Classic Remarks is a classic literature meme hosted by Pages Unbound. Questions/discussions are posted on Fridays, and this week I’ve decided to participate in the meme!
This week’s question is:
Some argue Jane Austen writes “fluff” and others argue she belongs in the canon because she writes witty social commentary. Do you think Austen belongs in the canon? Why or why not?
And my answer?
Jane Austen absolutely, positively belongs in the canon.
And here are my reasons why.
Her books have classic plotlines. From Elizabeth and Darcy’s hate-to-love relationship in Pride and Prejudice, to Marianne’s falling for the bad boy in Sense and Sensibility, you’ve got the meddling matchmaker who messes everything up in Emma, the active imagination in Northanger Abbey, and the long-suffering love in Persuasion.
You may have noticed that I skipped Mansfield Park. That is because I can’t recall anything about it. I’ve read it, but did not like it, and it is by far my least favorite of Austen’s novels. So because I can’t really remember it, I’m not going to discuss it here. But it certainly was not “fluff”.
There are many plots that can be traced back to Jane Austen. I’d argue that any romantic comedy that starts out with the couple fighting and disliking each other at first sight can be directly tied to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, which is, in my opinion, the best enemies-to-lovers book ever written. It’s simply classic. Rich, arrogant man insults poor, headstrong woman? Love is born, and in such a short phrase: “She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me.” Oh and then Darcy continues on with this gem, “I am in no humour at present to give consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men.” And then once Darcy realizes that he is in love with Elizabeth and goes about with the rudest declaration of marriage ever? Her scathing response is a classic, and one I would love to be able to utter someday. Here’s the last line of her response: “I had not known you a month before I felt that you were the last man in the world whom I could ever be prevailed on to marry.” OUCH.
Jane Austen’s writing is witty, sharp, and elegant. I can’t explain it better than Jane herself, so here are some of my favorite quotes:
“Five hundred a year! I am sure I cannot imagine how they will spend half of it; and as to your giving them more, it is quite absurd to think of it. They will be much more able to give you something.” – Sense and Sensibility
“The more I know of the world, the more am I convinced that I shall never see a man whom I can really love. I require so much!” – Sense and Sensibility
“I may have lost my heart, but not my self-control.” – Emma
“Vanity working on a weak head produces every sort of mischief.” – Emma
“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.” – Pride and Prejudice
“An unhappy alternative is before you, Elizabeth. From this day you must be a stranger to one of your parents. Your mother will never see you again if you do not marry Mr. Collins, and I will never see you again if you do.” – Pride and Prejudice
“In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.” – Pride and Prejudice
“You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope.” – Persuasion
Her works are still discussed and are relevant in today’s world. Falling in love with your best friend? It’s in an Austen book. Left penniless and heartbroken? It’s there. Did you dump the love of your life because your friend told you to and now you regret it? Oh yeah. In there. Have a sister who is your complete opposite? Have an annoying friend who is secretly engaged to your love? Chosen money over love? Is your mother trying to marry you off? Do you have embarrassing family members? A scheming sister-in-law? Annoying neighbors? Ever read a scary story and had your imagination run wild? Have you tried to set your friend up just to have the guy fall for you? Just change the setting and the outfits, and you’ve got sparkling commentary on love and life that is relevant to today. Just ask Cher Horowitz from Clueless (in case you didn’t know, Clueless is a modern retelling of Austen’s Emma).
There are many more reasons why Jane Austen belongs in the canon of classic literature; I’ve just mentioned a few here. Do you like Jane Austen? Or are you baffled by the older language and phrasing she uses? Do you find her dry and boring, or lively and fascinating? Which is your favorite Austen? Your least favorite? Do tell!! My book club read Sense and Sensibility this summer, and I was really surprised by our discussion earlier this month and how many in the club did not care for Austen’s writing style, but had deep respect for it and her plots. What do you think? Tell me!
And for the record, my favorite Jane Austen work is Persuasion and my least favorite is Mansfield Park. My favorite of Austen’s female characters is Elizabeth from Pride and Prejudice and my favorite Austen man is Colonel Brandon from Sense and Sensibility.