Marvelous Austen

I'm new to photoshop so I hope this doesn't look too terrible. How has no one else put Austen in a cape?
I’m new to photoshop so I hope this doesn’t look too terrible. How has no one else put Austen in a cape?

I may not be writing this to the best audience, but on the other hand perhaps it will appeal to people that may not  traditionally consider Austen.

In a few days Marvel’s Avengers 2: The Age of Ultron will open in theaters and my husband and I hope to see  it…well, sometime when we can get a babysitter.

Growing up I had a lot of male friends. I was not athletic enough to be considered a tomboy and I’m no one’s idea of classic beauty. I can be sarcastic and irreverent. I have absolutely no idea when to shut up or when to let an issue drop. I will fight to the death over injustice, and I will debate until you pass out. It’s not that I need to have the last word; I’m just convinced with enough education anyone can see things the right way (aka my way). I also don’t get drama games and competition. I don’t get building people up to tear them down. I’m not secretly jealous of people when I support them and their achievements. It may sound like I am blindly proud of these things in my character, but I recognize they are faults more often than not.

I’m sorry to say, all of this meant I didn’t get along very well with girls—at least girls my age. That’s another rant. So, my friends were boys. I didn’t play mind games with them. I wasn’t trying to attract them. I was just their friend. A safe friend. Between that and two brothers, I’ve been exposed to more action adventure films than perhaps the average Janeite and long standing lover of costume dramas. All this to say that I am excited to see Avengers 2, I’m not just going with my husband.

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I didn’t read the comics, but I’ve enjoyed all the films that have come out in recent years. If this post were coming out after I had seen the film, perhaps I would be trying to compare characters to Austen’s, but I won’t. I do, however, think there are some compelling universal themes for both Austen and superheroes.

Some of the super heroes come from different planets, such as Superman and Thor. Some, well, an entire franchise, have mutated powers. Some are humans changed because of scientific experimentation. Still others simply use their brains and man-made resources. Most would say each superhero is unique in some way. There is, however, a prevailing similarity between them all: heroism.

Superhero films have big fights with explosions and flashy powers and weaponry, but the real story, is how the characters overcome their inner obstacles. They have failures and weaknesses we all recognize (even if they’re not all technically human). They have fears and aspirations. They can be confused or led astray by bad logic and information. They’re imperfect and live in an imperfect world.

This is where Austen comes in. She was among the first to write imperfect heroes and heroines (I’d say it’s all about the women—but again, that’s another rant). Each one faces a moment requiring heroic bravery in which they are tempted to make a different choice. Each one is nearly “destroyed” by their own flaws. It’s not that they’re simply outnumbered or outgunned. The moments of inner struggle are the most poignant Austen wrote.

Elizabeth Bennet refused two advantageous marriage proposals, and some believe that is a heroic moment in literature for womankind. I suppose so. Yet, I think it was just an earlier symptom of the true hero inside her; the one that could evaluate her failings and assess her wrongs. I clapped when Lizzy turned down Darcy the first time I read the scene. But what sealed my love for her was the point where she cried: “How despicably I have acted! Till this moment, I never knew myself!”

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At the end of that chapter, as Lizzy could only think of her letter, I could only think of the inner spirit of this character. Austen crafted the perfect climax for the story with Elizabeth choosing to love Darcy when all seemed hopeless and making the self-sacrificing and brave choice to thank him for his kindness to her family. She might once have been too proud to humble herself that way and too vain to do so with no sign of encouragement from him. In the end, however, Elizabeth’s heroic nature triumphs.

Darcy’s argument: “There is, I believe, in every disposition a tendency to some particular evil—a natural defect, which not even the best education can overcome.” is an example of the universal truth of heroes. Education cannot overcome these defects, the possibility for evil residing in each of us, but a superiority of mind, a strength of character, an inner heroism can overcome.

As a fan fiction writer I’ve recently given a bit more tangible proof of heroism to Jane Austen’s beloved characters in my latest release, Undone Business. It follows Darcy, Elizabeth, Jane and Bingley as their inner heroes emerge, despite the flaws of their past. They all find true love, of course, but they also conquer something greater than themselves as well.

What’s your inner hero like?

20 Responses to Marvelous Austen

  1. Oh, I am so into all those movies, Thor, The Avengers, etc. and I watch Arrow, The Flash, S.H.I.E.L.D., Vampire Diaries, Game of Thrones, Vikings, Grimm, Beauty and the Beast, The Hobbit, Star Wars, Once Upon a Time, etc. I introduced my children to Star Wars early and they all remember that (They are in their 30’s). In fact those connections are one of the reasons I continue to go to these movies. We share our opinions and facts about those stories in conversation. Have not seen the latest one (Age of Ultron) yet but do plan to do so. Guardians of the Galaxy is now on TV. Thanks for this interesting post – always nice to know that there are other JA fans who have eclectic interests like myself. And I agree that I don’t like my heroine or even my hero to be angelic. Jane Bennet never appealed to me. I wanted her to get angry and stomp her feet and even to scold Bingley for his neglect, even his insult, in running off to London with no explanation. Get a backbone!

