I have been a huge Jane Austen fan for as long as I can remember. Sense & Sensibility is one of my favourite books, and Henry Tilney is the literary love of my life.
This love is something that I share with alot of people – however I always feel like my fondness for the author is different to those that I have spoken to about it.
The majority of people I speak to adore Austen’s books because of the time period they were set in, the various scandals that happen throughout and, of course, the love story that inevitably ends in at least a proposal.
But my adoration is a result of the way that Jane Austen writes – not what she writes.
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get teary when Edward Ferrars proposed to Elinor Dashwood, and of course I do get a lot of enjoyment out of the actual stories themselves. But I get so much more enjoyment out of the witty, sarcastic and satirical way that Austen talks about these characters. I have never once felt genuinely shocked by any of the scandal in an Austen novel, but I love to laugh at the absolute horror expressed by characters such as Mrs Bennett.
Maybe it’s because of my feminist tendencies, but I just feel that there is so much more to Pride and Prejudice than the love story between Darcy and Elizabeth. Every Austen plot is a clever one, but what makes it so much more – and places the author in the classic literature cannon – is the tone with which she writes.
It’s clear to me that Jane Austen was aware of how ridiculous the times were that she lived in, and that her writing was her way of subtly undermining and, basically, taking the piss out of the way that society ran in the 18th and 19th Century.
I think that her ability to mock the things that she obviously saw on a daily basis shows how deeply intelligent Jane Austen was – how she saw past the trivial things, and used them as joke fodder to make a very interesting statement.
Jane Austen so clearly understood the world that she lived in, and the limitations it afforded onto both women and people without money. Although she dealt with the subject of sexism and classism in a very light-hearted and humorous way, her books clearly demonstrate how ridiculous and completely laughable it was that all women could do in order to help themselves was to marry young and marry well.
Not to mention the fact that men like Mr Darcy, Edward Ferrars and Henry Tilney marry the women for their minds and their personalities – nothing else. They appear to have no want for money or status, which all of Jane Austen’s female protagonists lack in her novels.
Obviously in comparison to the likes of the Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, Austen’s books seem like the fluffliest and most unprogressive pieces of writing to have ever been written. And people behaving the way that they do in her novels in today’s society would be seen as a huge step backwards. But when analysed on their own I think they can be taken as they were truly intended – as a satirical critique on 1700’s/1800’s society.