Tuesday, February 24, 2015

A Cynic's Guide to Jane Austen

What was romantic or easy about any of Jane Austen's stories?

-Pride and Prejudice: You're snobby about his snobbishness or nieve about someone ditching you. He hates your family, or he takes his snobbish friend's advice and abandons the relationship.
-Sense and Sensibility: You have to hold your family together, or you bring the drama to your family. He doesn't tell you he's secretly engaged or that he got a girl pregnant after a one night stand.
-Emma: You're a whiny, privileged brat who sticks her nose in everyone else's business. He proposes while drunk then when rejected allows his wife to demean you, or he keeps his engagement secret, or he's a wise recluse who was a teenager when you were born and remembers you as a baby.
-Mansfield Park: You're a perfect, righteous, sickeningly sweet creature despite your poor family who kicked you out to live with your snobby relatives. He's a creep, a jerk who doesn't understand "no," and then after your rejection sleeps with your married cousin. Or, he is your cousin who for far too long was infatuated with the creep's sister.
-Northanger Abbey: You're a nieve teenager barely out of puberty who reads far too many novels feeding a wild imagination. His dad kicks you out of the house because you aren't rich or "suitable" enough.
-Persuasion: You're still pining after like 10 years, running to the side of every whiny relative. He comes back filthy rich, all "I forgive you," and "You have no backbone," and "I'm rich now," and "I guess I'll marry you after all."

It's the grace, the humor, the growth and healing of the characters that make Jane Austen still worth reading after 200 years. The stories are relatable because they are messy. There are no perfect first dates, rose petals, candlelight, sparks flying, giggly butterflies, or romantically hot nights. The relationships explored span far beyond boy meets girl to parent and child, siblings and friends, village members and social classes. There is no happily ever after, but there is:

-Pride and Prejudice: You're not so quick to form prejudices or along with your nievity comes the ability to see the best in everyone and never give up on them. He battles his pride and supports your family in need, or he finds the courage to come back to town to win your heart.
-Sense and Sensibility: Your family still loves each other by the end, and you're stronger after the trials and tribulations, or you've matured and learned that love means sacrifice and service. He remains faithful to his promises even when they run contrary to his desires, or he reaps the consequences of his actions.
-Emma: You mature a bit, learn to bite your tongue, love, and serve others. He's stuck with his manipulative wife, or he gets the girl and the fortune anyway, or he's able to reprimand you and win your heart at the same time.
-Mansfield Park: You're pretty much the same because you're the perfectly perfect static character. He keeps being a creep, and your cousin finally wakes up and proposes to you. (If you can't tell, I despise this novel.)
-Northanger Abbey: You grow up a bit and read fewer novels. His dad disowns him because he chooses to remain a poor curate and marry you anyway, and he's very patient with your youthful foolishness.
-Persuasion: He persuades you to marry him.

For more yet slightly more coherent Janeite ramblings: In Defense of Jane Austen


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