It’s been 200 years since Jane Austen left this earth, and yet her novels are still relevant, beloved, and widely read. Janeites aren’t going anywhere anytime soon (just check out this guy and his amazing Regency apparel). To honor dear Miss Austen, I thought I’d link to a few of the pieces I’ve written here at Carrots about one of my favorite writers of all time.
“What is it about Miss Austen’s works that keep us coming back for more while most modern romantic comedies end up unsatisfying?
For the most part, the leading ladies can’t hold a candle to Austen’s heroines, but it’s the male leads in modern romantic comedies who really flop. Austen’s noble heroes have little in common with these heartthrob charmers (at least I think we’re supposed to find them charming?). Most romcoms seem to have one of two “types” as the male lead. You have the Irresponsible Loser who becomes somewhat reformed in order to win the girl (think Fool’s Gold with Matthew Mcconaughey and Kate Hudson, on second thought don’t think Fool’s Gold because it was dreadful). Or you have the Egotistical Womanizing Jerk the leading lady despises but can’t deny her inexplicable attraction to. (Think The Ugly Truth with Katherine Heigl and Gerard Butler. Dreadful is probably too generous a descriptor.)”
“In Emma, Austen shows us that shallow friendships are not enough to help us know ourselves. Deep relationships and real community are crucial. How can we see our flaws if we can always keep up facades with mere acquaintances? How easy it is to curate ourselves on social media in order to fool not only others, but ourselves. The people who interact with us daily for years are more difficult to fool. True community cannot be hoodwinked.
Love demands that we know ourselves in order to love others well. It requires not only selflessness, but clarity. And it motivates us to be our best selves–the people God created us to be. Love is a refining fire that, often painfully, reveals our flaws and more painfully burns those flaws away. For Emma Woodhouse, it’s Mr. Knightley’s love that prompts her to know herself and become a woman who can love others.”
“I’ve never read Jane Austen! Which one should I start with?” As an obsessed Janeite, this is definitely one of the most frequently asked questions I get.
While I’m of the opinion that you really can’t go wrong choosing a first Austen because all six novels are splendid, I do think there’s an ideal order for most new readers to discover Austen’s novels. So at the risk of sounding terribly bossy here’s the right way–okay, okay! A good way–to start off your love affair with Jane Austen’s brilliant works…”
“You love Jane Austen. You love Harry Potter. So why not sort your favorite Austen characters into Hogwarts houses? I could not come up with a good reason not to.
I’m the sort of person who wonders how Elinor and Marianne Dashwood’s Myers-Briggs personality types made their sisterly relationship complicated. And I’ve spent a lot of time considering whether the Weasley’s are probably Catholics. Austen’s novels and the Potter series are my stories that I keep coming back to year after year, so why not create a delightful mashup?
When sorting Jane Austen characters into Hogwarts houses, I discovered that it was incredibly tricky and that I was tempted to sort my favorites into my house (Ravenclaw) and to keep all of my favorites out of Slytherin. But I tried my hardest to be as objective as the Sorting Hat!”
“A shy, soft-spoken heroine is both unexpected and dissatisfying. And as a culture, we want to be perpetually entertained (just like the Crawfords….yikes). This is more true now than when Mansfield Park was published. Fanny isn’t the sort of “strong heroine” we like to extol. What we really mean when we say “strong” is “outgoing,” like Elizabeth Bennet. But even though Fanny isn’t an extrovert, she is indeed strong. With a painfully shy temperament that dearly longs to please those she loves, she has the strength to stand up for what she believes to be right even when everyone (including Edmund) is participating. Even when she’s ridiculed for it. Edmund looks like a spineless whelp compared to Fanny with her unshakeable moral fiber and devotion.
Developing a friendship with Fanny is slow going for the reader, but it’s worth it. She’s like the quiet girl in class that you didn’t talk to until halfway through the year and then turns out to be your new best friend. She’s the friend you can talk to for hours and who really listens. She remembers to call on your birthday and brings over a meal when there’s a crisis. Fanny knows that charming people only care about how others perceive them, not about what’s really inside.”
“In Mansfield Park the charming Mary Crawford claims, “Selfishness must always be forgiven, you know, because there is no hope for a cure.” But she’s dead wrong. Jane Austen shows us in another novel, Emma, that there is indeed a cure for selfishness: love. And no I don’t mean just falling in love or romantic love, but the kind of love that transforms us.
Emma gets a bad rap. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people (mostly men) chime in with their disgust over this unusual Austen heroine. She’s easy to hate. Her arrogance, vanity, thoughtlessnes, selfishness, and insistence on meddling in other people’s affairs make her loathsome. But I have to confess, I don’t hate Emma. I am Emma. Or at least I could be Emma at my worst.”
Hope you enjoyed those Jane-inspired posts and here’s to Miss Austen remaining just as popular during the next 200 years!