Monday, February 15, 2010

Jane Austen

Arwen on Faith and Family Live wrote this post, at the end of which she asks "How do you feel about Jane Austen's works?"

It so happens that I have been reading Jane Austen's books for the first time recently and had a few observations, which I meant to write down eventually. So I am just going to paste my comment on her post here:

I remember my sister read Pride and Prejudice back in high school, but I never did. It wasn't on our reading list in English Litterature. She enjoyed it, but I never got around to reading any Jane Austen books until my sister-in-law (who also happens to be a Jane) lent me Emma. This year, being quite tired of reading books in which the characters all go on about Jane Austen books and Wuthering Heights and the like, I went on and bought myself 4 of Jane Austen's books (Pride &Prejudice, Sense & Sensibility, Emma, and Persuasion) plus Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre. I read Wuthering Heights first, and found it very dark, although the ending finally makes up for the rest of the book.

I enjoyed the first three Jane Austen books (am starting Persuasion now), but I suspect that I will enjoy them even better perhaps a second time around, once I have gotten used to the strange turns of phrase and the words or expressions which have since taken on a slightly different meaning. (Such as lover or to make love, but also to be sensible that...)

I actually find Shakespeare easier to read, probably because I am more used to the language, but also because Jane Austen tends to use a lot of run-on sentences, and by the time I have finished the sentence, I am not quite sure what the beginning was, and I have to go over some of them 2 or 3 times before I can make out what she is really saying. Sometimes it starts out like she is saying one thing, but then the end of the sentence sounds like she meant the opposite. It gets confusing.

Other than that, I really liked Pride and Prejudice. Jane Austen has deep insight into human character. It also seems to me that she lived among many people who, thanks to fortune inherited, had grown up quite conceited and spoiled, and knew not how to work, nor had any inclination to either working nor bettering themselves. There seem to be more insupportable characters in her stories than truly interesting ones.

Upper class people of her day seem to have nothing better to do than invite each other to dinner, have parties, or go dine at someone else's house out of sheer boredom. Presumably because of the lack of any day job. Or any work to do at all.

It is quite the window into the type of life upper class people of her time lived. I think, personally, I would rather have been the wife of one of the tradespeople in the villages, who are barely even mentioned in her stories at all, almost as if they did not even exist. Which is kind of significant to how they were viewed by the upper class people.