Home  |  Reviews  |  Vlogs  |  Interviews  |  Guest Posts  |  Fairy Tales  |  Jane Austen  |  Memes  |  Policies

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Unforgivable Austen: a Colorful Conversation

One of my absolute favorite things to put together each year is the various incarnations of the "Janeite Conversation". It's this absurd little brain child I had a few years ago, where, as I was coming up with the round of interview questions I was going to send out to participating authors, I thought, Wouldn't it be fun to pick apart everyone's answers and then rework them in to one longer piece on a particular question, so that it's almost like we're all sat around a table, chatting Austen?
Yes, I thought. Yes, it would. I mean, I was already sending the authors the same set of questions, anyway, because I like to see the variation in answers. Why not really make the most of that variation, and treat it like a dialogue, a debate?  And though it can be an absolute pain to edit, it is fun!  So here is the first of this year's round of questions, and it's actually one of my favorites. . .

Unforgivable Austen: What one thing about any of Austen's works unsettles you, irritates you, irks you to no end? (Characters, incidents, inconsistencies?)
MISTY: As I said, this is one of my favorite questions, in all of the many, many questions that we've discussed in our colorful conversations. Strange as it is to say, sometimes one of the joys of loving a book are the parts you don't love -- or love to hate. We all love to hate a good villain, and all that. It's often what drives the book. BUT ALSO, I think there are parts of books that we love that are sometimes just plain problematic, and though we may not love them in any capacity (not even loving to hate), they're just as interesting to discuss as the things we do love. So what say you all?
Just over here, quietly plotting how to
make your life hell...
What can't you forgive our Jane for? I think I've gone on record a fair few times with my absolute loathing of Mrs. Norris from MP. . .
MARIA: Aunt Norris in Mansfield Park also drive me crazy. She is such a horrible manipulator!
MISTY: GAH! I just want to shake that woman until her teeth rattle!
MARGARET: I have a really hard time with Captain Wentworth at the beginning of Persuasion, and with his comments about Anne, that he wouldn't have known her. And don't give me that he didn't realize they would be repeated back to her. He was telling her sister! He had to know she would hear about it!
MISTY: Yes! He was downright cruel and spiteful to Anne, on more than one occasion, and though I get that he was wounded, or whatever, that's a personality trait that I find hard to reconcile. Especially because it makes me wonder what kind of life Anne -- the pushover, the pacifist -- is in for, whenever she displeases him. . .
MARGARET: However, I get over it right about at "You pierce my soul."
MISTY: As do we all. . .  We're such suckers.
LISA: It bothers me in Sense and Sensibility that Marianne Dashwood seems to be to Colonel Brandon pretty much a doppelganger of his lost love Eliza.
MISTY: God, yes! I feel like I'm always the sourpuss when people discuss this book, raising my hand timidly (ha!) and interjecting, Um, excuse me, but...
LISA: Nobody wants to be just a stand-in: why not have the colonel fall in love with the beautiful, gifted Marianne without the clunky backstory?
MISTY:  But it's not just that! I mean, I can eventually get over the fact that Marianne's a do-over for Brandon, because I can reason it away that the reminder is just what made him turn his eye toward her, and not what made him keep it there (even though it still bothers me... I can mostly pretend it doesn't.) But even if you can gel with why Brandon loves her, what about why Marianne loves him? Disappointed hopes and a near-death experience make her realize she can love him? *scoff* I can't ever reconcile to myself that Marianne settles; I've touched on this somewhat before (a time or two), and I can see some romance in it, and some potential, it has just never sat right with me. It's never seemed like the ending either of them deserved.
LISA: By the way, I can forgive Austen for what seems like a significant plot flaw because she was, after all, only in her 20s when she wrote S&S. (I’m also taking the high road because my first novel, written when I was 24, is being reissued next year, and I hope it will be received with just such a tolerant eye.)
My dear, just how little can we reasonably get away with,
and still pretend to be magnanimous?
MISTY: Haha, fair enough! Speaking of things that don't sit right with the Dashwoods—
CECILIA: John's treatment of the Dashwoods after his father's death.
MISTY:  Thank you!! Oh my god, speaking of characters that I want to teeth-rattling-shake! John and Fanny are hiiiiiiiigh on that list!
CECILIA: Some things are sacred, and John craps over the overlapping venn diagram trifecta of dying wish, familial obligation, and general decency. HELL TO PAY.
MISTY:  *raised fist*
MARIA: It is kind of a toss up between two I think. One is Lady Susan. I just can’t stomach the idea that she was trying to steal her DAUGHTER’s suitor. That is just seriously icky!
MISTY: That is seriously icky! *shudder* Speaking of icky. . .
LAURIE: Mr. Collins is so “altogether a mixture of pride and obsequiousness, self-importance and humility” that it’s sometimes downright painful to read his scenes.
MISTY: Or watch his portrayals onscreen. . .
LAURIE: This, of course, is the comic genius of Jane Austen, that she was able to create one of the most irritating creatures ever to rise from the primordial ooze and still make us laugh.
MISTY:  I feel the same about Mary Musgrove in Persuasion. But, you know...with teeth rattling. I couldn't even bring myself to defend Mary awhile back... even when I could defend Mrs. Norris! But yeah, Collins is a whole different beast!
LAURIE: The worst offense in Mr. Collins’ arsenal—and there are several—resides in his proposal to Elizabeth Bennet. I’m talking about the whole ladies-say-no-but-really-mean-yes theme. For as he so eloquently puts it, “ it is usual with young ladies to reject the addresses of the man whom they secretly mean to accept, when he first applies for their favour; and…sometimes the refusal is repeated a second or even a third time." Hmmm. That is either a let’s-have-a-laugh-at-clueless-Collins scene, or a clip from law and order special victims unit.
My noble patroness, the Lady Catherine de Bourgh, thinks my
greasy hair is just the thing for a humble country clergyman!
MISTY: You know, I've never given it too much thought, just because it seemed like a sign of the times, and because Collins is so ABSOLUTELY clueless, but yeah!
LAURIE: Not to mention Elizabeth’s mother’s role in this whole marriage-pimping scheme. As far as she’s concerned, it’s yes please buy my daughter marry my daughter and use her as your sex toy/breeding machine “add very greatly to [your] happiness” so that I don’t have to move out of this house when my husband kicks the bucket.
MISTY:  Aaaaaaand breathe! Man, it must be exhausting to be Mrs. Bennet. *winks, but awkwardly, because winks are awkward by default* I have many more, and could go on for daaaays, so we may have to do a round two of this next year, but until then, let's continue in the comments! Let us know some of the things you find unforgivable!

