Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Friday, March 24, 2017

Not right assumptions regarding Jane Austen

A report of an alarming nature has reached me,as well as many others, of late about a new set of Jane Austen admirers, with their attentions and intentions being less than admirable.

The "alt-right", as they call themselves are insistent that the works of Jane Austen validate many of their erroneous viewpoints, one of which being that she would be a proponent of "traditional marriage."

Clearly these people have not read her books or know anything of the social standards of that time period. A traditional marriage in Austen's day was one based on social and financial compatibility instead of love, a system that she clearly bucked at every turn in her novels, not only Pride and Prejudice but even in later works such as Mansfield Park and Emma.

One of the best known sections of the book has Mr. Knightley and Emma quarreling over the martial prospects of Harriet Smith and while Emma interfered with that relationship for her own selfish reasons, some of her points do make sense in regards to how women were viewed during that era:

Later on in the story, Emma declares that she has no intention of being married herself as she "neither lacks fortune or consequence", a rather revolutionary statement there.

I suspect that many of these wrong headed folk are quick to assume that because a strong portion of Austen's audience is female and her stories take place in a long ago England(during the Georgian/Regency period and not the Victorian era as an infamous lout has mistakenly claimed), that her writing is of the Mary meek and mild category.

Those of us,all around the world, I might add, who have taken the time to thoroughly read her work along side enjoying the numerous film and TV adaptations of her stories, are fully aware of the sharp jabs at society she makes under the guise of a romance, touching upon the role of women in society and abuse of power by others. Her points may be subtle ones yet they are there, if one only looks at the full picture she paints.

Also, her leading ladies, for the most part, are women who know their own mind and when push comes to shove, will stand up against unasked for aggression and hold their own. Elizabeth Bennet comes readily to mind here and as well mannered as she is, Elizabeth refuses to be bullied by anyone regardless of "rank":

In fact, Austen was such a forward thinker for her day that it's no surprise that not only have her six novels and other writings have aced the test of time but that they adapt well to modern times.

From Clueless to The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, Austen's themes of people being pigeonholed by social hierarchy, intolerance of others from different walks of life and disrespect of women's rights are sadly as relevant today as they were in her time.

Even her most obnoxious characters, such as Lady Catherine, Aunt Norris and the toadying Mr. Collins, seem all too true to life and much like we're doing these days, their follies were coped with through humor and holding firm when necessary:

Hopefully, some of these narrow minded people will actually read Austen's books and perhaps expand their political and social horizons there. Any truly good book can do that, if you only let it.

In the meantime, I would strongly advise against misusing the excellent name of Jane Austen by such short minded opportunists as her devoted readers will feel honor bound to #FreeJaneAusten from their clutches. Certainly any future leadership that holds true to Jane Austen's sterling examples of the greater good will be more generous to all members of society than the current one appears to be:

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