In early 1817, while writing a new novel, Sanditon, (a fragment was all that she managed) she started to feel unwell. All the family were worried about her. Her thoughts at this time, garnered by her letters are that she ‘will become well’; that it is just time and she will be recovered. She certainly had a positive attitude and given the good quality organic food she was eating and the meditation in the form of prayer, we could hope for a recovery. She even had a special donkey saddle fashioned so that she Continue reading
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Why do others sometimes judge us based on our so called sophistication? What does this tell us about them? Those that judge others are not the characters we love. Elizabeth has dinner with the socially sophisticated Bitchy-Bingley-sisters, Mr Bingley, Mr Darcy and Mr Hurst, an equally loathsome husband of one of the Bingley girls. Indolent Mr Hurst finds out that Flawed-But-Fabulous-Elizabeth Bennet would “prefer a plain dish to a ragout” and hence Continue reading
What does the beast from Beauty and the Beast and Mr Darcy have in common? Well they are both unreconstructed males until love brings them to self knowledge and a better version of themselves. What I like about Austen’s prose though is that she is often even handed in doling out the imperfection in her Continue reading
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
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:
“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
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.
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
A 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
How could Charlotte Lucas, best friend to Lizzie Bennet choose such an odious partner? Surely this choice, the choice made by our pragmatic Charlotte for Clawing Mr Collins, has been gasped at through the centuries by countless readers of Pride and Prejudice.
Recall Charlotte says, “I am not romantic, you know. I never was. I only ask for a comfortable home”. Surely Jane Austen is making a comment on the choices that women must make in such an unfair and patriarchal world. Highlighting such limited and odious choices suggests Austen’s feminist credentials.
Jane lived a quiet life but the wicked ways of the world touched her and informed her writing. And when I refer to wicked ways I am not suggesting the 18th Century relaxed attitudes to sexuality, where one in three women were pregnant as they walked up the marriage aisle in the 18th century. 1. I mean the wickedness of inequality, hypocrisy and double standards. Women without dowries (or women’s shares), women in lowly social classes, women in loveless marriages and women who were courted for their fortune were in unhappy positions that Austen explored many times in her novels. Continue reading