Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Jane knows best...

Ever since I read Pride and Prejudice as a senior in high school I have been in love with Jane Austen. It has become a joke in my family - sometimes a barbed joke - but it is well known that I have a deep appreciation and fondness for Ms. Austen. I've read all of her novels, novellas, short stories and many of her letters. I took multiple classes incorporating her work in college. My undergraduate thesis was entitled "Will the real Jane Austen please stand up: Representations of Jane Austen in contemporary society". It's fair to say that I'm an Austen nerd.

All the times I've read and re-read her novels I have related the closest to Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice - at least I hoped that I was like her. I wanted to be spunky, witty, independent and a challenger or social norms. Within my own sphere of influence, I think, I hope, that I've had a bit of success with this. At times I've felt like Eleanor or Marianne. Luckily, I've never really related to Emma.

My favorite novel is Persuasion. Anne Elliot is an underrated heroine, and she signals a shift and a new maturity in Austen's heroines. (Persuasion also has one of the best heroes and love letters) Lately I've felt more like Anne than I have Elizabeth. Often Elizabeth is held up as a literary archetype and representation of ideal moderate feminism when taken in the context of Austen's life. I feel Anne often gets the shaft. Her subtle maturity and consistency is often overshadowed by Elizabeth's youthful exuberance and wit. I'm definitely not claiming to have subtle maturity or even consistency for that matter. But I relate to Anne's challenges and admire how she deals. Yes, I get that she is a fictional character created by a woman long dead, but that's what good literature does, right? It speaks to us. We see parts of ourselves mirrored in the words and pages. It finds its way into the nooks and crannies of our heart and soul.