The Love Diagrams of Jane Austen

Some of you know this, but in my other life, I was a science major. (Geology to be precise). Which meant that in the course of my studies, I wound up making quite a lot of chemical diagrams. I love diagrams.

Now, of course, I do not have as many opportunities to chart molecules or chemical reactions (though I did manage to sneak a few of my favorites into Tap & Gown). However, in considering the whole “love triangle” situation the other day, I started to think about how it can get very complicated in some of my favorite books and… well, I may have gotten a little… involved.

Take Persuasion. So, yes, in Persuasion, there is a love triangle with Captain Wentworth and Louisa Musgrove vs. Anne Elliot. But there’s ALSO a love triangle, later on in the book, with Anne and the Captain and Mr. Elliot. And then when you consider who Mr. Elliot ends up with…

It gets complicated. Here’s what it looks like, when all’s said and done:

(Please note: you can click to enlarge any of these, and you’ll probably have to as we go on.)

The arrows are directional to indicate the direction of the affection/romance. For instance, Mr. Elliot is into Anne, but not so much the other way around. The faded dots indicate familial relations (cf. the Elliots), and the the dashed arrows indicate supposed or rumored affections.

Which of course, are all the rage in another favorite Austen: Emma.

Emma, of course, is all about the power of suggestion and rumor when it comes to relationships.

The more I did this, the more I realized that Jane Austen was ALL about the love triangles. And though Emma and Persuasion both feature love triangles prominently in the plots, they are not driving the plots. Louisa is not the thing keeping Anne and Wentworth apart, nor is Harriet the only obstacle between Mr. Elton and Emma. Only in Sense and Sensibility do we see a story entirely incumbent on the conflict of the love triangles:

Why can’t Edward be with Elinor? Because of Lucy. Why can’t Colonel Brandon catch Marianne’s eye? Because she’s completely besotted by Willoughby. (You see how the arrows between the Colonel and Marianne are of uneven end points? That’s to indicate degree of affection.)

I love these things. I may have to make them into T-shirts or something. They’re so pretty and sciency, but you know — Jane Austen.

You guys, I had way too much fun with this. After I finished up Jane, I went a little off the rails. More tomorrow.

Posted in Austen, romance

5 Responses to The Love Diagrams of Jane Austen

  1. Elissa says:

    Placing my order for an Emma t-shirt now. I love how they look like molecules. Molecules of LITERATURE and LOVE. Now that’s a science I could get involved with. Le sigh.

  2. Tiff says:

    I’d like a medium in each of these, please.

    I agree with Elissa – I thought of molecules as well. Or chains of DNA. Either way, I love. I’m now thinking that maybe we can make each of these into charms to put on necklaces…=P

  3. Phylly3 says:

    These are a super idea. I adore your “literary love molecules”! LOL
    Just happened to notice – shouldn’t you have a dotted line from Edward Ferrars to Lucy? (From Elinor’s view anyway.)
    I am so glad that Maria Grazia pointed me this way.

  4. Marsha Huff says:

    This is clever and fun. One suggested revision: Sir Walter is never called Sir Elliot.

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