Jane Austen: An Altered View

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In the period December 2016 to July 2017, I reread all the completed novels of my favourite author Jane Austen (here after dubbed JA). Last year I created a reading challenge, designating each month for a particular theme. I choose December for Jane Austen books because her birthday would be on the 16th, a day I call Jane Austen Day. As you can tell from my July date in my opening, I could not complete my JA challenge in the assigned month thus I continued until Sense and Sensibility ushered the curtains on my JA journey. It is important to note that during my sensuous readathon, I noticed the growth of the Bicentenary Celebrations of JA’s death. I immediately drifted into that ‘huh mode’; Why the joy for the death of the author who gave us the plots and twists that we love?

It took a while to sink in but eventually I had to make myself understand that when many are creating workshops, parties, museum tours, lectures, tea parties, book clubs and all the other fascinating endeavours, people are celebrating JA and her novels.  I have seen an increase in the number of news articles specifically for JA separate from the usual JA dedications. It means that more persons learn of the author’s writings and setting time aside to reread not one novel but her entire collection. It is admirable and I am ecstatic that every time I social media (yes I made it a verb), there is an increase traffic in quiz, blog posts. JA writings are here to stay and I am happy to do my part in keeping her stories alive!

It is important to note that reading the novels as a collection this time changed some of my past views of some characters and books from the last time I read the stories as a collection. The last time I read the seven major JA novels was between the periods 2012 to 2013. I wonder if anyone else who reread JA’s novels first perception changed as well. Please do let me know. It is interesting that the novels that I found favourable in my last collection read, gain in more affection. However, the novels that did leave me with a  frown deep further in dislike. I am think that our judgement of stories  are from the emotional journey that we are at the time of reading are experiencing. A change in that perspective of those feelings certainly changed beloved or disliked characters. Nevertheless, do point me to a study that could either refute or further educate my claims.

 

The Novels That Increase In Favour Mansfield Park

I was of the opinion before that Sense and Sensibility is the best-written book by JA but now Mansfield Park is certainly ready to throw that view out of the window. I call this novel, the most holistic JA story because it tackles the social and economic life of the both the wealthier family’s the Bertram’- and the less fortunate the Prices. I think it is safe to say that Mansfield Park is the only JA novel, which goes into such depth into that view of society from below and above. JA probably did reach the pinnacle in social history of the time when she cleverly juxtaposes the two families and their reaction to marriage and love. Every time I reread Mansfield, I get crazy for noticing new meaning to possible symbolism and immediately drawing the conclusion that someone’s love or relationship will fail or success.

Sense and Sensibility

Sense and Sensibility gives me that dual dose of antagonists and protagonists that no other JA novels can offer. I love that I am always entertained and never a period of dullness appears whether in Norland, Barton Park or London. All evidence points towards the viewpoint that all JA novels do more than entertain but educate the willing reader of the social standings of the time. I love how JA does it so simply and effortlessly in S&S on issues of primogeniture, annuity, marrying only for security, marrying for only love and  marrying for love but having some sense to make sure of survival. Further, S&S is one of JA’s satirical novels draped on the shoulders of Mr. Palmer and Mr. Jennings. I enjoy Mr. Palmer’s attempts to stay sane but like Mr. Bennet, they both realize that love is more than enough to sustain them in marriage to silly wives.

Persuasion

My favourite JA novel still reminds the same after this collection reread. Although I am not a crazy fan of Anne and Captain Wentworth at first, which is the focal part of the story, I am there for activities of the families. Anne is my favourite JA heroine, which contributes to me claiming Persuasion  as my favourite JA story. Persuasion tugs to my heartstrings like no other JA story from the beginning to the end. The more matured heroine intrigues me with her willingness to allow others to persuade her direction in life until she finally takes the mantle to a certain extent to decide her fate. I do appreciate how JA made the outcast of the Elliot family proper at the end. Anne is vastly different from her other siblings and her father and JA uses their treatment of Anne as a technique to bring out the emotional appeal of the heroine.  Although we see a hint of emotional battle in Elinor in Sensibility and Sensibility, however, in Anne is more forward. It is raw and unflinching which begs the readers to either favour or dislike Anne. Although Anne is around by family and friends, she battles in her thoughts and sometimes reading a subconscious is personal. That is one of the appeals to me for Persuasion, the mind of the heroine. The times she spends in her thoughts lets out intelligence that I adore.  Anne is a thinker, she runs Persuasion to the extent that almost dictates what the readers thinks of the other characters in different events. Anne is Cinderella and Cinderella is my favourite fairy tale. The scenery is to live for as well.

