I suppose it’s finally time I do a blog about Jane Austen. Given my blog’s name where I’ve managed to get three Jane Austen titles in, you might have gathered I’m a bit of a fan. From quite a young age I’ve always enjoyed watching historical and period dramas but I think I really have Keira Knightley to thank for my first journey into Austen. As soon as I saw the first Pirates of the Caribbean film when I was about 12, I was hooked and became obsessed with seeing every film I could with Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley in (especially Orlando Bloom) When I saw that she was in something called Pride and Prejudice, we hired it on DVD. I was transfixed. The polite way they spoke to each other, the stunning costumes and stately homes. The moral behind every story and even the social conventions. Although luckily we’ve progressed a lot (although not far enough) from a woman being on the shelf if she’s not married by 21, I still think there’s something we can learn from Jane Austen and other writers of her time.
The dating system
Luckily I don’t have to navigate the tricky world of 21st century dating anymore but if I did I wouldn’t know where to start. Where do you meet someone if work, mutual friends and hobbies aren’t working? Online dating? For some, this is a scary process though I personally know quite a few successful love stories that have flourished from this. Back in the 18th and 19th century, the rules were clear; you met a suitable partner at a dance. No more than three though or there’d be talk in the morning. There were obvious flaws with this system. Your whole courtship is public and you can never be alone to fully learn about each other. A chaperone would be needed and the first time you would be able to have a private conservation would be after you’re married.
An easier time?
However, there are no worries about who makes the first move, it would have always been the man. In this age of feminism, women don’t want to be seen to let the man pay or wait for him to ask her out. However, this can lead to confusion and miscommunication. I personally like the idea of chivalry (maybe that’s why I love these types of novels so much) as long as the man isn’t being taking advantage of. I see it as meaning mutual respect for both men and women. I see no reason why a man can’t open the door for a woman and vice versa; it’s polite.
A misunderstood genre
For those who haven’t read any Jane Austen, there’s the assumption it’s all bonnets and tea. Many don’t realise that social commentary and irony play as heavy a role in Austen’s novels as romance does. She’s not writing a classic man meets woman, fall in love story. She deals with issues of inheritance, illegitimate children and slavery as well as poking fun at the clergy even though her father was a vicar. We’re determined to believe that before the modern ages of the 20th century, women were meek and mild. Austen’s heroines are nothing of the sort. Elizabeth Bennet is fiercely independent and has no issue sparring with a man seen as her superior in wealth and class. This would have been unheard of and unbecoming. Emma Woodhouse has no thoughts of marriage but spends all her time matchmaking in a time when love wasn’t seen as a prerequisite for marriage. Elinor Dashwood understands finances and tries desperately to help her mother’s situation when they have reduced circumstances.
A woman before her time
The main thing I want you to take away about Jane Austen is that she was a realist. She understood that, at the time, a woman did require marriage in order to survive. She may have tried to ensure that the majority of her characters had happy after evers but she did it in a realistic and plausible way. Her own life didn’t match this and she knew enough about heartache and lost chances.
I hope for those who are yet to venture into the world of Jane Austen, I’ve inspired you. If you’re already a fan, please let me know what your favourite Jane Austen novel is and I will review it in my next Austen blog.
You may have noticed my blog looks a little different, I’m making a real effort this year to make my blog the best it can be and I really appreciate everyone’s support. Please share if you enjoy reading. x