  2. I fear my best friends have always been males. It seems I’m not catty enough to please many females, especially those of a shallow nature. I say my boldness comes from being a military brat and military wife, but 40 years of teaching also had something to do with it. I am a BIG superhero fan. Superman, Wolverine, Gambit, you name it, and I have followed their adventures. I suppose that is why my son (who is now 30) loved Power Rangers, Ninja Turtles, He-Man, and Thundercats. It is a vicious cycle, but like Austen, a fun one. If obsessions are to occur naturally, what harm is there in a little fantasy? LOL!

  3. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and memories with us and especially for you wonderful reflections on Elizabeth Bennet. Beautifully said!
    Congrats on your new book and all the best! Hugs!

  4. While I loved comic books characters, my taste ran to Archie, Betty and Veronica! 🙂 I do love the Superman, Batman, Spiderman movies however. I like that Jane’s heros are not the classic comic book type, for at least they have to struggle with some deficiency like the rest of us. I was a tomboy and played baseball with the boys (we had more boys than girls in our neighborhood) and I like people who are up front and don’t play games. While I like to think if you help people they appreciate it, and good deeds come home to roost, I have found that is not always the case. Still, I cannot help but be the first to jump in when someone needs help. I was always the one bringing home the strays or cutting the grass for an elderly neighbor. Guess you never get out of a habit started early.

    • I really think you should give the Avengers a try. I’m pretty sure you’d love Captain America/Steve Rogers. Bonus about the Avengers movies is you have so many superheroes in one place with some egos warring. So, even though Cap is always awesome and makes the right choice there’s some conflict over *what* the right choice is when there’s so many opinions and some misinformation.

  5. A very interesting and relevant post which resonated with me. I try to remain uplifted and positive when life has recently given me great trials and tribulations to contend with. I realize that is life and we have to be strong and resilient no matter how much we suffer. Heroes are admirable. I keep going and hope.

  6. I’m going to see the new Avengers movie this Saturday with my good friend. I’m not a fan of superhero comics but I love watching the films. Love the comparison you made between Austen’s heroes and heroines with superhero characters, Rose.

  7. My inner hero cares for others. I see someone who needs and I spring into action. Most of the time it is little stuff but making someone smile makes my day. We love superheroes at my house too!

    • Aw, this made me smile! How much better the world would be if more people made that their goal. Congrats on your newest book! I know that brought a smile to many faces!

  8. Yeah well, I’m right there with you on several fronts. I had mostly male friends as well and have been a Marvel Universe fan for most of my years. I DID, however, own the comics. Lots and lots and lots of them. I agree on the heroism in Austen’s novels, very well put. Of course, one of the things I liked most about Lizzy early on was how she stood up to Lady Catherine. That would be me…in a nutshell. “I am only resolved to act in that manner, which will, in my own opinion, constitute my happiness, without reference to you, or to any person so wholly unconnected with me.” Yep, that’s me alright. LOL I look forward to seeing the new Avengers movie! Hope you get a babysitter soon!

      • My brothers never read the comics either, which is probably a bit strange. They were really athletic though, so I feel like I grew up at ball fields rather than our home. Also, the library didn’t have comic books and we could not afford to buy. But, I think maybe I can be the cool mom and when my son gets older we can read them together. Lizzy’s showdown with Lady Cat is my absolute favorite scene in the book. I even love Lady Catherine’s words. I’ve recently cut nearly all of Austen’s original wording in my upcoming release, including those lines. It was a little painful.

        Anyway, I love that trait in Lizzy. She marches to her own drum, whether it’s on love or anything else. Keep it up, hero!

  9. That was a fun post. I am not a fan of the marvel universe, but if someone says let’s go see one of those films is fine and they are fun. My inner hero always looks for the positive. If a glass is half filled with liquid I say it is half full. If there is a succession of things going wrong I focus on the one thing that went right. People have told me I am sickeningly optimistic….it’s way better than being pessimistic. Yesterday in class, I spilt a bowl of soup on myself. My4 year old students gaped; (they cry if they’re a little wet) I laughed. (By the way I had no change of clothes).

    • There’s some cute boys, if nothing else! It sounds like you have a great attitude! I try not to get in the slumps for too long. I see opportunity for change a lot. There are days when I’d be tempted to say that glass is half empty…but that just leaves room for a refill. Who assumes that’s all the liquid you’re getting and there’s not a full pitcher of water behind you on the counter?

  10. What a fun connection! And I too love the marvel universe. I just love this new revival of heroes happening right now. This awesome trend to become better. As for me, my inner hero is one that doesn’t give up. Even in the midst of great adversity, buried deep within mud, I can still find the light somewhere. That hope, that belief, that something will get better has served me well over the years.

Your thoughts are precious!