And now for the top three. I don’t think I can do pros and cons for those; first of all, it would take too long, and second of all, I don’t think there would be too many cons! Part of the problem is that I don’t think I’m totally consistent in my feelings about each book, so I reserve the right to change my opinion without warning.
Sense and Sensibility had been my favorite for a while, until I had to read it again for class this semester. It wasn’t reading it for the third time that bothered me; it was reading it for the third time very soon after I had just read it for the second time (I read it in December for fun and then again in February for class—not a lot of time between readings). Thus, my enjoyment of it during the most recent reading was not the best. This didn’t happen with either Emma or Pride and Prejudice.
I’ve mentioned before that Pride and Prejudice will always hold a special place in my heart because it was the first book I read for school that I truly enjoyed, and I still love it now as much as I did then. But I’m not sure this is enough to propel it to the number 1 spot. Despite my love for it, I can’t help feeling how unrealistically perfect it is, and how much more I like Sense and Sensibility for ending in a way that most readers wouldn’t expect after reading the first half of the book. I sort of feel the same way about Emma: it’s just a little too perfect. I don’t love it any less for that, but I think Sense and Sensibility ends both realistically and satisfactorily.
As far as characters go, Pride and Prejudice continues to be quite unrealistic. No one in real life is as perfect as Darcy, or quite as badass as Elizabeth. People say Knightley is just as unattainably perfect, but this I would disagree with at least a little. Yes, he’s wonderful and wise and kind, but he doesn’t go to the lengths Darcy does to do good deeds. Emma, while definitely not as objectively awesome as Elizabeth, is still a great heroine because she realizes her mistakes and corrects them. You could argue Elizabeth does as well, but Elizabeth merely changes her mind, while Emma has to work on changing herself. And she does. I truly think Emma becomes a better person by the end of the novel, and I really liked watching her grow up.
However, as much as I love Emma, I do have to say that I think Elinor Dashwood is my favorite heroine, probably because I relate to her so well. She’s perpetually the voice of reason, but isn’t usually appreciated for it—she’s sometimes even called “unfeeling” just for using logic rather than emotion—and I have definitely been in that position. She also has a rather dramatic, emotional younger sister, who is usually the one to call her “unfeeling”—also much like my life! I admire the way Elinor handles things and keeps her cool, because it’s much better than I can do, for sure.
I’m still so hesitant to put these three in order. I feel like I’m insulting one or another (because books have feelings, of course) if I don’t put them where I wish I could. What I really wish I could do is put them all in first place and then skip straight to fourth, but that would kind of be cheating. At any rate, I think this is my order, however reluctant:
- Sense and Sensibility
- Pride and Prejudice
- Mansfield Park
- Northanger Abbey
What’s your ranking?by