Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Defending Jane

The following is my response to a Dartmouth Press article which attempts to guess why people like Jane Austen.

 Austen’s Power By Peter Blair

Did the author ever READ a Jane Austen Novel? There were many other novelists at the same time whose writings exhibited the similar cultural aspects. Austen stands out now for the same reason she did then, for those clever enough to read her properly. She is funny, hilarious even, but in ways that sneak up on you. Her insight into human nature is shrewd, sometimes painfully shrewd. Her writings show me that despite a vastly different code of conduct in society, human nature does not change at all. As you get to know the characters in an Austen book you recognize them as people you know and understand.
Lady at Jane Austen's writing tableJane herself said she did not write for 'dull elves'. In humor she is a forerunner to Oscar Wilde more than anyone. Her imagery is delightful, her symbolism is clever, and her sense of irony rewards the reader at every turn. For example, I find it fascinating that Mrs. Norris, arguably the most evil person in Austen's literary world, has many of the juiciest, most ironic lines aimed at her. It's as if Fanny is defenseless but Jane is not, and jabs that mean Aunt with a pen now and then.
  So when some see bonnets and costumes and romance, I see that and more. I see a wonderful balance between an incisive humor and a morality deeper than the social customs that define it outwardly.



  1. Lovely defense of Jane, who shouldn't have to be defended if only one would see the humorous irony in her writing. Bravo!

  2. As you know, she is not my favorite among the classics I have read (hate mail accepted now) , but what author does everyone love equally? I find her fascinating, the situations she lived and overcame, the works she created, all so timeless and speaking to so many, so even if I don't love every novel, I can appreciate what she is. I find it strange that one writer would assume why people pretend to like another writer. Kind of defeats the beauty of us picking and choosing for ourselves.

    And I love that you love Jane,l and that mom does, and so many others everywhere. It is good for all of us when some of us choose well!

  3. I agree. She is subtle. When I read her in high school, I didn't even get her, but after dealing with a few more difficult people, I suddenly get it.

    I love that it is a comedy of manners--how the fun is in watching how people relate with each other and treat each other.


People who must have their share in the conversation: