Wendy Squires in today’s The Saturday Age (Even pregnant women are only human 09/02/13) answers this question. In response to the Chrissie Swan controversy, (she got caught smoking while pregnant) she discusses the time so called friends, dumped on another friend for a minor misdemeanor rather than showing compassion and empathy. Intrinsic in Squire’s article is the belief that we all have flaws and should not judge others too harshly. Are you thinking of the proverb, those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones? So what does Austen show us about friendship? Positive friendships survive even when a change in circumstances might make them a bit more challenging. In the Austen Six a variety of characters, and they are all the heroes or heroines, show they value friendship. Virtuous-but-Undervalued-Anne Elliot shows us what friendship is. She craves not only a lover but a different lifestyle away from the suffocating superficiality of her family. She wants to be friends with people because of their qualities and character not because of their position in the world. It is not unusual to be at odds with one’s family’s values. In Bath, she meets up with an old school friend who has fallen on difficult times: Mrs Smith is poor and sick, both conditions that make the superficial fly in the opposite direction. Not Virtuous-but-Undervalued-Anne Elliot. She is more than happy to revive the friendship and does so to her father’s disgust. Treating a prior engagement with Mrs Smith above an audience with Lady Darlrymple, Anne is castigated by her father, “Upon my word, Miss Anne Elliot, you have the most extraordinary taste! Everything that revolts other people, – low company, paltry rooms, foul air, disgusting associations, are inviting to you.” He cannot see the attraction, as for him a person’s position is the only consideration when making a friend. Anne sees the worth in Mrs Smith. She is someone to be admired. She has fallen on bad times but her disposition and sense of humour make her a valued friend. Through her friendship with Resilient-Mrs Smith she sees that even when misfortune smiles on you, you can choose to rise above your situation and in doing so make your own happier conditions. Ironically it is through Mrs Smith, who makes friends with her nurse, that Anne hears the gossip about Poisonly-Perfect-Mr Elliot, her cousin. She learns the true nature of the man who has been manipulating her father, Sir Walter Elliot’s snobbishness, for his own gains. But the point is, even though Mrs Smith has fallen on hard times, Anne still values her and her friendship despite her lowly position. Anne shows exactly what a good friend is.