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Ranking Jane Austen heroes literally from worst to best

Who do you think will be number 1? Would you like it to be Mr. Darcy, or are you more into team Wentworth?

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Jane Austen was a ground breaking writer way ahead of her time. Despite living for a short time, Austen’s six complete novel alongside her juvenilias and unfinished works have are highly recognized around the globe.

This global acclaim is due to Austen’s clear messages delivered by a memorable cast of characters. In the past, we listed Jane Austen heroines. And now, it’s the turn for the gentlemen. Here’s a ranking of Jane Austen heroes from worst to best.

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Note: To be considered an Austen hero, the male character must have undergone a positive transformation throughout the novel by  learning/accepting their faults and reaching happiness as well as self-awareness. 

So there won’t be a certain Mr. Wickham or Willoughby on this list. 

12. Thomas Bertram (Mansfield Park)

Thomas Bertram is the eldest son of Sir Thomas Bertram, making him the heir of the lovely Mansfield Park and a potential lover for a lady in search of a well-established man (like Mary Crawford, for a few minutes). 

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Thomas is a wild man who likes to party and spend a lot of money carelessly. A good entertainer, but also an irresponsible man. In the beginning, Tom isn’t kind to his cousin Fanny and spends most of his time outside Mansfield Park. Yet, once he becomes ill, Thomas Bertram learns his lesson and becomes a more reasonable man. 

Even if he wasn’t a very likable guy, per se, it was very cruel of Mary Crawford to wish for Thomas’s passing so that Edmund could inherit Mansfield Park. 

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11. Frank Churchill (Emma)

Mr. Knightley was right when he said that Frank Churchill was way too easily forgiven and didn’t deserve to marry Jane Fairfax. I mean, Frank played with Jane’s feelings by flirting with Emma, who was also used, in front of her! No, there’s no excuse of his behavior, even if he was “trying to hide” his secret engagement with Jane Fairfax.

Frank Churchill deceived the people from Highbury, missed his father’s wedding, uses his charming skills to be liked by everyone, made jokes with Emma about his fiancé, and is a bit moody. Also, it was quite exaggerated of him to travel to London just to get a haircut! 

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At least he wrote a letter in which he accepted his misconducts and apologized to Emma.

10. Edmund Bertram (Mansfield Park)

A lead character in Mansfield Park, Edmund Bertram is the younger son of Sir Thomas, aspiring to become a clergyman because he follows his principles. Did he, though? Throughout the novel, Edmund falls madly in love with Marry Crawford and doesn’t hesitate to forget his morality just to please her. 

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For example, Edmund was initially against the performance of The Lovers’ Vows at Mansfield Park, but quickly changes his mind by agreeing to act an intimate scene with Mary. 

Yes, he was the only kind and compassionate person towards Fanny. But he never noticed her feelings for him and married her after his failed court with Mary! Edmund got someone who’s way much better than him. 

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9. Edward Ferrars (Sense and Sensibility)

Another hero who didn’t deserve the heroine, Edward Ferrars treated Elinor Dashwood in a fondly way that both developed feelings for each other. Still, there’s a detail that Edward didn’t mentioned to Elinor… He was already engaged to another woman, and Elinor found out later on by said fiancé!  

So, even if he distanced himself from Elinor because “it was the best for both”, he should have started with telling her the truth instead of making her suffer. Somehow, Edward Ferrars did a noble action by staying true to his word by being capable of marrying someone he didn’t love instead of running off with Elinor— which would have possibly ruined her honor. 

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8. Captain Benwick (Persuasion)

A loyal friend of Captain Wentworth, Benwick is a reserved man who’s depressed by the loss of his fiancé, Fanny Harville, while he was away at sea. To cope with his mourning, Captain Benwick develops an interest in reading depressing poetry and strolling along the shore. 

Gladly, he takes Anne Elliot’s advice of expanding his reading interests to bring him out of his melancholic state. It did worked for Benwick; so much so that he ended up marrying Louisa Musgrove in a short period of time. 

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I mean, good for them! But, perhaps their relationship happened too soon since they went from complete strangers to becoming husband and wife? 

7. Robert Martin (Emma)

Though he was a secondary character, Robert Martin is a decent man no matter what Emma thought about him at first! A noble farmer who’s landlord, a.k.a. Mr Knightley, holds him in high regard. 

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Robert Martin is a kind and sensible man who always treated Harriet with respect in spite of being rejected by her. He even worries for her well-being by warning Harriet about a flooded path that she usually takes! Definitely a sweet action!

Gladly, Robert finds his happy ending when Harriet accepts his second proposal. Even if he’s not a gentleman nor a “handsome man” by social standards, he’s far better than others who posses these labels (“cough”, the pompous Mr. Elton). 

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6. Colonel Brandon (Sene and Sensibility)

Considered an eligible bachelor, Colonel Brandon is a reserved yet honorable gentleman that turned out to be a faithful friend to Elinor and who’s spirit were restored when marrying Marianne. 

