Sometimes we get posts that say out loud something that you knew subconsciously, but didn’t realise you knew. This is one of those posts, at least for me. I have always loved Jane Austen’s books, ever since being given Mansfield Park to read as part of my A-Level English Lit course. Asked to read the first three chapters over the weekend, I’d finished the whole book by the next day, and had gone on to devour Pride and Prejudice on top of that by the time Monday morning came. A lifetime’s love was born that weekend, and as Amy says, I go back to her novels time and time again.
I’d never really taken the time to analyse exactly WHY these books spoke to me, though. What made them so appealing? Well Amy has done just that. It think this post perfectly explains why so many of us at AOW love and cherish these books. I’ll let Amy explain….
As you will all know (being AOW) this year marks the 200th anniversary of Pride and Prejudice. As I’m sure is the case with many of you, this is the novel I come back to time and time again, it featured heavily on my #bookswap questionnaire, and, alongside her other novels, has a special place on my heart as well as my bookshelf.
Above all else, Jane Austen created heroines I can believe in and care about. Austen was a single career woman in an age before that was even a thing (let alone a perfectly normal existence), and her characters are thoroughly modern and believable. Had they been alive now they would be commenting on here, moaning about their boss on twitter and reading Stylist just like the rest of us.
From Lizzie Bennett who turns down two marriage proposals in the space of a year as neither was deserving of her, to Anne Elliot who blossoms not in beauty but in wisdom and forbearance, and Catherine Moreland who seeks interest and adventure in the same way as her brothers and male friends Austen created characters who knew their own minds and weren’t afraid to go against the grain of society. I’ve even, thanks to a commenter on here (sorry, I can’t remember who) been convinced that the meek and mild mannered Fanny Price has a bit of gumption about her (having previously written her off as entirely drippy).
These are strong women who seek solace in other women – they do not need a man to rescue them when they have friends, and sisters and mothers (perhaps excepting Mrs Bennett). When contrasted against her contemporaries (the Bronte sisters in particular creating leading ladies who happily put up with any old twaddle providing the romantic lead looks hot in his breeches and says sorry) Austen’s skill and subversiveness is highlighted all the clearer.
Even when it comes to the ‘bad guys’ we get formidable female characters like the strong and powerful Lady Catherine (enjoyably contrasted against the ridiculous Mr Collins). Austen knew the power of her sex. In an era where the men held all the cards, Austen made her women characters the better players.
The reason I love P&P in particular is that it’s hero learned, throughout the book, to love Lizzie for her personality, her very ‘her’ness. Despite his proclamations about her fine eyes it was her determination of spirit, her forthrightness, her conviction and her strength that he fell in love with. Because of the example she set him he was able to be a better brother, a better husband and a better man. She didn’t soften him so much as she educated him. It wasn’t that he overlooked her background or her status or her family – all those things which he first found so abhorrent, it was that he learned that these things were not important. I truly believe that their marriage would have been one based on equality and respect, which is exactly what I hope for in my own.