Posted by: hellonhairylegs | December 7, 2008

On Reading Austen

Austen creates a vivid picture of the world she lived in. The endings are a letdown, but the journey and the plot points have the power to inspire the imagination. Her characters seem almost real and the friendships between women are enough to keep me reading even if the story runs dry.

Regarding the language use, sometimes it is just out of sync with the modern content (“formed an attachment”), sometimes the meaning has changed quite a lot over time (“penetration” “ejaculation”) and sometimes it is all too revealing (“she was his object”). It is still readable without much effort.

If I had to do an adaptation I would set it in a dystopic world with many explosions and gun fights in between the actual plot, just to horrify the Austen fans I know in real life. The sexuality switching would be icing on the cake.

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Responses

  1. I couldn’t stand Austen for a long time simply due to the inevitability of marriage for all her heroines, but there is some great commentary in there at times. In Pride and Prejudice, for instance, both Elizabeth and Jane think about how dreadful it is that Lydia is going to be forced into marriage with Wickham, simply because she violated social mores, and the unhappy marriages between Mr and Mrs Bennett, and Charlotte and Mr. Collins clearly show that compulsory heterosexual monogamy can be a terrible thing.

    I think one thing that helped me change my views on Austen was recognising how sarcastic she often is. In my opinion, Mansfield Park is an entirely sarcastic novel– it’s the only one that has her heroine becoming narrower as the novel develops– all the others are enriched by learning about the broader world, while Fanny ends up in this enclosed little incestuous space. It’s such a different trajectory to all the others that I can’t help but think that we’re supposed to be sceptical towards it.

    Having said that, I can totally see Lizzie Bennet running off with Elinor Dashwood, y/y? 🙂

  2. I’d pay money to see the adaptation with explosions.

    I also really really want a full-blown Bollywood adaptation of Northanger Abbey.

    I’ll have to re-read Mansfield Park under the assumption that it’s sarcastic at some point. It makes sense; the virtuous protagonist and the sinning Maria both wind up with essentially the same punishment — banishment to a remote house with an insufferable housemate who has all the freedoms. In fact, Maria fares better in that she is on more equal standing with her housemate than Fanny is with her husband, to whom she is legally enslaved.

  3. I love Austen. I think she’s very funny, and the omnipresence of marriage doesn’t bother me because I’m pretty sure she does that to highlight the injustice (and also the stunting effect on women’s minds) of economic dependence on men.

    I just finished reading Emma, and the title character’s snobbery and classism annoyed me a lot (she steers her friend and protegee away from marrying a man she — the friend — likes, and who likes her too, because she thought the man was too poor and not well-connected), but I couldn’t see it as just a reflection on Emma herself. It’s made clear enough by the fates of various characters that a woman has to be super-attentive to the socioeconomic status of the family she marries into, because that’s the sole determinant of her future quality of life.

    I am in favor of any and all slash you might care to produce.

  4. I read her for the first time when I was fourteen.
    It seemed to me that the subtext was “look at this, isn’t this an absurd system?”. I agreed that it was indeed still an absurd system, two hundred years later.
    In rereading her work as I grew older, I discovered that I had missed some really good bits or irony.


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