• Jennifer Abella

Ranking Austen’s rogues

Is Wickham the worst in Jane Austen’s rogue gallery? Let’s compare him with the Austen’s other cads….


6. Frank Churchill, “Emma”

The outgoing, charming son of Mr. Weston keeps his engagement to Jane Fairfax a secret all while misleading Emma. But although she was a little hurt by his actions, they don’t cause any real harm in the end.



5. John Thorpe, “Northanger Abbey”

This braggart loves carriages, horses, himself and … well, not much else. He stirs up trouble with General Tilney by planting the rumor that Catherine Morland is an heiress. But Thorpe is all talk and no action — and therefore not disastrous in the long run.


4. Mr. Elliot, “Persuasion”

He schemes to get Anne to marry him and aims to keep Sir Walter Elliot from marrying Mrs. Clay so she won’t produce an heir to take away his fortune (such as it is, anyway). Ultimately his machinations come to nothing, and we never learn what became of him.


3. Henry Crawford, “Mansfield Park”

Now we get to the heavy-hitters. In his first scene in the book, he is described as “ the most horrible flirt that can be imagined.” Although he seems to genuinely care for Fanny, after setting out deliberately to make her fall in love with him, he runs off with the married Maria Rushworth. Fanny made a wise decision not to fall for Henry’s antics.


2. Wickham, “Pride & Prejudice”

Wickham, like most of the other bad dudes in Austen’s canon, can seemingly charm anyone — even Lizzy. But he tried to seduce Darcy’s teenage sister to get at Darcy’s money. And then ends up tarnishing the Bennet family name after running away with Lydia — and marrying her only after Darcy pays him off.  


1. Willoughby, “Sense & Sensibility”

He beats out Wickham for a few reasons. First, his liaison with Col. Brandon’s ward results in a baby out of wedlock. Then Willoughby openly flirts with Marianne and quickly gets out of Dodge when his aunt lays down the law. Then he ends up marrying Miss Grey and her 50,000 pounds. Sure, he may actually love Marianne — but not enough to give up his wealth.


How would you rank Austen’s cads? Let us know!


Winner of the North Carolina Humanities Council’s Joel Gradin Award for Excellence in Public Humanities

JANE AUSTEN
SUMMER PROGRAM

 

JANE AUSTEN SUMMER PROGRAM

The Jane Austen Summer Program is a non-profit organization. All donations are tax-deductible.