“A lady’s imagination is very rapid; it jumps from admiration to love, from love to matrimony in a moment.”
As Mr.Darcy approaches Elizabeth’s hand for a dance, it’s not just her heart that bounces off in astonishment, the hearts of the women around the world also starts dancing in joy! It was one of the favorite scenes in the BBC television version of Pride and Prejudice starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle. Delighted by the series, I also read the book the series is based on. It was my very first encounter with Jane Austen and her majestic world of honor and love.
As I read more and more, I realized that she isn’t just romantic, but a clever, witty and sharp women with an opinion. Her books centered around strong female characters goes from satirical to romance entertainingly depicting love and enchantment. But if we just compare Austen as an English woman writing love stories like Pride and Prejudice, then we might be truly underestimating her talent!
If you haven’t read Jane Austen yet, this is your call to start now!
But before diving deep into her books, let’s explore the life of the author.
Jane Austen was born on 16 December 1775 in Hampshire. Because Jane was born to an Oxford-educated father, she was homeschooled and also encouraged to read and write. She originally started writing just to amuse and entertain her family. Her books were sold stealthily in the 18th century and though women loved her stories, they weren’t widely popular until the Victorian period.
One reason was that Jane mostly published her early works anonymously. The major reason behind this was, in the 18th century it wasn’t common for women to do something different from their regular household chores or they will feel degrading their feminity. She wasn’t revered as an author during her lifetime, although many people appreciated her novels.
She started writing romance in the beginning but soon found herself good at comic and suspense writings. Reading her romantic novels, one could conclude that she might have had a great love story herself but despite writing numerous love novels, Austen never married in real life. Yet she did have a brief encounter with love. The identity of the man is unknown, but it is believed that Jane met him during her holiday at Devon. Before returning, the man promised to see her again but unfortunately, he died shortly afterward and Jane remained unmarried for the rest of her life.
Though Austen started writing during her teenage years, her first book was published in 1811 when Jane was 35- Sense and Sensibility followed by Pride and Prejudice in 1813; Mansfield Park in 1814, and Emma in 1816. Because Jane was an ambitious and stern moralist, the characters in her works also reflect that temperament. Through her writings, Jane wanted to bring reform in society by teaching the values of humanity and why people should look out for one another.
Coming back to why one should read Austen, it is important to reach these big classical authors with the real sense of particularly how you should read them. Because these stories were written centuries ago, it might be difficult for young readers to connect with them, thus it is absolutely crucial to understand how you should approach these canonical authors. Because every work or author is different, therefore there isn’t any single approach for everybody.
“Austen’s work is beautifully intricating as well as charming when it comes to the flow of her story. While all her novels include a fairly neat and tidy ending, they also depict fierce female characters which are particularly engaging as none of the 18th-century authors have excelled that niche for me.” Parul Yadav, editor, Vagabond Bloggers.
When it comes to reading Austen, there are two types of audience- one that likes her for her writing and the second who loves the drama part of her novels. Now, these audiences might differ in their approach to reading Austen, as one would like just a single book of hers while the other might love to read any of her works. If we keep in mind both of these audiences, there are certain factors that collectively make Austen’s works a cult classic. Let’s try to break down those elements.
Learn from your lover: This is a centric element in Jane Austen’s novels where she allows her leads to learn from one another. Like in Pride and Prejudice, even the arrogant and manly Mr.Darcy who initially disliked Elizabeth, allows himself to learn her character. The reason why they both are deeply in love with each other is that each character lets the other improve and learn. For instance, when Mr. Darcy accepts Elizabeth’s refusal politely and naturally helps Elizabeth learn of her love for him.
“You are mistaken, Mr. Darcy, if you suppose that the mode of your declaration affected me in any other way than as it spared me the concern which I might have felt in refusing you, had you behaved in a more gentlemanlike manner.”
Austen argues that our general belief of finding love with no drawbacks is certainly vague and unclear. People need to learn from one another in the process of falling in love. As nobody in the world is perfect, learning about others might help in accepting their flaws. In order to become more kind, mature, and honest, we need to do something to bridge the communication gap with our loved ones.
Judge people carefully: Jane Austen’s novels arent perfect at all and they do have their flaws and hence the author never revered to stop judging people. Whether on their wealth, looks, lifestyle, or character, we shouldn’t stop judging people. But we should do it more responsibly by investigating our own flaws. As hinted in Mansfield Park, Fanny who isn’t much wealthy, smart, or royal, definitely stands out as a noble character rather than the fancy Bertrams. Thus people shouldn’t judge others through the lens of wealth and power but by their kindness and morals.
Ironically perspective: While for the audience that loves adventure and fast-paced romance, they would find Austen rather more slow and boring. Because her story doesn’t revolve much around twists and turns but on values and morals. This could be well witnessed in the female characters of her novels that are very sassy and perspective. However, that is pretty normal today, but considering the era of the 18th century, women were not that opinionated or vocal. Her language and style go beyond time and space and confine readers to fine observations as organic as they can be. Her novels demand us to form opinions and interpretations of our own.
Thus to understand the complexities of Austen, it is important to slow down and understand what lies beneath the sentence and character’s psychological analysis. Because reading isn’t just about finding a new story, it’s a way to connect with different people of different perspectives and opinions, especially with the authors.
Offers insights of women: Jane Austen really pioneered and spearheaded the literature on women. By reading Austen one can help get a great insight into women and how they feel what they feel. And that’s the beauty of these books, that they let you engage with the personality of not just one character but women collectively. Overall, Austen offers a splendid opportunity to live a thousand lives. It’s endlessly fascinating to know about a lifestyle, particularly a one from centuries ago, and explore how you can connect with somebody that doesn’t look like you, think like you, didn’t raised in the same circumstances, yet you can feel their pain, happiness, and sorrows.