As I write this, we have had a thunderstorm at the end of February, which is a rare thing. Combined with our little to no snowfall, which usually means significant snow just before Spring, and I’m convinced March is going to come in like a lion. This makes me wonder if Jane Austen ever wrote the weather behaving as such in any of her works. I didn’t really find any such examples. Instead, I did notice a case where the idea showed up in the plot of the novel.
In Austen’s first published work, Sense and Sensibility, the Dashwood girls are in London for the month of March. January brought the disillusionment of Marianne’s infatuation with Willoughby. February opens with the arrival of Lucy Steele in Town. While Elinor has known of Edward’s engagement to Lucy for several months by this point, Lucy never fails to bring it to Elinor’s memory and the reader certainly sympathizes. However, within weeks, Lucy and Edward’s engagement is exposed and March comes in with a bang. Due to Mrs. Ferrars knowledge and disapproval of the situation, it seems more certain than ever that Edward and Lucy will march down the aisle, none the more than when Colonel Brandon learns of the predicament and arranges for Edward to have a living near his estate. The month concludes like a lamb for slaughter, when the Dashwood girls are destined for home by staying in Somersetshire, near Willoughby’s estate.
In Austen’s other works, she seems to escalate the conflict and energy of the story as March closes. In Pride and Prejudice, Darcy’s call on Elizabeth at the Parsonage is on March 30th. In Mansfield Park, news of Tom’s illness reaches Fanny, who has been in Portsmouth for two months by then. By the end of March, Catherine Morland is at Northanger Abbey and has begun to see some inconsistency in Isabella Thorpe’s character. Catherine is also learning her lesson about fanciful imagination and Gothic novels as Henry learns of her fevered daydreams about his father potentially killing Mrs. Tilney.
Persuasion ends before March begins but we can assume Anne and Wentworth married in that month or the next. Historically, Napoleon escaped his exile from the island of Elba on March 20, 1815 making the resumption of war necessary which might have been mentioned if the novel did not end as abruptly as it does. Little of significance happens in March in Emma. Mrs. Elton arrives and neither Emma nor the reader can like her. Scholars point out that Emma follows the British quarter days. At Christmas, Mr. Elton proposed to Emma, undoing her plans for Harriet. The story arc with Mr. Elton is fully resolved by Lady Day (March 25th). Emma now detests the man and Harriet’s pain wanes.
I thought it would be fun to have a bit of a reader activity for this month’s theme. I will write a short story using the subjects I work on this month but want reader direction on a few points. Each week’s post will conclude with a poll.
If the characters of Pride and Prejudice were to know other Austen characters, which novel would you most like to see them encounter?
- Sense and Sensibility
- Mansfield Park
- Northanger Abbey
Next week, I’ll be on my blog, Stories from the Past, discussing Spring and themes of new life in Austen’s works. Hope to see you there!