Eleanor Tilney, as created by Jane Austen, is a bit of a mystery. She has a considerable amount of screen-time in the novel, but in the end, Miss Austen uses Eleanor’s fate as a plot device to hasten a successful conclusion to Northanger Abbey. With a literary wink and a nod, Austen has Eleanor unexpectedly marry well, and she then facilitates a reconciliation between her brother Henry and their father, so the Morlands will give Catherine their blessing.
Thus, Eleanor Tilney might be dismissed as a two-dimensional, paper-doll sort of character—except there is this one line, uttered by Catherine, Northanger Abbey’s unlikely heroine…
“No friend can be better worth keeping than Eleanor.”
That intrigued me. After everything that Catherine has endured at the hands of General Tilney, she still values Eleanor’s friendship. It isn’t naivete; Catherine’s innocence about the cruelties of the world has been swept aside. There must be something more to Eleanor.
Austen’s descriptions of Miss Tilney indicate she is a class act and has a real, unpretentious elegance. Eleanor’s dialog reveals her to be a young woman with the confidence to speak her opinions in conversations with her brother. She is friendly to Catherine without being artificial. She projects a gracious, unruffled calm, except when her father mortifies her by abruptly turning Catherine from the abbey.
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Until that point in the story, Eleanor demonstrates that she has learned to somehow navigate her father’s temper, or at least deal with it. How she came upon those skills interested me, but I also wondered: Would that inner strength and confidence crumble when the man who wanted to bend her to his will wasn’t her tyrannical father, but instead, a kinder, gentler beloved? Would independent thinking inform the most important decisions of her life? Or would she just be grateful for any escape from Northanger Abbey?
To me, feminism is about choice and the ability to determine the course of one’s own life. If Eleanor Tilney demonstrates a “proto-feminism” it would not do to simply trade a tyrant lord and master for a benevolent one. Miss Tilney would need to show that she was not, “A Nominal Mistress” of her life, but a mistress of her fate in fact. And she would show it with her own brand of quiet strength because she’s Eleanor. That was the story I wanted to tell.
Book Description of Rational Creatures
“But I hate to hear you talking so, like a fine gentleman, and as if women were all fine ladies, instead of rational creatures. We none of us expect to be in smooth water all our days.” —Persuasion
Jane Austen: True romantic or rational creature? Her novels transport us back to the Regency, a time when well-mannered gentlemen and finely-bred ladies fell in love as they danced at balls and rode in carriages. Yet her heroines, such as Elizabeth Bennet, Anne Elliot, and Elinor Dashwood, were no swooning, fainthearted damsels in distress. Austen’s novels have become timeless classics because of their biting wit, honest social commentary, and because she wrote of strong women who were ahead of their day. True to their principles and beliefs, they fought through hypocrisy and broke social boundaries to find their happily-ever-after.
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In the third romance anthology of The Quill Collective series, sixteen celebrated Austenesque authors write the untold histories of Austen’s brave adventuresses, her shy maidens, her talkative spinsters, and her naughty matrons. Peek around the curtain and discover what made Lady Susan so wicked, Mary Crawford so capricious, and Hettie Bates so in need of Emma Woodhouse’s pity.
Rational Creatures is a collection of humorous, poignant, and engaging short stories set in Georgian England that complement and pay homage to Austen’s great works and great ladies who were, perhaps, the first feminists in an era that was not quite ready for feminism.
“Make women rational creatures, and free citizens, and they will become good wives; —that is, if men do not neglect the duties of husbands and fathers.” —Mary Wollstonecraft
Stories by: Elizabeth Adams * Nicole Clarkston * Karen M Cox * J. Marie Croft * Amy D’Orazio * Jenetta James * Jessie Lewis * KaraLynne Mackrory * Lona Manning * Christina Morland * Beau North * Sophia Rose * Anngela Schroeder * Joana Starnes * Caitlin Williams * Edited by Christina Boyd * Foreword by Devoney Looser
Rational Creature SUPER Giveaway: The Random Name Picker winner review all blog comments and select one winner from these blog stop comments during the tour for all 21 prizes: Winner’s choice of one title from each authors’ backlist (that’s 16 books, ebooks, or audiobooks), our bespoke t-shirt/soap/candle; #20, a brick in winner’s name to benefit #BuyABrick for Chawton House; and #21, the Quill Collective anthologies in ebook or audiobook.
So what do you think of Eleanor Tilney? Do you have other favorite Jane Austen secondary heroines? Leave a comment to enter the giveaway!
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40 thoughts on “‘Rational Creatures’ and Eleanor Tilney – Guest Post by Karen M. Cox (With Giveaway)”
I love Eleanor Tilney’s work
Thanks for stopping by, Gwendolyn 🙂
Eleanor Tilney always seemed like the perfect sister-in-law! Personally I’ve always been curious about Miss Bates and her mother (in Emma). I’d love to read more about their background!
Then you must read Rational Creatures—we have included a Miss Bates story. She will certainly surprise you. We publish on Amazon Monday, Oct15. SO excited.
She would be a great sister-in-law – so kind and elegant. And you will love Miss Bates’s story in Rational Creatures!
Eleanor is actually one if my favorite characters in NA as she seems to have some backbone. I’m also interested in reading more about Charlotte Lucas, setteling for Mr Collins she must have a lot of courage!
