Jane Austen is a female writer. What more can I say about the statement that is not already implied?
Jane Austen wrote real, humanistic novels about women’s lives in the 18th Century. Anyone who thinks the stories are simply fluffy romance novels are mistaken.
Women of that era, and perhaps some today, are dependent on a good marriage for their financial security. She herself experienced the truth of this. She never married, and when her father died, her mother and sisters were dependent on contributions given them by two of her six brothers, until they could afford it no longer.
Jane Austen is really easy to read for 18th Century writing. Her style is simple yet engaging, and her plots have elements of scandal, hope, and love. The stories are structured around an observed behaviour of the classes, and show a keen understanding of human interactions. The characters become victim to a flaw in their personalities, and then work to overcome it.
List of Works
Sense and Sensibility (1811) Lady Susan (1794, 1805)
Pride and Prejudice (1813) The Watsons (unfinished)
Mansfield Park (1814) Sanditon (Unfinished)
Emma (1815) Collections of poems, prayers, and letters.
Northanger Abbey (1818, posthumous) Juvenilia (Vol I-III)
Persuasion (1818, post humous)
Pride and Prejudice is such a wonderful story about two people who overcome their flaws of pride and prejudice, and in so doing, discover a deep and meaningful love for each other. This is one of my favourites, and probably the best one to introduce you to Jane Austen’s works if have never read any.
Mansfield Park is an interesting story about a very poor young girl, Fanny, who is adopted by wealthy uncle and aunt. Her character grows from meek and unworthy, to noble and respected. The story is about self esteem, the realisations she has about her worthiness as a person, and how she carves her own path in her life. She accepts she has risen from poverty and is too educated to return, but she will never have the opportunities, or the life of the Genteel either.
Emma is a story about a busy body, slightly arrogant girl, who likes to think she knows best; especially in matters of matchmaking and love, even though she has no first hand experience. The story that follows is hilarious as we watch Emma make mistake after mistake. Of course, in the end she realises her errors and finds humility, and a love of her own.
Persuasion is by far my favourite of Jane Austen’s works. Anne is a weak minded person who allows others to make decisions for her, even if it goes against what she believes or wants. Basically she rejects a young lover’s proposal of marriage because he is beneath her and spends the rest of her life regretting her weakness. He in turn is appalled by her lack of conviction believes she couldn’t have loved him after all. The two reconnect much later, there is awkwardness, rekindling of old feelings, suppression of feelings and a very British sense of showing a calm indifferent attitude on the exterior.
Why Read Jane Austen?
Jane Austen’s characters deal with universal human flaws. They are stories about real experiences that a lot of women go through even today. The events and the class system by which society is measured differs yes, but the emotional experiences and the growth of women is universal.
I challenge you to read her works and not see something of yourself reflected in the characters and their actions, whether you like them or not. We’ve gotten used to seeing strong, charismatic heroes both male and female, but the real heroes to me are those that teach us how to grow ourselves. These types of unsung heros are found in stories like those written by Jane Austen.