So most of you probably guessed what I was going to talk about first. ;) I thought I was going to do one post, and then realized that there are many different paths I can take with this one, because Jane Austen has SO many stereotypes. And then I was like, hey, why do one post when I can stretch it out and make more posts for my blog? (Well... it's only the truth. :P)
So let's start with two of the most common misconceptions about Jane Austen.
STEREOTYPE #1: JANE AUSTEN WROTE ROMANCE NOVELS.
I have to say, covers like that are very deceptive. I almost feel sorry for the person who was attracted to the book because of that cover... what a shock they'd be in for! I bet they wouldn't make it past the first two pages. "A couple old married people talking... ?! Who cares??"
And then of course, things like P&P05 can be deceptive, too. Very.
Well, Janeites, when people say this to you, just take a deep breath. Give them the benefit of the doubt. It might not be their fault they think that Jane Austen's books are romance novels. They could have heard it from someone. And you get the delightful task of straightening them out!
I usually start out with the words of the lady herself.
"I could no more write a romance than an epic poem. I could not sit seriously down to write a serious romance under any other motive than to save my life; and if it were indispensable for me to keep it up and never relax into laughing at myself or at other people, I am sure I should be hung before I had finished the first chapter. No, I must keep to my own style and go on in my own way; and though I may never succeed again in that, I am convinced that I should totally fail in any other."I would love to memorize that entire quote so I can reel it off to anybody and everybody. It's just... so Jane, haha. A person whose relaxation is found in laughing at herself and other people, is not going to write a real "romance" unless it was a parody.
The delicious thing about Jane Austen's novels is that her characters are so real. You read her books, and you just know... Jane Austen knew about people. She never traveled the world, never met a bunch of important people, was never in a realm of high society... but she didn't need any of that to observe. I feel like this is the trademark of every really good author-- when you read their books and think "I know someone just like this," and you can laugh about it.
In the same way that Jane Austen writes about real people, she writes about real romances. They're not all fake and glittery and mushy or disgusting. They're about two people who were meant to be together, and how they found it out. Mr. Darcy didn't fall in love with Elizabeth because she was pretty. He noticed her personality. Mr. Knightley loved Emma for years before he even realized it, and for much of the book he's a family friend she's known all her life.
Look, all you people who think that Jane Austen writes romance stories... I have heard countless girls complain that her books aren't romantic enough. "They hardly even ever have the PROPOSAL scene!"
Let's take an in-depth look at some of Jane Austen's most romantic moments. Starting with the most famous, Pride & Prejudice.
So, take a look at Mr. Darcy's first proposal.
"In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.''
Elizabeth's astonishment was beyond expression. She stared, coloured, doubted, and was silent. This he considered sufficient encouragement, and the avowal of all that he felt and had long felt for her immediately followed. He spoke well, but there were feelings besides those of the heart to be detailed, and he was not more eloquent on the subject of tenderness than of pride. His sense of her inferiority -- of its being a degradation -- of the family obstacles which judgment had always opposed to inclination, were dwelt on with a warmth which seemed due to the consequence he was wounding, but was very unlikely to recommend his suit.Well, it starts out pretty good, but... wow, dude. Way to express tender emotion there. How could any girl refuse something so romantic?
Let's see if the second proposal is any better.
"If you will thank me," he replied, "let it be for yourself alone. That the wish of giving happiness to you might add force to the other inducements which led me on, I shall not attempt to deny. But your family owe me nothing. Much as I respect them, I believe I thought only of you."
Elizabeth was too much embarrassed to say a word. After a short pause, her companion added, "You are too generous to trifle with me. If your feelings are still what they were last April, tell me so at once. My affections and wishes are unchanged, but one word from you will silence me on this subject for ever."Much to some people's chagrin, she totally avoided writing what Elizabeth said in reply. And the narrative, although expressive, can hardly be called cringe-worthy.
Elizabeth, feeling all the more than common awkwardness and anxiety of his situation, now forced herself to speak; and immediately, though not very fluently, gave him to understand that her sentiments had undergone so material a change, since the period to which he alluded, as to make her receive with gratitude and pleasure his present assurances. The happiness which this reply produced, was such as he had probably never felt before; and he expressed himself on the occasion as sensibly and as warmly as a man violently in love can be supposed to do. Had Elizabeth been able to encounter his eye, she might have seen how well the expression of heartfelt delight, diffused over his face, became him; but, though she could not look, she could listen, and he told her of feelings, which, in proving of what importance she was to him, made his affection every moment more valuable.
Let's look at the last of romantic quotes from that scene...
Such I was, from eight to eight and twenty; and such I might still have been but for you, dearest, loveliest Elizabeth! What do I not owe you! You taught me a lesson, hard indeed at first, but most advantageous. By you, I was properly humbled. I came to you without a doubt of my reception. You shewed me how insufficient were all my pretensions to please a woman worthy of being pleased."No kissing was mentioned, by the way. No physical contact was mentioned in the least. Readers can really imagine whatever they choose-- and, believe me, most of them stick a kiss in there somewhere. I prefer it to be after the wedding like in the 1995 miniseries.
Now, onto Emma. I absolutely adore the proposal in Emma, so this will be a joy.
"As a friend!"—repeated Mr. Knightley.—"Emma, that I fear is a word—No, I have no wish—Stay, yes, why should I hesitate?—I have gone too far already for concealment.—Emma, I accept your offer—Extraordinary as it may seem, I accept it, and refer myself to you as a friend.—Tell me, then, have I no chance of ever succeeding?"
