My love for Jane Austen’s writing is no secret. Anyone and everyone who knows me knows that her books and their movie and play adaptations captivate my soul. If anyone were to get me the best gift of all, they would, without a doubt, get me the collection of her works!
My absolute favorite is “Pride & Prejudice”, my all time record was watching it 19 times in a single month! And, no, I was not free. I made the time and stayed up late every single time (and suffered the consequences the next day) because it was that important to me. I read the book and watched all versions of the movie. The one I liked and identified with most was the 2005 version starring Keira Knightly and Matthew McFadyen. Many argue that the 1995 BBC mini-series starring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth was a much better production and representation of Jane Austen’s novel. Personally, I did not like it at all! It was actually a real challenge for me to continue to watch it until the end. Although the actors did a wonderful job, I found Mrs. Bennet to be over the top and too silly (if I may) for my liking and Jennifer Ehle a little “stiff” in her portrayal of Elizabeth Bennet’s character. I did love the costumes and settings more though, they were much better done than the 2005 movie.
There are several reasons why Jane Austen’s work is so close to my heart. To begin with, I am captivated by the era during which she lived and her writings took place. Men were true gentlemen and women were true ladies. They had fun and were in a close relationship with nature. They were proper, elegant and had airs. Life was simpler yet so sophisticated. If I had the choice, I would have wanted to live during that era as an accomplished woman no matter how frowned upon that was. As a young adult I used to say that the only setback of that era for me was the fact that women gave birth without being sedated. Well, after giving birth to both my kids without any pain control, I’d say it happened anyway so it’s irrelevant in my case! Another reason is the purity of her characters and her writing. She has the immense talent to convey what she wants without having her characters behave lewdly or out of line. When I watched the 2005 “Pride & Prejudice” movie for the first time I cried in the end, not because they ended up together, but because I could feel the depth of their love without them having so much as touched, let alone kissed, a single time (I watched the British ending, not the American one). Such depth of emotion can only be conveyed through terrific writing. She also displays a lot of wit, humor and irony in her books which add to the characters and the plot rather than being futile. In her endings, the rewards are always worth the wait, pain and struggle and virtue is rewarded handsomely, every single time. She was like a mother teaching her children (her readers) principals, values and manners in such a subtle, beautiful, rich way. Furthermore, you can feel what a warm, loving and experienced person Jane Austen was through her writing. It was important to her that her characters get their hearts’ desire in the end, even if they have to go through so many hardships along the way. She could not break her characters’ hearts as if they were real, live people who she knew and cared about. Her experience with regards to people shines through when you realize how transparent her characters seem to her. She can, literally, see right through them and always manages to let us see what lies in their very core without having to spell it out for us. And finally, but most importantly, she’s my idol when it comes to writing. She wrote with passion, vitality and from the bottom of her heart. She empowered women and let them know that they always had a choice even if it’s not what’s praised by society. Setting the example herself, she could not imagine marriage without love and did not compromise. She was true to herself and others and offered advice to her loved ones (her niece, for example) in accordance with her own values. She practiced what she preached and lived for her writing and her heart. Even when life did not give her her heart’s desire, she didn’t let that reflect on her characters, on the contrary, she let them have what she couldn’t … she was merciful and never lost hope, not for her characters at least.
Jane Austen was a strong, independent, opinionated woman who knew early on what was it is exactly that she wanted out of life. She was accomplished, remembered for centuries after her death, a role model for women of all times and dedicated her life to her true passion. She did not compromise, step down or lie to herself. When she loved and lost she remained faithful to her heart even when Tom Lefroy continued as expected with his life. Naming his first female child after her (or so it’s believed) must have brought her some consolation but she didn’t let his actions determine her behavior, which is more than I can say about any woman I have ever met. She wasn’t disheartened when life didn’t give her what she wanted, she was generous enough to bestow that honor upon her characters. She was an incredible, amazing, talented young woman who was ahead of her time yet she was able to stand her grounds and not compromise her principals. She is my hero, in writing and in life … how could any woman possibly not aspire to be like her?