I have often been ridiculed for my irrevocable love for Jane Austen. Somehow, the people around me cannot adjust to the ‘dreary, jaded and cliched’ stories of Jane, often labeling them as predictable. My love for Austen was ignited when I first watched the 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice where a young, green eyed Darcy (the unbelievably gorgeous Matthew MacFadyen) pours his love for the stunning Elizabeth Bennett (Keira Knightley.)
I knew I was hooked and proceeded on reading all of Jane Austen’s works and found in them, a sense of companionship and understanding. Her stories were soothing and were remarkably successful in extirpating, even for a brief period, any strands of hopelessness or grief.
Jane had a proclivity to bestow upon her stories triumphant, happy endings. In Mansfield Park, she remarks, ‘Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery. I quit such odious subjects as soon as I can, impatient to restore everybody, not greatly in fault themselves, to tolerable comfort, and to have done with all the rest.’
December 18th, 2017 will mark 200 years of her death. If the literary genius had even an ounce of idea of what her books have done, how they’re worshiped, vehemently debated and discussed, admired and looked up to, shared and cherished, read in schools and colleges- all this after two complete centuries- she would beam with joy and perhaps tell us a little more about Darcy.
From the surface, and specially to men who find reading drama not ‘masculine’ enough, her books might appear like a simple, everyday romance.
But her stories and characters are unabashedly real. They don’t exude unrealistic courage or over enthusiastic proclamations of love or betrayal. They’re simple, meaningful and are a precise embodiment of human emotions. Her characters are just as vulnerable, and just as unsure as we are. They struggle with human follies, make sacrifices and learn from their mistakes.
Jane’s world in the 18th Century was plagued with patriarchy and subjugation of women. She was a critic of societal hypocrisy and unfairness and made it evident in her novels with sharp criticism masked in solemn observations and witty remarks. So Jane, through her writing, was secretly rebelling against the patriarchy at that time. She created strong female characters who were capable of standing up for themselves- like Elizabeth Bennett or Elinor Dashwood– a trait not much admired by her milieu.
So personally, Jane will always be my respite. Often when I find myself troubled over an issue, I pick my copy of Pride and Prejudice and leaf through its pages; reading lines I’d underlined and paragraphs that still never fail to appease me.
I like to call her work as the modern day rendition of fairy tales. They possess a remarkable healing ability and leave you with an assurance that things will get better. And when the world around you is constantly plagued with hatred, anguish and cold wars, it is soothing to delve deep into a story that promises, unlike the world around you, a happy, satisfied ending.
I will always be grateful that she graced our world. That she created characters that will stay with me, that I look up to. And for giving us hope, that somewhere in a far fetched land, comfortably perched inside a dimly lit cafe, there is a Darcy waiting for us, equally earnest and hopeful.
You can read more of my work here.
If you wish to watch the best adaptation of P&P, watch the BBC 1995 version. It’s precise, sticks to the book and shows the details.
My ranking of Jane Austen’s work:
- Pride and Prejudice.
- Northanger Abbey.
- Sense and Sensibility.
- Mansfield Park.