Happy Halloween, Janeites! Although Austen wrote no scenes of trick-or-treating, pumpkin-carving, or gorging on candy corn, she certainly created plenty of unforgettably monstrous people. Herewith, my nominees for the Five Scariest Characters in Jane Austen, in ascending order of evil:
5. Emma Woodhouse (Emma)
A world-class manipulator--“Do not imagine that I want to influence you," she insists to Harriet, while attempting to influence her—whose eventual reform can’t erase our terrifying glimpse of the damage wrought by careless abuse of power.
4. General Tilney (Northanger Abbey)
A pompous and mercenary domestic tyrant—don’t you dare be late for dinner!--who packs a seventeen-year-old girl off on a twelve-hour solo trip home, without even ensuring that she has enough money for the journey.
3. Lady Susan Vernon (Lady Susan)
Regency Sociopath, Female Division: Incapable of love for anyone, including her own daughter, but dangerously good at faking it.
2. George Wickham (Pride and Prejudice)
Regency Sociopath, Male Division: Heartless, shameless, and mercenary serial seducer of teenage girls.
1. Mrs. Norris (Mansfield Park)
Oppressor of the weak, sycophant to the powerful, and too cheap to buy her own cream cheese.