I have always been intrigued by Eleanor. And yes, Charlotte Lucas is a brave woman.
I never considered Eleanor in that light. I must give Northanger Abbey another read.
It was great to re-read NA with an eye on Eleanor (and Henry and the general.) The first time, I was so focused on Catherine, but as with a lot of Austen stories, there’s always more to find. Thanks for stopping by 🙂
Thank you for hosting Karen M Cox and her excellent commentary of Elinor Tilney as a rational creature. The story she has written in our anthology #RationalCreatures is clever and thoughtful. I think it hits all the right notes for this collection. The authors did well maintaining the characteristics in Austen’s canon while giving a parallel or backstory supporting our theme of strong women making choices to reach their happily ever after.
Thanks! I love Eleanor and tried to do her proud 🙂 The anthology stories are first rate – I don’t know how you manage to assemble all these authors, but the result is fabulous!
You’re welcome! 🙂 It’s a fantastic idea for an anthology and I hope it does amazing!
Thank you for stopping by, Amber! I hope you love the anthology. It means a lot to all of us 🙂
I am so thrilled about the way Karen portrayed Eleanor because I’ve always had the same impression about her. Her quiet strength was very evident. Lovely post.
Thank you for hosting. 🙂
She just seemed like someone I wanted to know better, so I wrote about her 🙂
This is such a lovely story and one of my favorites in the collection. Great post!
Thanks, Elizabeth! I love your Anne too 🙂
Your thoughtful post matches the thoughtfulness of your story! This line of the post in particular grabbed me: ” it would not do to simply trade a tyrant lord and master for a benevolent one.” You were very clever to develop a story that challenges Eleanor (and us) to recognize this point!
Thanks, Christina! I felt like I had to have her assert herself, and not just with her father. We see her do that with Henry in NA. That made me think she might speak confidently with those she knew well.
To my great surprise, when I took the ‘Which Rational Creature Are You?’ personality test, my result was Eleanor Tilney. I consider that a compliment, especially after reading ‘A Nominal Mistress’ in which Karen perfectly portrays Eleanor as interesting, strong, and rational. Eleanor’s character is like Karen’s writing itself…compelling and intelligent.
Ha! When I took the Rational Creatures test – did I get Eleanor Tilney? No! 😀 I got Elizabeth Bennet. Which is hilarious, because you think I’d get Eleanor, since I wrote her. Crack me up. I’m not complaining though – I’d be EBennet anyway. Thanks for commenting.
I actually don’t recall much about Eleanor so I think it’s time for a re-read.
Eleanor won’t disappoint you – and neither will Northanger Abbey. I loved Eleanor’s conversations with her brother.
What a great book this, it sounds better with each stop. I really like Mary Bennet. Feel that there is so much more to her than is written down. She has the potential to become a favorite heroine of mine herself.
I hope you enjoy the anthology. Mary would be an interesting read. Thanks for stopping in!
Thanks to the Rational Creatures tour for introducing me to a new blog. I’ve never visited here before as far as I can remember.
I rediscovered NA about three years ago and was totally blown away by it! Eleanor certainly drew the short straw when her father insisted that she was the one to tell Catherine to leave the Abbey but she did it with grace and as much tact as she could, given the task at hand. She reminds me of the woman I imagine Georgiana Darcy will become, minus the Wickham problem of course.
Thanks for the insight into your Rational Creature, Karen.
Anji – so glad you stopped by! There is a lot happening here at Silver Petticoat Reviews 🙂
I love the glimpses you give into Eleanor’s inner strength. A fantastic addition to the anthology 🙂
Thanks so much, Jessie! Glad you loved Eleanor too 🙂
Her name is familiar, Ivd read the book she is in often, but I cannot recall much about Eleanor. As she is a rational creature I’m looking forward to getting to know her better. Jane’s beautiful stories and the great variations by fabulous writers may have come late to my attention. But I can’t get enough of them. This book is one I’d love to read someday, please considder me a part in this giveaway, thank you!
Miss Austen left a lot about Eleanor to the reader’s imagination, but we get to know her a little through her conversations with Henry and Catherine. Good luck in the giveaway!
I am so excited that Elinor Tilney’s character is being looked at more closely! I thought, as I finished Northanger Abbey, what a shame it was that the story wraps up so quickly, and all the potential of Elinor’s character was to be lost. I can’t wait to read a more in-depth look at her character and story!
I love Eleanor too! I am working on an idea to make her story into a full-length novel – don’t know how it will pan out yet, it’s early days. But I like her enough to try and tell her story in all its glory 🙂
I am really loving this book so far!
So glad you are enjoying it, Danielle! Thanks for stopping in <3
Really Nice Article MAM As Usual.Always get really informative info through your articles.Keep Up The Good Work.
Thank you for stopping in to say hello 🙂
Thank you for sharing this fascinating piece on Eleanor Tilney, Karen. I would dearly love to read your short story on this remarkable creature who possess quite an admirable inner strength.
We have a winner for our #RationalCreatures blog tour giveaway!
Thank you to all who participated. (Please claim before November 20 or we will have to draw for another winner…and that would be disappointing for all…except the new winner.) https://www.thequillink.com/blog/rationalcreatures-epic-blog-tour-ends-announces-grandprize-winner