Women of Literature: Jane Austen, my white whale

March is Women’s History Month. What better way to celebrate than to write about women of literature! This month I will devote my blog posts to women in literature who have had an impact on my life. I will start with Jane Austen. Here is a brief look at the beloved author’s life, taken from PBS:

Born in 1775 to George and Cassandra Austen in the English village of Steventon, Jane Austen grew up in a highly literate family. Austen’s father was an Oxford-educated clergyman and her mother was a humorous, aristocratic woman. Educated only briefly outside of her home, Austen read freely in her father’s library of 500 books, which left her better educated than most young girls of the time. While her family never anticipated she would be a published writer (not considered an appropriate profession for a young lady of her background), within the walls of their household she was encouraged to write. In this lively intellectual household the 15-year-old Austen began writing her own novels; and by age 23 she had completed the original versions of Northanger Abbey, Sense and Sensibility, and Pride and Prejudice. Her own delight in reading and her ironic mocking of its impact on young girls comes alive in Northanger Abbey. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/masterpiece/austen/austen.html.

You may or may not know this but, every time you watch a “chick flick” in which boy meets girl, girl hates boy, girl falls for boy, or boy meets girl, then loses girl only to win her back, you are watching a movie based on an Austen plot devise. Many of us have grown up with the idea that a break-up is never the end of a relationship. Thanks to Austen, we hang on longer than we should.

I am going to make a big confession right here and now; I read my first Jane Austen novel last weekend. I picked up Pride & Prejudice last Saturday an  read it in one sitting. Yet, my favorite movie is based on her book Sense and Sensibility.  Oh how I love watching Emma Thompson and Hugh Grant as they fall in love! You’d think after watching the movie I’d eagerly pick up Austen and read everything she has ever written, after all, my friends tell me there is more the story of S&S. Confession number 2: I cannot get passed the first page of S&S, the language has me stumped.

For years I thought I was not smart enough to read Austen. I ‘d hold those in awe who would talk about her books as if they were talking about the Twilight series; Mr. Darcy is to them what Edward  is to the young crowd. Austen’s writing was my white whale, something I obsessed on, yet could not grasp. Now, having finally read P&P I understand Austen’s appeal to young girls and why her books are as popular as ever. Yet, even as her ideas about relationships influence my behavior, I have to ask: What’s up with all the Mr. Darcy love? Why is he high on “men I want to date” lists?

If you’ve read P&P and love Mr. Darcy, talk to me. Tell me what is so appealing about him? And, if Miss Austen has influenced your life, tell me all about it!

Author: sarij

I'm a writer, lifelong bibliophile ,and researcher. I hold a Bachelors in Humanities & History and a Master's in Humanities. When I'm not reading or talking about Shakespeare or history, you can usually find me in the garden discussing science or politics with my cat.

Talk to me

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