Big thanks to:
Maria Grace, author of Mistaking Her Character, et al.
Cecilia Gray, author of The Jane Austen Academy series
Lisa Pliscou, author of Young Jane Austen
Margaret C. Sullivan, author of Jane Austen Cover to Cover, et al.
Laurie Viera Rigler, author of the Jane Austen Addict series

Click here to return to the Austen in August Main Page


  1. "Marianne's a do-over for Brandon" lololololol - spit out my coffee this morning, THANKS MISTY

  2. It must be hard to be Mr. Bennet, but the way he treats Mrs. Bennet is hard to take sometimes!

  3. LMAO at Laurie's SVU comment. Seeing Mr. Collins as a sexual predator....gah! Even more creeped out by him now.

    With regard to S&S, though- Austen wrote manners novels, not romances (although clearly she thought lasting happiness in a marriage as the ultimate goal for women- amid a culture that focused on just the marriage bit). And considering that "sensibility" was 1800s slang for "being susceptible to great bouts of feeling" (NOT being possessed of common sense or sentimental philosophy), making Marianne the embodiment of that Romantic (Bronte, etc.) concept that love is a huge life-changing thunderclap, something Austen clearly disagreed with....it seems fitting that her end isn't romantic and sweeping, but tender, kind and steady. She ends up happy, just not in the Romantic way. No huge gestures or certainty, but a lasting happiness regardless.

    1. Oh, I have no qualms with the way Austen wrote it for its purpose -- I just can't view it as a happy or satisfactory ending for them, as is. Maybe with more time, or with less baggage, but as is, all I see is settling and disappointed hopes. It's a sad, bittersweet ending (and that I actually like -- I just feel bad for them both, at the same time).

    2. I'm also not as convinced of either's lasting happiness. The potential is there, but so is the chance for both of them to come to their senses, you know? I just feel like, Brandon's gonna wake up one day and say, "Marianne is not a substitute for my first love" and Marianne's gonna wake up looking for the passion she's missing.

    3. Goodness, that's even more sad! Can you imagine? :(
      (and now I kind of want to write that....)

  4. Well that was good for some giggles. I kept nodding my head over each new 'irritation'. I wanted to do bodily violence to the annoying John Thorpe who I couldn't decide if he was clueless or conniving or maybe a bit of both.

    1. Ughhh, Thorpe! I can't decide on that, either. Total dolt, or cunning? WHO KNOWS! lol!

  5. Am ROFL at Misty's captioning of Mr. Collins's photo. Fun!!

  6. Collins is so creepy. And the photo of Collins shows it perfectly.

    1. Haha! It was actually a difficult decision between this photo and one from the 2005 version, where Collins is bowing and then looks up from under his brow. Looks so damn creepy! lol


Tell me all your thoughts.
Let's be best friends.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...