When Bad Things Come in Pairs: Siblings Who Wreaked Havoc in Austen’s Novels

When Bad Things Come in Pairs: Siblings Who Wreaked Havoc in Austen’s Novels

When Bad Things Come in Pairs: siblings who wreaked havoc in Austen’s novels

“Prepare for trouble. And make it double!”  While fans of the Pokemon cartoon show might associate this famous line with Team Rocket’s most inept members Jessie and James, this line could easily apply to several of the sibling pairs in Austen’s novels.  The world of Jane Austen seems rife with difficult duos that make life harder for the heroines and heroes.  Let’s take a look at some of the most notorious pairs that gave our heroines a dose of double-trouble.

 

Isabella and John Thorpe

It’s hard to picture a more loathsome brother and sister.  They are both name-droppers and gold-diggers.  Isabella is as inconstant a friend as the weather, and her actions seldom line up with the words from her mouth. John swears like a sailor and is about as selfish as can be.  Both siblings are rude, inconsiderate, and care more about their own interests than in respecting others.  The pinnacle of their bad behavior is in Isabella’s dumping her engagement to James Moreland in favor of Frederick Tilney, only to beg Catherine’s help to win James back when she herself gets thrown over by Frederick. Good job, Catherine, for turning her down!

Henry and Mary Crawford

They are both openly selfish and make no apologies for it.  Mary clearly has an agenda to land the richest husband she can, and though she likes Edmund better, she makes no secret of her disdain for his choice of profession and even rejoices when his elder brother falls ill, thinking that now her preferred man might inherit!  Henry is no better; a known player, he admits to his sister that he wants to make Fanny fall in love with him for the fun of it.  Meanwhile, he flirts with both of the Bertram sisters, eventually wrecking Maria’s marriage.  Mary shows no remorse for his bad behaviour, even trying to pin the blame on Fanny for not having accepted his proposal.  Lucky for Fanny and Edmund, they both escaped the charm of these terrible siblings.

 

Caroline Bingley and Louisa Hurst

If you thought these two reminded you of the ugly stepsisters from Cinderella, you wouldn’t be too far off. These ladies have no scruples about abusing their so-called friends behind their back and gossiping about others at every turn.  They even go so far as to assist Darcy in separating their brother from the woman he loves.  How Charles Bingley turned out so nice with sisters such as these is a mystery to me.

 

Maria and Julia Bertram

They may have older brothers who are kinder, but these two sisters were anything but nice to their cousin Fanny when she arrived. They constantly made fun of her for her lack of education and finery, and they only deigned to play with her when they needed an extra playmate.  As adults, they shunned her the majority of the time, neither one of them really coming to appreciate Fanny in the way that her aunt and uncle Bertram and cousin Edmund did. 

 

Lucy and Anne Steele

Okay, so Lucy definitely gave the most trouble between these two.  Her nastiness seems to know no bounds!  From forcing Elinor to be her confidante in order to stake a claim on Edward, making veiled threats, maneuvering to be Mrs. Ferrars’ favorite, and even throwing a last-minute barb at Elinor by letting the Dashwoods’ servant assume she had married Edward instead of Robert, Lucy is a real piece of work!  But her sister Anne (also called Nancy) doesn’t get off the hook so easily.  She is a Grade A eavesdropper whose loose lips got Edward disowned and he almost had to go through with marrying Lucy thanks to her.  Besides being fairly stupid, she does nothing to help Elinor or Marianne or be a friend to them, either.

Who would you rank as the worst among these nasty siblings?  Are there any other pairs you would categorize as a difficult duo?

-Amanda Kai

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8 Responses to When Bad Things Come in Pairs: Siblings Who Wreaked Havoc in Austen’s Novels

  1. I would say Kitty and Lydia are one pair and anyone who watched Sanditon would probably say Esther and Edward are really a pair of troublemakers with Clara as an extra troublemaker!

  2. Henry and Mary Crawford are my choice with John and Isabella Thorpe coming in a close second. Good point from JanisB. I forgot about the Elliot sisters. That was a good catch. Of course Lydia and Kitty are just silly. However, their behavior is a blemish against the Bennet family and the prospects of their elder sisters. Lydia nearly ruined the entire family and I don’t know if she will ever realize the damage she nearly did to her sisters. That may not count since Kitty just follows along with whatever Lydia wants to do. I think she learned a huge lesson after Lydia’s behavior. This was a good post. Thanks for sharing. Blessings, stay safe, and healthy.

  3. I would have to add to this list Elizabeth and Mary, Anne Elliot’s not-so-charming sisters. If you’re talking about Cinderella-type ugly stepsisters, these two take the prize. They treat Anne like a lackey, expecting her to be happy playing instead of dancing, nursing her nephew’s broken arm instead of going to a party, to accept every slight as her due, etc etc etc. In the pairs above, they’re all pretty nasty but I’d have to vote for the Thorpes as worst because when they’re not abusing other people they’re making nasty comments about each other. They are all pretty awful; but as Jane clearly knew, if there’s no conflict there’s no story, so she created villains we all love to hate! Just IMO.

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