Happy Jane Austen Day! On this day in the year 1775 one of the greatest calssic writers of all time was born. In contrast with her literary genius and eloquent word-playing her life is not so exciting. She was mostly homeschooled and self educated by reading. Her father
possessed over 500 titles until he passed away. Jane never did marry and resented the fact that, in a family without a father, marriage of the children was the only way to support the widow and any children who had not married. She was engaged once, only to reject the proposal the next day.
Earlier in her life there is speculation of being in love, her books speak of much less naivety in love than her life does. But whether or not, her books are gems of the literary world. While most of the novels you find on the shelves of the modern library today have little to no literary value, an unhealthy focus on lusty “love”, and a forgettable plot, Jane’s novels have no such issue. Her heroines are not perfect, her heroes are flawed, and their love isn’t always magical.
Her first published novel, Sense & Sensibility (1811), was one of the
dearest to her heart as
it spoke of the similar situation she would find herself in when her father died: living off of the generosity of relatives. One clip of a TV show, talking a little about Austen desrcribed the important themes of the book in this way. Sense, being your head and logice, and sensibility your heart; neither one was more important. To have any kind of love, not just romantic love, but a friendship, or familial love, without one and wholly focused on the other is weak. The most important word in the title isn’t “Sense” and it isn’t “Sensibility”: the most important word is “and”.
Her second novel to be published, and my personal favorite, Pride and Prejudice (1813) is probably one of the greatest books in the history of writing (personal opinion is speaking here). The greatest theme in this book would be Elizabeth’s firm statement “only the deepest of love shall induce me into matrimony.” (And drawing a close second would be “what are men to rocks and mountains?”) With this book one shouldn’t read too much into the title, however, the themes of formaning an (almost) unbreakablet opinion of someone before fully knowing them, and pride, are unhealthy. And the greatest advice I could give you for this book (or for any of them) is this: go read it for yourself!
Her next novel, Mansfield Parkk (1814), sets the opposite tone of Pride and Prejudice, which is lighthearted, humorous, and everyone turns out very happy in a very conclusive ending. This book is where Jane’s writing turned toward the more tragic endings of Bronte novels. While being very ling, slow moving, and almost inconclusive at the end, it has
some of the greatest themes. It condemns the culture of mannerisms, of “introducing your daughter at court” and one of the greatest things it does is amke a strong case for the introvert: don’t underestimate them! (Who can’t help loving that?) At time you wish you could run through the pages and either hug or lecture Fanny, the heroine. But it is a nice read.
Emma, the next novel to be published (1815), is amazing. Jane gave this heroine a very blatant flaw: meddling in other people’s hearts. This is the story of how she learned that wasn’t such a good idea…the hard way. One of my favorite scenes is a picnic, and an old lady starts prattling on. The reader’s sentiment towards this characcter is probably “ehh, she’s annoying” as she talks a lot. And at this point you end up wanting to ignore her: so did Emma. But, if she had listened she would have figured out one piece of a complicated puzle, and kept a friend from a good deal of heart break. Jane is teaching the reader that they too may share some of Emma’s short comings. In the end the guy gets the girl (goodluck figuring out who “the guy” is), but it leaves you with something else to think about.
Nothanger Abbey and Persuasion were both published after Jane’s death. Northanger Abbey is definitely my second favorite of all Jane’s gems. Catherine is a young woman who love to over read gothic mystery. She is invited to Bath (with a British accent, b-aw-th) where she meets a guy and la-de-dah the end…not. Here she also makes a friend who gives her more of these novels and you being to see this friend as an antagonist as she ardently flirts with guys, and then gets engaged to Catherine’s brother, only to cheat on him. Jane warns girls against giving their friendship or their hearts to those who are unworthy. Catherine is then invited to the guy’s mansion with his sister. But instead of growing closer to the family, Catherine begins to suspect the dad of murdering his wife. She wanders about, makes the guy angry, etc. At that point you see her grow up. No longer is she wondering what sort of secret chamber might be connected to her room, but how could she ever have been so stupid and wrong. In the end, as you guessed, everyone is happy. But what I
love so much about this book is that it firstly, gives a very important warning of giving your heart away, and secondly, Catherine’s journey from a slightly frivolous, naive girl to becoming a young woman in love. And yes, the bad friend’s name is Isabella, but in my defense it is only spelled with one S.
Persuasion is also an epic Austen novel, but a bit more simple. A long time ago, the heroine was engaged, but ended in the relationship. In a twist of debt, the former fiance’s family ends up renting Anne’s home as she moves to Bath (with a British accent), she has to watch the guy she loves fall in love with her friend, move to a place she hates, and get doted on by a shallow, “too perfect” character. Persuasion, the main theme, is cool because it notes the power of persuasion over another human being through friendship. This books also warns against, not unwise friends, but unwise cousel from good friends and social pressure. And in the end there is happiness, but it s a very beautiful, simple, maturing story.
Anyway, thank you all, for those of you who made it to the end of this! I hope you have a wonderful day and maybe even pop in one of those TV adaptions of one of Jane’s novels. Here are some suggestions”
Sense & Sensibility, this
1999 version is very good, though it does leave out one plot development that you should read the books for.
Pride & Prejudice, there are two versions and if you really want the true story, this 1990 version is SO INCREDIBLY AMAZING! If you want a not-as-amazing-version (with Keira Knightly!) this is one available.
Mansfield Park. I have not seen the movie, but this website is one that I love for reviews and such and here is the one they gave this movie. So definitely check with parents if you want to watch it and be very cautious around younger kids.
Emma. I have only seen one version of this which I didn’t like so much, but friends have told me that this one is much better.
Northanger Abbey. Okay, this one is a little complicated. I watched this several years ago with my mother and sister and there was a scene of the sexual nature she wouldn’t let us see. Ask someone who has seen the whole thing for their opinion. The rest of the movie was great, and I really liked it. There is a passionate kiss at the end (doesn’t happen in the book) but that’s about it.
Persuasion. I have seen both versions and this one was decidedly better in accuracy and acting, but here is the other one as well.
So there you have it! I hope you enjoy today as the birth of one of the greatest writers ever! And I strongly encourage reading the books FIRST and then watching the movie, but if you want to be lazy like I was with Emma, go for it
Blessings in Christ,
Find tons more fun Jane Austen things on my Pinterest board!
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