What is it about Jane?

There are so many quizzes, articles, polls, posts and pins declaring our unending love for Jane Austen. Her popularity continues on its meteoric trajectory and shows no signs of slowing. And I’m completely on-board – even looking forward to Feb 5th and the release of Pride & Prejudice and Zombies with ghoulish glee.

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But it got me to thinking – All that aside, what is it about Jane Austen for me? (This won’t be the same for you and I’d love your comments and discussion here.) Because I don’t think she’d continue to be popular across such a vast landscape if she didn’t speak to the individual as well as appeal to us en masse.Unknown

So for me…

I read Pride & Prejudice at the tender age of thirteen. And I loved it! That alone made me a life-long fan of the author – as I firmly believe childhood reading is the primary shaper of our interests and literature tastes. If she was tops then, her superiority was and remains secure.

But why did I love it? Sure it was a wonderful romance– almost a fairytale. While Austen’s wit focused on the hypocrisies, limitations and realities within her time, I viewed it all with a certain rosy idealism. For a thirteen-year-old, Darcy looks strangely like Prince Charming and Miss Bingley, an Ugly Stepsister. But there was more…

Austen’s depiction of us – two hundred years past, today and tomorrow – was understandable, even to me at thirteen, and it rang true. I understood her characters, so deftly drawn and delicately chiseled.

She showed me that human nature is static: We will always get things wrong; we will always carry prejudice, look out for our own interests, demonstrate beautiful loyalty, stand firm, and rise above with the truest sacrificial instincts. She showed me what I knew – sibling love is powerful and a gift; sibling rivalry undeniable; families are for life; true love exists and it’ll all work out as it should in the end – however far out and far away that end appears. This is a simplified version, no doubt, but to a thirteen-year-old, it was rich firm ground on which to stand.

After all, by seventh grade, we know Wickhams, Caroline Bingleys, Lydias and Marys. And if we’re blessed, we’ve met a few Lizzys, Janes, and Gerogianas. Charlottes are there too – good friends with whom we may not agree, but we get never the less. We meet these people daily – we are these people.charlotte

So as I look back on what I’ve read and forward to what I’ll write, I find myself again and again returning to Austen. I return because, for me, she communicated unfaltering truth in a transient environment. The drawing rooms have changed – the hearts have not. And, oddly, I find great comfort in that.

Thanks for reading today.

Why do you love Austen?

5 Responses to What is it about Jane?

  1. Great post! I agree, the themes and characters are timeless. I read Emma first, at 12, and loved it. Parts of it were a little over my head, but I distinctly remember thinking Mr. Knightley was a dreamboat and Miss Bates was incredibly annoying. I eventually started scanning her speeches because they were too irritating to read all the way through.

  2. I love that fact that Darcy changed for Elizabeth, not even knowing if he would meet her again. In the world I know “what you see is what you get”. And Elizabeth was able to admit her errors and realize what he had done – even if she had to beg Aunt Gardiner for the truth of why he was at the wedding of Lydia and Wickham. Would she have married him without that knowledge? I like to think she would. After all she heard from Mrs. Reynolds how esteemed he was in the eyes of those who knew him in Derbyshire plus she knew the truth about Wickham and saw him bring Bingley and Jane back together. But the knowledge of what he did for Lydia – no, for her, was just icing on the cake. Darcy more than paid for his pride with that step of paying Wickham to marry Lydia, even in meeting with him and now knowing he would be part of the extended family for Elizabeth. And a step further – part of his family if Elizabeth ever agreed to marry him. The latter was never part of the deal as he didn’t want her to marry him out of gratitude. But he did it for her!

    You are correct in that the more things change the more they remain the same. Several hundred of years later and we humans suffer the same emotional hangups, faults and (sometimes) tendencies to fall in love for unexplainable reasons.

    • Sheila, Thanks for your comment. I love that your words took me right through the Darcy/Elizabeth romance — it really is a beautiful portrait of change, acceptance and even anticipation on both sides. Thanks for the lift today!

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