Austen Calls Us to Pay Attention

Austen Calls Us to Pay Attention

Austen opens her most famous book, Pride and Prejudice, with that immortal line, It is a truth universally acknowledged…

Here we go… An eternal truth and a story of massive scale! Not so… in that same sentence she cautions readers to not be fooled. She is not going to dazzle the reader with a “universal” story, a sweeping saga with adventures across continents, great mysteries, or international intrigue. Instead, she expresses a very small truth, a personal truth – and that’s what makes it universal: A woman with five daughters, at that time and in that place, believes that every young man must be in want of a wife, because all the Mrs. Bennets of the world (everyone like herself) have daughters who need to marry them. And so the story begins…

That was “universal” for Mrs. Bennet – that was her highest reality – and Austen kept all her characters within their “realities.” They stayed in their villages – or complained about a fifty-mile carriage ride outside them – they maneuvered through kitchens, ballrooms and life. She didn’t need more canvas.

Nor do we. While the world does and should draw us to the larger stage – we need to know what is happening to our fellow humans across the globe – our actions close to home mean the most. How well we love those nearest us will determine how we help and love those far away.

 

 

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