Jane Austen, author of several renowned romance novels, has prompted contradictory reviews for over two centuries. Some revere her eloquent use of language, embellishing decorous love stories with graceful conversation and charming descriptions. Others deride the curbed and rather verbose quality of each, similarly tedious works. Notorious writer Mark Twain, who harboured a particularly intense enmity, exemplified this criticism by stating, “Everytime I read ‘Pride and Prejudice’ I want to dig her up and beat her over the skull with her own shin-bone.” Truth be told, Austen’s writing technique can be deemed as an acquired taste, appealing to a certain group of people and deterring the rest. There is scant few ways to change one’s literature palate, and, as applicable to most classics, one should only focus upon plot and underlying meaning. However, this aspect of Jane Austen has actually received the most condemn: her works are accused of flippancy, valueless, and eye-roll-worthy happy endings. Tea parties and waltzes are seemingly the predominant themes of her publications, all of which embody a charming quality typical of the meaningless novel. Nevertheless, there is a reason why Austen has withstood the test of time, and it not to torture English Lit students. Entwined within the formal dinner parties and dignified declarations of love is a far deeper meaning than one would infer. Although Jane Austen does not appear to be particularly “modern” to the untrained eye, in truth, she and her characters are far ahead of their times. Present day readers do not easily recognize this fact because they, 200 years later, have become accustomed to concepts and ethics considered aberrant in the nineteenth century. One of these more contemporary ideas, and frequent interloper in Austen’s novels, is love. Back than, the designation was ascribed to people who were compatible in respects to class, money, and heritage. Protagonists in novels such as “Pride and Prejudice” or “Mansfield park” are prone to defy these valued ideals and instead fall in twenty-first-century-love with thoroughly “unsuitable” beaus. This illustrates Jane Austen in more audacious and appealing light, but what truly makes her a must-read author is the authenticity of each book. She, as a member of the gentry, offers a first hand account of what life was like, particularly for women, prior to our modern, more relaxed ideologies. Her readers, although always mollified with some form of happy ending, also gain a better understanding of the limited options open for females at the time. Each novel briefly and distinctly illustrates how dark a unmarried women’s future could be, as well as the reliance married women have upon their husbands. Jane Austen’s characters are generally scorned for their giddy fixation on marriage, yet one can hardly blame them when their entire life is determined almost solely by their spouse. The antiqued society portrayed here is, in the eyes of teens more concerned with their own time period, liable to fade into the obscurity of time, if it were not for Jane Austen. She ensures both her generation’s merits and faults are never impersonalized or forgotten, essentially preserving history in a immaculate collection of romance novels.
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