miss Jane Bennet said...

My apologies for commenting so late, but I just HAVE to say this:
I don't think Edward Ferrars is boring. Not at all. However, I do think that he's almost the villain and got more than he deserved when he married Elinor. If you want a more full explanation of why I think that (sorry for my advertising) just go to my blog, Classic Ramblings.