As writers we want our main character to be likeable. But we also want them to be real. That means they have to have flaws.
Have you ever read a book where the main character didn’t have any flaws?
I recently finished Mansfield Park by Jane Austen as part of my To Be Read Pile Challenge. It’s a goal of mine to finish reading all of Jane Austen’s works because I
want to live in a Jane Austen movie admire her work’s critique on social classism and gender inequality.
With that said, I’m just gonna set this here for a minute…
(I have a whole Pinterest board for this.)
Mansfield Park has never been one of my favorite Austen storylines, although some critics argue it’s her greatest work. The novel tells the story of Fanny Price, a gentle-hearted, kind girl who goes to live with her wealthy aunt, uncle and cousins. She is obedient, grateful, and never says an ill word about anyone even though she is often mistreated by her aunt, uncle, female cousins, and neighbors.
And let’s face it, she falls in love with her cousin, Edmund. I know that’s how things were done back then, but ew.
You know else does that? Karen from Mean Girls.
The happily ever after in the book depends on all the other characters screwing up in order to fulfill Fanny’s dream – marrying her cousin, Edmund.
I did enjoy the novel. And, I really liked re-watching two of the film versions to see where they adapted the storyline. But I don’t know if I ever really liked Fanny. She’s too good.
One could argue that Fanny’s flaw is being too nice. While other characters do point that out, there is no change in Fanny’s character. She remains constant in her loyalty to family, service for others, and everyone else achieving happiness over herself.
I would argue that’s the reason the 1999 film adaptation was quite liberal with their side stories including slavery and an extra-marital affair, which though it could be insinuated happened in Jane Austen’s novel, it is never said outright. In the movie, Fanny (played by Frances O’Conner) is a cheeky little thing and also hopes to become a published authoress. None of her quips, nor challenging statements to her uncle, or the notion of writing her own novels are in the book.
So I ask again, can an audience bond with a character that is too likeable?
What examples can you think of?
Have you read a book with an overly likeable character? How did you feel about them?