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Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Unpopular Opinions: Jane Austen Edition

Earlier in the week, we had a post in AUSTEN IN AUGUST about controversial opinions, and I realized later that I had more to say.
A lot more.
Here are my thoughts on some Austen bits that may be fighting words to fellow Janeites. Let me know if you agree or disagree, and your own controversial or unpopular Austen opinions, in the comments!

Controversial Opinions discussion
Austen's "bitches" video
Maria Grace & me discussing Mr Bennet

Jane Austen, Austen in August, blog event, Jane Austen fan fiction, JAFF, The Book Rat, BookRatMisty
Click here to return to the master list of Austen in August posts!


  1. I really loved your thoughts on the dubious happiness of various couples in Austen's novels. Before I go any further, I have to admit I'm writing a S&S variation right now, so I'm wrestling with the Marianne and Brandon relationship myself. This surely colors my own views.

    I think all you've said about the couples makes sense. They have some character flaws and some obstacles that aren't going to disappear after the wedding. The key to whether any of these couples can sustain a happy marriage (not necessarily a HEA -- I don't believe in happily ever after, which suggests to me an unrealistic expectation of bliss, but I do believe in happy marriages, with all their ups and downs): how much of the change that we see in the novels is real change? So, does Wentworth learn to slow down, talk to Anne, listen to her fears and concerns, so that she can come to her own decision? Does Emma, too, learn to slow down -- to stop jumping to conclusions, to instead go to Mr. Knightly with actual evidence for her beliefs, if they're in the midst of a disagreement? Does Marianne learn to look beneath the surface a bit more--and does Brandon, too? Do they both learn to temper their romanticism with an embrace of the mundane joy of everyday life?

    Austen used marriage plots not as a means of writing romance but as a means of exploring human agency -- how much power do we have to alter and change the course of our own lives, particularly when a lot of society seems to be against us? If we believe in the strength of the crises these characters underwent in her novels, I think there's some hope that they will learn to curb their less-than-stellar tendencies. Yes, they will always have their flaws, but I want very much to believe they could use their past experiences -- not to stop future disagreements, but to deal with them more effectively.

    And yes, Caroline Bingley! She's the character I love to hate! But I get what you're saying. How difficult it must have been for her. She followed all of society's rules, only to see her prize snatched away from her by this insolent nobody from the country. I do feel sorry for her -- but only to a point. She's just too much fun to dislike. :-)

    Thanks for the thought-provoking video!

    1. I think, though, that the fact that they have those character flaws and these types of questions come up is a big part of what makes the stories so enduring. It all feels much more real and honest than so much of what we get in stories, typically. I think the point on human agency, and on the exploration of character and what it means to grow and sort of... work towards completion, fulfillment (of which, the marriage plot is an excellent vehicle in metaphor), is the linchpin that holds it all together, or the final burst that takes us to the peak -- it's the hope, the silver lining, that these flawed characters can puzzle-piece their flaws together into a much better picture for them both.

      So many mixed metaphors, but you get me. =D

    2. I love mixed metaphors! Yes, I get you. :-) Thanks for the thoughtful conversation.

  2. I love seeing your unpopular opinions and how your opinions have evolved over the years. I'm actually a Persuasion fan b/c I think they weren't ready in the first place and I think they both had to go through a time of learning and trial to have a better relationship. Maybe, it should have been like many failed first loves and been allowed to fade away, but instead it was revisited and we got a story. I hadn't thought of Wentworth in the way you have. I love that you made me think through if I was still buying in after all these years. I do. I thought he had to have a Louisa fail, a William Elliott causing jealousy, and a moment to see all the familiar players still in place with Anne always quietly being the strong class act in a crisis (even he panicked on the Cobb). I thought Anne's quiet strength got to him this time around.

    As to the others, I've never been an Emma, heroine, fan nor a Marianne fan, but I do love their men... Guess I'll plead indifference to their fates though I agree that the unequal issue is definitely a concern about both those future relationships.

    My big unpopular opinion is that I love Mansfield Park since its usually people's least favorites and I'm a fan of Fanny (again, not a big fav as a heroine). I've always been attracted to quiet strength and I see that in her like I saw in Anne (Persuasion). Granted, she has an appalling taste in men. I do wish for her to have been with Crawford. ;)

    I've never really hated Caroline. She likes to think herself above things, but she was scared spitless of not getting rank in society and wanted more. I can understand that even if I don't condone her actions.

    Mr. Bennet, now there is an intriguing villain. Fatherly neglect that led to a daughter's near ruin and a household and wife in that state would definitely make him a candidate for the list in my books. :)

    1. I agree wholeheartedly that they needed to sort of go through the fire to have a stronger relationship, and like 90% of me thinks it worked beautifully. But the other 10% really questions Wentworth, who should have known her, known what she was already being put through by her family and friends, and not heaped on more, AND wonders if he'll revert to it again.
      Most of me is optimistic. Truly. And I try not to be a downer to myself and just embrace it all, all of the complexities. But some of me will always be like, 'Well, yeah, but...' lol

  3. Watching this video makes me want to read the books again. Just to see if I still feel the same way about Mr Knightley. I read Emma when I was very young and at that time, he fit the general description of what I like in men. In my early twenties, the power dynamic was the last thing I really think about. Now that I am older and my tastes changed a bit, would it still feel the same as when I was in my early twenties?

    Wentworth was always a character I felt more like rather than Anne. I guess that is why at the time I first read Persuasion I did not mind too much. Like Wentworth, I felt the same way when betrayed. Also like him, it took me almost just as long to get over it. Maybe I liked him at that time because I felt like I was going through similar things at that time. I think this is also worth a re-read too.

    I think I would still love them though. What I always loved about Austen was really her wit and writing, but it would be an interesting test.

    1. She really gave us so much to work with.

    2. Maybe it is part of the reason her works are timeless? Even though they are books, they show and not tell. Or at least did enough 'show' to keep the stories interesting. They leave something for us to interpret without someone telling us how to think. Then again, some of my favorite parts are the tell moments because of how witty they were ...

  4. Excellent article. Very interesting to read. I really love to read such a nice article. Thanks! keep rocking. order fulfillment


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