This year it is the 200 year anniversary of the death of my all time fave author, Jane Austen (v sad times). I’ve always found it incredible how a woman from the nineteenth-century, born over two centuries before me can speak to me on so many levels as well as offer guidance for a young woman two centuries later. OBVS to an extent, I am not an “accomplished” woman and she’d probably hate to know me as I don’t play piano anymore, or draw, or write letters bc yanoo the world has moved on and women gotta werk and earn a living and don’t just sit at home all day, *yasss*. Unless they’re a student, then there is some sitting and reading your whole library, but again it’s YOUR library and not your *insert-male-relation-here*’s library.
Also if the equivalent to balls is da clubs, then let’s be real nobody’s gonna meet a Mr Darcy there. Just several Wickham’s, definitely an engaged Frank Churchill who gonna flirt with you anyway, and probably one or two Mr Collins’, what a grim lil world.
For ages I struggled to put my finger on why I loved her novels so much, sure I loved her characters and would love to be as witty and playful as Elizabeth and as carefree as Emma, or as sensible and knowledgable as Anne. I would also not decline such a romance as her heroines do find of a man who understands them – I’m not convinced these exist anymore either. Or ones who would travel the country or have several years pass and still be pining for you, yep deffo not real. But they’re wonderful stories.
I began thinking properly about my love for her novels after speaking to my supervisor and debating whether to write my dissertation on Austen. The problem I kept coming back to was what exactly would I say? And would I actually be able to find something different to say to everyone else?
In truth I probably won’t find something completely different to explore in my diss, but I have absolutely loved re-reading her novels and close reading passages relevant to my diss topic which I will lay out in another post when it’s started to come together a bit more, lol.
One of the reasons I found I loved them was the familial relations that lie at the heart of the heroines lives. Elizabeth Bennett has a large family with four sisters along with her mother and father; Emma Woodhouse has a small family, but a doting father, sister and brother in law. Fanny Price is taken from her larger family and placed comfortably with the wider members of her family. Anne Eliot has rather distant father and sister, but loving other sister and brother in law. I especially enjoyed these relations as they were so alike my own, I have always got on well with my family, and it was one of the highlights of my year when I was younger when I’d meet up with my extended family, which now we do all the time and it’s so so dreamy.
Equally I love how Austen depicts women, while they have limited choice, amusement, education they are always depicted favourably for they are always occupying themselves in some way. They take the freedom and power they have and use it, whether that is walking to Netherfield, organising picnics and days out, match-making, reading novels, avoiding awkward dinner parties, and they do this regardless (for the most part) of what everyone else thinks. Which is always refreshing, no matter what century you were born in.
The female characters are very complex too, and I find them all extraordinarily relatable for their differing tones of character. Her novels are also funny, like actually witty, sharp and fun. PS the men are sometimes complex like Darcy, Colonel Brandon, Wentworth, Mr Knightley, but a lot are also pretty run of the mill too because we can recognise certain types of people a mile off, looking at you Wickham.