Elizabeth+Fitzwilliam 4EVA!


Like Janet, I don’t remember precisely when I started reading Jane Austen. I do know it was early on, because I’m pretty sure I read Pride & Prejudice when my family was living in New Hampshire, and we moved away after sixth grade.

I was lucky enough to be raised in a household filled with books, and with a person–my dad–who loved language and wordplay. And consequently I had a huge vocabulary for my age, as well as an appreciation for Austen’s wry, witty commentary on society and life in general. I specifically loved her portrayal of Mrs. Bennet, whose machinations I saw through because of Austen’s inciteful skewering.

Plus it had a love story! And even though I read the book multiple (MULTIPLE!) times, I was never quite sure it would end up happily ever after. I saw the movie with Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier, and loved that, too.

At the same time, I was reading and re-reading Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, and in hindsight I can see those three books completely defined me as a writer and a reader. I read other Austens, too, but Pride & Prejudice had–and continues to hold–a special place in my heart.

When I was 15, I dated the captain of the football team (yes–really!) and made him watch that version of Pride & Prejudice with me (and what does it say that he actually watched it?). My husband puts up with me sighing over men in cravats, and promises to read Austen someday himself (he read Emma in college, but his teacher does not appear to have understood Austen’s wit).

Austen’s legacy to me, and to romance writers in general, is that it is indeed possible to write a fantastic, heart-wrenching love story that nonetheless disperses a wider commentary on society, offers clever writing, and can surpass its tag of ‘romance.’

Thanks, Jane.

What do you think Austen’s best legacy is? Is your favorite part the wit, the love story, the characters, the setting or something else?

Megan

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Diane Gaston
13 years ago

Oh, great blog, Megan.

I think Austen’s great legacy is that she showed that stories about ordinary (well not quite ordinary) people pursuing life’s ordinary goals can make for riveting literature! Surely the people in her time period recognized this and her themes were universal enough that we recognize them today!

I’m over at Fresh Fiction and nobody’s commenting! I’m blogging about Regency Christmases. Come by so I don’t get lonely (or embarrassed)

http://tinyurl.com/4co3xk

Pam Rosenthal
13 years ago

Yes, great post.

The power that JA has over me, Megan, is that she managed to invent the romance novel as we know it while also making huge, central contributions to the novel (or perhaps, ahem… The Novel) as well.

These are not the same thing, but they are also not entirely separate (and it depends which of her novels you’re talking about). It’s more like a complicated, sexy dance between like and unlike, done throughout an all-too-short creative lifetime.

I’m going to be speaking at a Popular Culture Assn panel on romance next April, and while my presentation will not be about JA per se (more about some very successful romance novels of the last decade or so), my thoughts on JA will underlie everything I say.

Maureen McGowan
13 years ago

Great post, Megan.

For me, I think it’s the characters and the wit. I guess those two combine. But no matter how many times I read the scene where Mr. Collins proposes to Elizabeth I snort with laughter. Darcy’s first proposal is pretty funny, too.

Gotta love a writer that can make bad proposal scenes hilarious.

Elena Greene
13 years ago

For me, one of Austen’s greated legacies is the creation of characters who are multi-dimensional, neither idealized or overly villainized (I think I just made up that word!) but much like people we know–and in making us look at them with fresh eyes.

And yes, in making us laugh. πŸ™‚

Elena Greene
13 years ago

Um, that was “greatest” not “greated”. Snow day, kids underfoot, fast typing.

Lois
13 years ago

I thought of a few things, including what you already put. . . but in the end, I almost figure that it’s the happily ever after. With everything that we like put together, in the end, we feel nice and satisfied the Lizzie and Darcy are together (or fill in your favorite couple LOL). . . all the separate things that make Jane great all come together at the end. But my reasoning is true probably for all of us and why we read romances. . . so I wonder if my reasoning is true for those who don’t read romances, but reread Jane plenty. πŸ™‚

Lois

Megan Frampton
13 years ago

Hey, thanks for all the love, guys! I think you’re all right, she offers way more than just one great aspect, which is why she continues to entertain us, 200 years after the fact.

Cara King
13 years ago

I think one thing that sticks in my mind is how insightful she could be about human nature. When I’m reading a novel written 200 years ago, about people with very different lives than mine, and still have one of those “Oh, that is SO true, I know someone who said/did exactly that!” moments, it’s really powerful…

Cara

LadyDoc
13 years ago

For me, Austen’s greatest gift is the way she uses the language.

English is often derided as a language that is not “pretty” to listen to. Austen’s writing makes one WANT to hear English. The sounds do not matter but the way she puts words together is just marvelous.

Amanda McCabe
13 years ago

“I think one thing that sticks in my mind is how insightful she could be about human nature.”

This is so true. The very best books, the ones that stay with us and last, do always seem to have something true and timeless to say about people! People how they really are–messy, wonderful, dumb, wise, whatever (Lizzie Bennet is great, so witty and loving, but also sometimes willfully blind and stubborn).

Villainized definitely seems like a word to me, Elena! πŸ™‚

Amanda McCabe
13 years ago

Oh, and I like the title of the post, too, Megan πŸ™‚

janegeorge
13 years ago

How do I say this? For me, the draw is her objectivity with attachment. She’s an insider’s outsider, so SO observant, often derisive but never condemning of common human-ness. (I needed a word less loaded than “humanity” so I made one up.)

Maureen
13 years ago

I think it is her characters that I like so much. They are real people who are not perfect but she lets you see what motivates them.

Virginia
13 years ago

From what I have heard everything about Ausien is fantastic and it would have to be to still be around after all these years.

Louisa Cornell
13 years ago

I love her wit and her insight on the nature of the human condition. I think she opened the door for that sort of insight into characters and why they do and feel the things they do.

Her legacy is elegantly written prose about the most fundamental and basic wants and needs of humanity with a touch of wit and a lot of class!

Kammie
13 years ago

My favorite parts are the combination of the love story, characters and wit. I love all of it!. Oh, and the settings, enough to make a girl dream. lol

Keira Soleore
13 years ago

Megan, it says, “You are such a hawt chick that even the most popular jock would see a chick flick for you.” Now the test is: Did he go on to become an English Lit major?

What I find fascinating about Jane is that her books are just as relevant today as they were when she wrote them. Despite advances in technology, changes in women’s rights, and cultural mods, the core issues remain unchanged.

Deborah
Deborah
13 years ago

I enjoy her characters and her wit. Oh, and the happily ever after is great, too!

Susan Wilbanks
13 years ago

I so wish I’d been able to post more this week! We’re snowed in, which has paradoxically given me less free time. I figured out how to remote into my office computer from home, and I want to catch up on absolutely EVERYTHING before leaving for two weeks out of town on Tuesday, so I’ve been a busy, cranky little worker bee these past three days. Sigh.

One of the many things I love about Austen is how real and vivid her communities of characters are. Meryton and Highbury and all the rest feel almost as real to me as Seattle or Philadelphia or anywhere else I’ve ever lived.

Megan, my husband gained all kinds of credibility the week we met by talking about the paper on Pride & Prejudice he wrote for high school English. Now…well, he too puts up with me sighing over men in cravats. He seems to believe that All Women Everywhere are into Colin Firth’s Mr. Darcy, however, and has never quite believed my insistence that I’m actually not that into Firth and would rather spend time with Sean Bean’s Sharpe and Ioan Gruffudd’s Hornblower.