Harville and Benwick

Complementary figures

In Chapter 11 Harville and Benwick are introduced side by side. They are both included in the complimentary picture that is drawn of the naval officers and both share the industrious, service-oriented, hospitable, kind-hearted and adventurous nature that characterises that group. They are also shown to be very different from one another physically and emotionally:

  • Harville is tall; Benwick is short
  • Harville is older; Benwick is young
  • Harville is warm and outgoing; Benwick is shy and introspective
  • Harville doesn't read; Benwick has a passion for romantic poetry
  • Harville is practical and sensible, getting on with life despite his lameness; Benwick is a feeling man who seems to brood over his sadness and loss
  • Harville advocates and practises constancy; Benwick is initially constant to the memory of his dead fiancée, but eventually transfers his affections to Louisa Musgrove

A reflection of Wentworth

Overall, it is Harville's character which runs parallel to Wentworth's, giving us insight into Wentworth's value. It is partly because of Harville's goodness that we can have faith in Wentworth when his attitude to Anne belies his heart. The discussion Anne has with Harville on the subject of constancy in Chapter 23 functions as a dry run or precursor to her final exchange of feelings with Captain Wentworth:

  • Harville's depth of feeling in his discussion with Anne is similar to Wentworth's later emotional revelation of his feelings for her
  • Harville's strong statements about constancy pave the way for Wentworth's declaration that he has loved no one besides Anne.

Investigating minor characters

One of the primary functions of the more minor characters is to emphasise the traits of the hero and heroine through contrasts and parallels. Consider how Jane Austen achieves this with the characters of:

  • Mrs. Clay
  • Mrs. Smith
  • Henrietta and Louisa Musgrove
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