 

 

Lady Susan

Not only do I appreciate a different type of protagonist but also the epistolary style of Lady Susan. Lady Susan Vernon is the anomaly for all JA heroines. When we first met, my focus was solely on how outrageous she moved. However, on this read I learn to still ‘dig’ her outrageous  ways but to give her  the crown as the greatest JA schemer- L Steele has nothing on her! The letters gave Lady Susan (the book) the dialogue tone which is always conversational and more appealing. Although Frederica became dear to my heart, I am always hoping that she would stand up a bit for herself. I found myself eager to find out what route Lady Susan Vernon would take and how she would deceive her next unsuspecting victim. I always hope that JA would give more voice to James Martin, who is absolutely ridiculous, he and Mr. Collins would be good friends.

 

Northanger Abbey

A novel dear to my heart; I call it my JA Adorable. I had the biggest smile on face reading Northanger Abbey this time around *claps*. From the start of the characters introduction to the end of Catherine Morland happily ever after, Jane Austen personal voice is in the story. Meaning, this is the one story where Jane Austen narrates with the protagonist and I feel splendid for that style of writing. JA made Isabelle and Catherine a fan of reading because she is fond of reading. Northanger Abbey although published posthumously is one of JA first written stories. The satirical pattern of poking holes at the Gothic genre clearly portrays her Juvenilia writings. If you are a younger generation seeking to dip in JA world and you are fond of balls and everything which goes with it, reading, travelling and some mystery, then I advocate that you start with Northanger Abbey. This story perhaps has the most appealing hero who is not only fond of reading but also up to date with the happenings of the literary world. Ding-dong! In addition, Henry Tilney has a nice mouth that is confident, eloquent with a kind heart.

                                              Novels That Decrease In Favour

Pride and Prejudice

I have a strange relationship with Pride and Prejudice. Increasingly I find the characters and storyline quite annoying, however my favourite film is Pride and Prejudice. Every time I hear the opening line of chapter one, I roll my eyes and now parodies of that sentence does not help. However, I must point out that the first chapter of Pride and Prejudice is one of her best opening chapters of all her novels. Yet, after all that brilliance, the vibes just died down for me except when Mr. Collins gave me laughing material. In the first half of the book, we have the view-point of Elizabeth, a very prejudicial one may I add especially of Mr. Darcy. Elizabeth annoyance only came when she overheard Mr. Darcy conversation with Mr. Bingley. Now warranted, I would flip out the same, so fine but I spent half the book gearing me to think ungentlemanly of Mr. Darcy and bang, she gets smitten and everything changes. Wait for me; and we have the supposed man, who is a bit to rash and hasty in his judgement of a woman and karma swings and he falls for the girl and he becomes one lovesick puppy suddenly. He should know better. Now, let us drift to the Bennett parents. The mother who is desperate to marry all her girls and I understand that but the extent she goes to encourage and neglect being sterner is just so ridiculous. The father who rather hides in his library instead of guiding his girls but in the end he tries to make up.

 

Emma

I tried, I tried to not let my knowledge of Emma (the character) cloud my judgement in the opening chapters of the story. However, that did not last throughout because I do not like Emma. I dislike people who love to look down their nose at others based on wealth and social standings. I get she is independent and outspoken- great! Yet she is manipulative, uncouth and unrepentant. She encourages Frank Churchill behaviour towards her then wants to cry foul when the truth comes out. Furthermore, I am still trying to figure why JA had to sully Frank Churchill. I know she wants a bad boy or girl for each of her stories but she barely scrape bad juice off Frank Churchill. However, there are so decent men in the story in the Donwell region. Yes, to Robert Martin, a cool tempered, ambitious and kind man. You thought I was referring to George Knightley eh, whose one purpose in the story is to check Emma. Hey, do not throw stones at me, JA made him. Okay, fine, he encourages Emma to see the good in people especially when he stands for Miss Bates and Robert Martin. He has good judgement.

 

Jane Novels: My Most Favourite to Least Favourite

  1. Persuasion
  2. Mansfield Park
  3. Sense and Sensibility
  4. Northanger Abbey
  5. Lady Susan
  6. Pride and Prejudice & Emma

 

 

Altered Views in Characters

  1. John Willoughby

After 15 years of pouring into Sense and Sensibility and trying to stick to the few admirable qualities of Mr. Willoughby, I have given up the task. I join the ranks in calling him an unmitigated ass. What was I thinking standing up for that rake! We will see if my opinion that still holds at my next reading.

  1. Henry Tilney

Oh how he has grown so much more in my spirits! I have never taken to any of JA’s heroes but Henry Tilney is creeping closer to taking that award. The jury is still out on that coveted title for me but the future is optimistic.

 

 

 

 

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