Modernizing Austen Characters

posted in: Boots & Backpacks, Writing | 0

(Crossposted from Stories from the Past)


Marianne brings the drama
image via Jane Austen in Vermont

I previously wrote about how many of the themes Jane Austen explored in her novels are universal, even 200 years later.

Similarly, Austen wrote characters who are still familiar to us today. They may even remind us of real people we know: an embarrassing mother, an apathetic father, a boy-crazy girl, a snob, a playboy, a drama queen. It isn’t much of a stretch, therefore, to reimagine Austen characters in a modern setting.

Reimagine, I did, and I had a lot of fun doing it! This is a bit of a spoiler, but Boots & Backpacks features not only updated characters from Pride and Prejudice, but also from Sense and Sensibility and Northanger Abbey. Here are a few of them:

William Darcy: our protagonist starts out as a rather unlikeable character. He’s a terrible snob, spoiled and sheltered. He comes from a long, proud line of important Darcys, but he’s the last one left. Darcy has some issues with women: he judges them by their appearance, he distrusts their motives and believes they are only after his money, but he isn’t above sleeping with them – a lot of them. Like Austen’s Darcy, he changes for the better over the course of the story. His journey of self discovery is both literal and figurative.

Elizabeth Bennet: an excellent walker, indeed! She is a great lover of the outdoors, and enjoys long-distance hiking. Clever, independent, and feisty, Elizabeth is perhaps a bit more prickly than Austen wrote her; she doesn’t take any of Darcy’s crap. Lizzy is loyal and protective of her loved ones, but has some trust issues of her own, particularly where men are concerned. She, too, changes over the course of the story.

Marianne Dashwood: Elizabeth’s best friend is a self-described drama queen. We meet Marianne after she has overcome her Willoughby ordeal and realized the error of her impulsive ways, so readers may find her a bit less…grating? than Austen’s Marianne. But she still isn’t much for moderation.

Christopher Brandon: much like the original, he is a calming, supportive presence for everyone around him. He is also devoted to Marianne.

Isabella Thorpe: a big fan of the Twilight movies, she insists on being called Bella, and is looking for her Edward – preferably a rich and famous one. She and her brother only appear in one chapter of B&B, but that’s all it takes for them to complicate things for Darcy and Elizabeth.

John Thorpe: a boorish braggart, just as Austen wrote him. His favorite thing to brag about is his beloved SUV and its impressive sound system. He installed it himself, you know.

Hopefully, Boots & Backpacks readers will find that my updates to these and other Austen characters still preserve their essence. I didn’t want to mess too much with a good thing!