Alain de Botton’s The Course of Love

It centers on one couple: Rabih  and Kirsten. It is very modern in that the nuclear couple reign supreme; the friends and family only get a passing glance. But it is a very poignant look at the couple in modern life. It feels like  an everyman couple; a couple we can all relate to. And its premise, that the proof of love begins when the romance fades is so apt. Rabih and Kirsten are like  minor characters in an Austen novel, they are Mr and Ms Bennett, Mr and Mrs Palmer or Mr and Mrs Musgrove in the Austen Six. Only in a post modern novel can they take their place centre-stage. But that is the beauty
of the modern; the ordinary Continue reading

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Was Mrs Bennet too interested in young men’s bank balances?

Maggie Alderson in her recent column in Melbourne’s The Age channels Mrs Bennet in wondering who is the ‘best possible choice’ for her daughter. And what does Austen suggest? Sure, Mr Darcy is a man of consequence and with a fortune to match. But there are a myriad of heroes who always have enough money – let’s face it one always needs enough in the 18th Century – but are distinguishable by their values rather than their bank balances. Honourable Edward Ferrars is case in point.

Edward’s sister, who I like to call, Supercilious-Superior-Sister-in-law-Fanny Dashwood, Continue reading

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How attractive is a loving family?

Virtuous and Undervalued Anne Elliot does regret her family’s lack of feeling when she is to marry Captain Wentworth. She had “the consciousness of having no relations to bestow on him which a man of sense could value.” An extended family that is supportive and fun is an attractive part of any partner’s dowry:

quizanne

The disproportion in their fortune was nothing; it did not give her a moment’s regret; but to have no family to receive and estimate him properly; nothing of respectability, of harmony, of good-will to offer in return for all the worth and all the prompt welcome which met her in his brothers and sisters, was a source of as lively pain as her mind could be well sensible of, under circumstances of otherwise strong felicity”. Continue reading

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When Vanity Rules

In Pride and Prejudice when Superior-And-Spoilt-Mr Darcy gives Flawed but Fabulous Elizabeth the letter explaining his dealings with Wickham, and she fully understands her role in the past she is “absolutely ashamed of herself…she had been blind, partial, prejudiced and absurd”. She had not let reason and an unbiased interpretation of events guide her. Instead she had let her vanity rule to her folly. But whereas some heroes and heroines can slay a dragon or a formidable foe, sometimes it is the facing of ourselves that takes courage and this is exactly what Elizabeth does. She is the heroine that faces Continue reading

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Did Austen follow the stereotype that all women want to be mothers?

Reading The Age this morning there is another article, Not all women want to be mothers and society is finally accepting it.  It makes me appreciate the works of Jane Austen and remember some of my favourite characters who, although considered minor, are great role models. One of my all-time favourites would have to be Mrs Crofts. It is in Austen’s last completed novel Persuasion that she paints the Admiral and Mrs Crofts in such glowing terms. Mrs Crofts lived a wonderfully romantic and adventurous life. She has shared the Admiral’s life on “5 altogether” ships. She rejects the notion, very prevalent at the time, that women “would be too soft to be on a ship”… “We none of us expect to be in smooth waters all our days”. Theirs appears to be a very modern marriage based on equality and respect and this appears to have brought happiness. They do not have children and Austen makes no negative innuendo about such a circumstance. 

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Challenging the status quo

Another minor character that Austen crafted to challenge the status quo is Mrs Crofts from Persuasion. Mrs Crofts’ marriage is equal as well as romantic and adventurous. She has “crossed the Atlantic four times” with the admiral and was “shrewd” and seemed more conversant with business”  than her husband the admiral.

Jane Austen is portraying a very competent and happy woman here, able to participate in seafaring, one of the most difficult and dangerous occupations of the time. Continue reading

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Mary, Mary Quite Contrary!

https://happinesswithausten.files.wordpress.com/2014/04/984f6-vlcsnap-00049.pngA very minor character, Discontented-Wife Mary, in Persuasion, highlights Austen’s craft. Discontented-Wife Mary is an often disappointed and unhappy character. Recall she is a member of the self important Elliot clan who think they are above others. The 18th century was a hierarchy based on land and the Elliots were at the top of the status stakes.  In this society even the order of entering a room was based on the social hierarchy. As the daughter of a Baronet, Discontented-Wife Mary, could pull rank over her in-laws, and constantly did.  Continue reading

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