He stopped in his earnestness to look the question, and the expression of his eyes overpowered her.
"My dearest Emma," said he, "for dearest you will always be, whatever the event of this hour's conversation, my dearest, most beloved Emma—tell me at once. Say 'No,' if it is to be said."—She could really say nothing.—"You are silent," he cried, with great animation; "absolutely silent! at present I ask no more."
Emma was almost ready to sink under the agitation of this moment. The dread of being awakened from the happiest dream, was perhaps the most prominent feeling.
"I cannot make speeches, Emma:"—he soon resumed; and in a tone of such sincere, decided, intelligible tenderness as was tolerably convincing.—"If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more. But you know what I am.—You hear nothing but truth from me.—I have blamed you, and lectured you, and you have borne it as no other woman in England would have borne it.—Bear with the truths I would tell you now, dearest Emma, as well as you have borne with them. The manner, perhaps, may have as little to recommend them. God knows, I have been a very indifferent lover.—But you understand me.—Yes, you see, you understand my feelings—and will return them if you can. At present, I ask only to hear, once to hear your voice."And now for Emma's response...
What did she say?—Just what she ought, of course. A lady always does.And now, for the culmination of Jane Austen's most romantic speeches-- read Captain Wentworth's letter. This is the bit where all the hopeless romantics sigh with pleasure, and those who prefer the mushy kept to a minimum might roll their eyes a bit.
But that right there is the most in all six of Jane Austen's novels that is anywhere even near a romance.
And in the other three, the proposal scene is brushed over, with Mansfield Park being a prime example of what the hopeless romantics DON'T like about Jane Austen.
Scarcely had he done regretting Mary Crawford, and observing to Fanny how impossible it was that he should ever meet with such another woman, before it began to strike him whether a very different kind of woman might not do just as well, or a great deal better: whether Fanny herself were not growing as dear, as important to him in all her smiles and all her ways, as Mary Crawford had ever been; and whether it might not be a possible, an hopeful undertaking to persuade her that her warm and sisterly regard for him would be foundation enough for wedded love.
I purposely abstain from dates on this occasion, that every one may be at liberty to fix their own, aware that the cure of unconquerable passions, and the transfer of unchanging attachments, must vary much as to time in different people. I only entreat everybody to believe that exactly at the time when it was quite natural that it should be so, and not a week earlier, Edmund did cease to care about Miss Crawford, and became as anxious to marry Fanny as Fanny herself could desire.So if you're looking for a romantic, mushy, light read, Jane Austen is not where you want to go. However, if you're looking for unique wit, keen observation of the way People Are, snark that hides if you're not paying attention but jumps out at you if you are, memorable characters, and actually have a brain that can focus long enough to read things more complicated than Dick and Jane...
...okay I'm stopping now. :P
Anyways, Jane Austen's books are what I would call "romantic comedies," and not in the silly-chick-flick way. Just that, yes, they center around a woman who ends up getting married at the end. But a lot of other stuff happens too, and so much of it is FUNNY.
And yes, some of Jane Austen's heroes do have a bunch of female admirers. That's because they're actually good guys, gentlemen, and if they're rich and handsome on top of that, well, that's just an added bonus. They're all so different, though. A girl whose favorite is Mr. Darcy will give you completely different reasons than a girl whose favorite is Henry Tilney.
They are timeless romantic stories, but she managed to create this mastery-of-love without an ounce of silliness. That's because she wrote about the real stuff.
Incidentally, Jane Austen was never married. Some cynical people might therefore say that she didn't know enough about love to write about it. On the contrary, I think she knew more. And that's why she never married. Why would she settle for a less perfect-for-her match than her heroines did? They weren't going to marry for convenience, and she had to set them the correct example.
STEREOTYPE #2: JANE AUSTEN'S STORIES ARE ONLY FOR GIRLS.
Okay, let's start out with a quote from what of JA's guys.
"The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." ~Henry Tilney, Northanger Abbey.
As far as I'm concerned, Jane Austen's books are the very definition of "a good novel," and anybody who thinks they won't like them is biased, be it man or woman. They've heard the stereotypes. Or they just assume.
As explained in #1, her stories have so much in them. They aren't adventure books where people go gallivanting around the world, so if that's what you're looking for, then yeah, don't bother. But if you actually have a mind that appreciates true humor, rather than the newest Coors Light commercial, or the joke your football buddy told, or the time you shot a deer, there's actually a chance you might like it.
I myself have watched Jane Austen movies with three different fellows, and they all enjoyed them. (Yep, they were all related to me.) So far I haven't personally been acquainted with any who will actually read the entirety of a book, but I do know OF those people, and to me, if they do, it is a definite mark of a superior male mind.
The fact is, sometimes Jane Austen is just too much awesomeness for guys to be able to handle. Cowards. :P
Well, as Jane Austen quoted... ""I do not write for such dull Elves as have not a great deal of Ingenuity themselves."
And if you think sitting down to a Jane Austen movie is like watching a chick flick... well, then, Finding Nemo is an action-packed adventure movie. :P (With the exceptions of two or three not-so-good versions, coughcoughP&P05cough, GwynethPaltrowEmmacough.)
That's all I have for now. Stay tuned for more!