No one does awkward family moments better than Jane Austen. Many of my favorite parts of her books center around that one strange relative. We all know how that goes, right?
Let’s take, for example, Pride and Prejudice. Mr. Collins, the creepy distant cousin, comes for a visit, during which he chooses to read from a book of sermons. Then, because his patroness recommended that he marry, he proposes to Elizabeth, but only because Jane was already taken. Yuck! Who wants to marry their cousin? (We’ll get to Mansfield Park later.)
That is not the end of awkward family moments for Elizabeth, however. Remember that handsome officer she liked? He ran off with her sister, and not just her younger sister, her youngest sister. Imagine how she must have felt when she saw him again, now that he was married to her little sister. Imagine, further, how she must have felt when he gave her a nice, brotherly kiss. Incidentally, it’s the only time a grown man kisses Elizabeth in the book. Bleck.
Now, let’s switch over to Emma. Can you imagine having a crush on your sister’s husband’s brother? Neither can I, but you’ve got to admit, it’d be awkward, especially if he were older than you, and couldn’t help correcting you when you misbehaved.
How about a little Sense and Sensibility family awkwardness? Your father dies, leaving the estate to your step-brother, who’s really quite nice. The only problem is that it’s his wife who really wears the pants in their household, and she doesn’t like you at all. Under no circumstances should you ever develop feelings for her brother.
Then there’s Persuasion. Most parents claim they don’t play favorites, but sometimes, when one sibling is so much more attractive than the other, it’s really hard not to. Also, how would it be to have your father dating Mrs. Clay? She looks like she could be your sister, only prettier.
Then there’s Northanger Abbey. There’s nothing worse than having people assume your father’s rich, at least not when that’s their only motivation for getting to know you.
Now onto Mansfield Park. How about crushing on your cousin? It’s seriously awkward, people! I know our dear Jane never understood just how awkward this would become in the future. Otherwise, I’m sure Edmund and Fanny would have become at least second cousins. That would be awkward enough.
While we’re on the subject, though, of modern morality and Jane Austen. What do you think of Emma‘s modern adaptation, Clueless, in which Cher ends up dating her step-brother? Is that okay, or just too weird?
Here’s another thing I find awkward. I love the Emma movie with Romola Garai and Michael Gambon, but my husband cannot stand to watch it because Emma is constantly flashing her father with her cleavage. Does that bug anyone else? Let me know in the comments. Also, let me know if you can think of any awkward family moments I’ve left out.
Awkward because of changing moral codes:
Edmund and Fanny