Though being perceived by Marianne as an elderly and unromantic man, the opposite of Mr. Willoughby, Colonel Brandon proves his love towards her by staying at her side during her fatal illness. He offers his help to the Dashwoods whenever it was needed, and even generously offering Edward Ferrars the Delaford living. 

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Yes, it might be a bit awkward the age difference between Colonel Brandon and Marianne (something that was common back then) and the fact that she resembled his former love. Still, he’s a righteous hero.   

5. Mr. Bingley (Pride and Prejudice)

A cheerful man and best friend of Mr. Darcy, Mr. Bingley is a good-natured gentleman who acquired Netherfield, an action that drew the attention of Mrs. Bennet and started the plot of Pride and Prejudice.

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Mr. Bingley is an innocent man who’s pleasing demeanor unfortunately causes him to be led by his family and friend’s opinions. Fortunately, Mr. Bingley stays true to his love for Jane Bennet and, with the help of Mr. Darcy, elopes with the kind-hearted Jane. 

A quirky man but also benevolent, Mr. Bingley always treated everyone with respect no matter their rank or personality. Who would forget how much he worried about Jane when she got sick and his nice treatment towards the Bennets!  

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4. Henry Tilney (Northanger Abbey)

Henry Tilney is a young clergyman who’s wise but also has a witty and funny side. A fond brother with a sympathetic nature, Henry has to deal a complicated relationship with his greedy father, General Tilney, and flirtatious brother, Frederick. 

Unlike General Tilney or Frederick, Henry doesn’t think that the world is about money or careless affair, which is why Catherine ends up falling for him. Throughout the novel, Henry Tilney gets to know Catherine Morland. At first, he teases her about her wild imagination. But eventually, he comes to love her for being a sincere and passionate woman. 

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Plus, he even goes against his father when the latter dismissed Catherine from Northanger Abbey, going to her home to make sure that she was alright, and confessing his love for her!

3. Captain Frederick Wentworth (Persuasion)

Our next Austen hero is Captain Frederick Wentworth, a man with too much spirit who’s love has belong to no one but Anne Elliot after all those eight years of being apart from each other. 

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Captain Frederick Wentworth is what many would describe as a different type of hero. Rather than being perfect, Wentworth is a hard-working sailor who made his own fortune instead of inheriting. He's a man who acknowledges his mistakes and asks for forgiveness. Last but not least, Wentworth is a man who also has his emotional side rather than only being rational.   

At first, Captain Wentworth seemed like a proud man who had moved on from Anne after she had refused him. However, he eventually overcomes his fiery spirit by accepting his misconducts in perhaps one of the most romantic letters ever written. In the end, both of them managed to evolve throughout the story, achieving a happy life side by side.

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2. Mr. Darcy (Pride and Prejudice)

Perhaps one of the most recognized romantic heroes of all time, Mr. Darcy went from being a proud man that seemed cold to a generous and caring hero with an ardent love for Elizabeth Bennet.  

The reason why Mr. Darcy earned one of the top spots is because he’s one of the Austen characters that had a huge development. I mean, he started as a reserved man who didn’t like to interact with others, but it had to do with the fact that he was raised like that. 

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And yet, he learned how to change that since he left behind his arrogance by doing everything in his power to safe the Bennets reputation after Lydia fleet with Wickham. Mr. Darcy could have easily ignored the situation and continued his life at Pemberly. But no! He found out the whereabouts of Lydia and Wickham and paid for their wedding, even if he hated Wickham with all his heart!  

Mr. Darcy evolved into an affectionate, rectifies his mistakes (correcting his mistake of having separated Bingley and Jane so that they could be together, treating better Mrs. Bennet), and willing to do any sacrifice for those he cares.  

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1. Mr. Knightley (Emma)

George Knightley, a.k.a. Mr. Knightley, is the gentleman Donwell Abbey who managed to win the heart of Emma Woodhouse. And with good reasons. First, Mr. Knightley was always a kind and compassionate hero to the people of Highbury. He was a true friend to Mr. Woodhouse and treated the people of lower ranks with respect rather than seeing them as “inferior” (like Miss Bates or Robert Martin). 

Though some may argue that he liked to reprimand Emma a lot, Mr. Knightley actually wanted to correct her wrong actions for he knew that she was better than that. Thus, this actually help Emma become a better person by recognizing her mistakes, like when she made fun of Miss Bates in front of everyone or how she could hurt others by getting involved in their personal lives. 

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A hero with a good sense of judgement and an affectionate side, Mr. Knightley is a humble gentleman who’s not affected by wealth or social class. So much so that he was willing to give up his wealthy estate in order to make his dear Emma happy!   

Unlike Darcy, Mr. Knightley was already a considerate man who used his knowledge and resources for the well being of others, pointing out unethical attitudes, and defending those in need.

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Images from: Clerkenwell Films, WGBH, Company Pictures, Universal Pictures, Focus Features, Sony Pictures, Granada Productions

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