So, Paper #1 is in the can. 2,500 words on the rejected suitors in the Austen canon. It was supposed to be 2000 words, but I couldn’t think of what to cut. Might have to work on it, I might able to cut out some of my verbiage. What is it they say in fiction writing – “Kill your darlings”?
In case you’re wondering, the suitors in question go from flat-character Mr Thorpe in Northanger Abbey, to just-as-flat Collins in P&P, slightly more rounded Elton in Emma (more on that below), fairly round Mr Elliot in Persuasion, to super-complex Henry Crawford in Mansfield and Mr Darcy in P&P again.
I’ve left out Mr Rushworth of Mansfield and Colonel Brandon of S&S, partially from reasons of space, but also because neither of them is rejected by the main heroine of the piece. And then, Rushworth gets dumped after he’s married (so he’s not so much a rejected suitor as a rejected husband), and Brandon never actually pushes his suit – he just quietly likes Marianne, but knows full well she doesn’t like him back, so he doesn’t bug her. (His success at the end of the story pretty much happens offstage.) That’s unlike all the other guys I’m talking about in this piece.
As far as the flat/round character designation goes, I took that straight from E. M. Forster’s Aspects of the Novel. He says a rounded character is one who can surprise convincingly. “If it never surprises, it is flat. If it does not convince, it is flat pretending to be round.” (London: Penguin, 2005. 81). So by that definition, in Mr Elton “we get the beginning of the curve towards the round” (Forster 73) because he is capable of surprising both Emma and the reader (well, this reader, anyway) with just how nastily vindictive he gets when he’s rejected. And of course Crawford and Darcy are perfectly globular – people still can’t agree on the Crawfords today, and Darcy surprises everyone several times over, especially with his capacity to actually take Elizabeth’s rejection and learn from it. And that’s what turns him from the rejected suitor into the successful one at the end.