To Be Frank

Frank Churchill. In the pattern of casting a Jane Austen novel, Frank is “the rake/rogue” in Emma, joining the company of Wickham, Willoughby, Henry Crawford, John Thorpe, and William Elliot. He isn’t the hero, he isn’t the hero’s best friend, so that’s the spot allotted to him.

And certainly, after the despicable Eltons he is the least admirable character in the book. He’s selfish and self-centered, and his lies form the basis for the mystery at the centre of the plot.

But the first time I read Emma, I had another one of those moments when the voices in my head started saying, “What if…” (Long time Indie Janeites will remember I got the idea for my first Austenesque novel while reading P&P–Darcy spoke up as I was reading and started giving me his point of view. I call him the Darcy in my Head.)

You see, there’s something else interesting about Frank: Jane Fairfax loves him. Jane Fairfax, who is never portrayed in anything less than a flattering light. (Except by Emma, who is–frankly–jealous.) She is good and wise, as well as being exceedingly talented in almost all the ladylike virtues.

So why would a wise young woman fall in love with a feckless young man who never seems to give thought to anyone’s comfort but his own? Now, the cynic might say that even the Janes among us make mistakes. However, if you follow the course of the story, Frank eventually repents of his selfish behavior and comes back around to realising his own failings.

The answer, to me, is that Jane saw something in Frank that he didn’t even see in himself. She saw a seed of goodness, something she could relate to. But what was it?

I’m planning a novella about Frank Churchill called To Be Frank. Hopefully I’ll figure out some of the answers in the course of writing his story.

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7 thoughts on “To Be Frank

  1. Now that is interesting. I perceived Jane Fairfax as too innocent to recognise the cynical and using side of Frank which is why I killed him off in ‘Death of a Fop’ and brought out how his true colours had shown to Jane after marriage… the idea of a good woman finding his good points could be an interesting journey.
    Though I confess I dislike him too much to be able to see any good side; ‘charming’ men get my goat and Frank is chillingly like a certain family member…

  2. I’ve always been on the fence about Frank. I am very interested in this idea of giving him his own story and teasing out that idea of what Jane Fairfax saw in him.

  3. Please email me the instant this book is available lol – I am weirdly (shamefully) obsessed with Frank Churchill – I swear he’s the “new adult” hero prototype of Jane Austen.

  4. Interesting… I just assumed that Frank was a rich hottie and Jane was flattered! It was more of a mystery to me why Frank was interested in her as she is worthy and not inclined to flatter, neither of which seemed likely to entice him, and then he treats her unkindly. The whole thing is a bit of an enigma to me

  5. Interesting idea…In my mind, Frank is a shallow, immature man…what anyone could see in him eludes me…Maybe Jane thinks she can “fix” him ,maybe she sees a seed of goodness or maybe he just needs to grow up. I am interested to see where you take his character…

  6. Oh Nancy, I can’t wait to read it! Jane was willing to endure a lot of misunderstandings in order to stay firm in her commitment to him. You’re on to something!

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