My favorite author by far has to be Jane Austen. Reading her books is like peeking into an everyday life from the past. I can feel the busyness of doing nothing. I can smell the fresh country air or the damp smoky air of London. But mostly I can identify with many of her characters.
I love the book Pride and Prejudice and feel the burden that Mrs. Bennet feels in having all daughters and no son. Not having a son was such a financial problem for her. She also worries about her daughters and wants to see them well settled in life. What Mother doesn’t want that for her children? I can empathize with Miss Jane Bennet as she is so shy and doesn’t allow even her closest sister Elizabeth to know her deepest feelings. I also can empathize with Miss Elizabeth’s observations of life and how she speaks often before thinking of how it may sound. Oh and who doesn’t just love Mr. Darcy, tall, handsome, proper and rich Mr. Darcy! Aww!!!
I also really enjoy Jan Austen’s novel Emma. Highbury sounds like such a lovely place to live where the society is gentle but not boring. Emma is so young yet she thinks she knows almost everything! Oh but she has so much to learn. Meddling in other people’s lives may be her calling but it doesn’t always turn out the way she intends. Boy I can identify with that, can’t you? Then of course the stable and kind Mr. Knightly who always seems to be wise and engaging is someone worth getting to know. We all need friends like Mr. Knightly, so kind to all but especially to Miss Bates. Poor Miss Bates, poor, poor Miss Bates. Having once been part of the upper echelon of society in Highbury she and her Mother are now poor and dependent upon kind friends to have enough food to eat and wood for the stove. No wonder Miss Bates talks all the time, she must be so nervous and anxious about her daily needs being met. I can really identify with her loss in financial status and her downward spiral in the standing with her peers. We are not really told what has happened to make the Bates as poor as a church mouse but somehow I suspect it might have been unpleasant. Kind of like my circumstances and so I can really associate with their plight. Watching Emma grow up within the pages of Miss Austen’s novel is a pleasure for sure.
Who can ever forget Miss Fanny Price in Mansfield Park when she is torn away from the only home she has ever known and is placed into her wealthy relative’s, the Bertram’s, mansion! Being a poor relative and always being reminded of being a poor relative must have been so hard for her. Yet she was so sweet-natured that she took it all in stride and made the best of her life. I can certainly identify with her attitude and it is such an encouragement that she sticks to her convictions. She was the light shining into the dark hearts of her inner circle and she remained faithful to the end. She showed all who read her story that good does not come with wealth or bad from poverty. I just love that about this book.
Who doesn’t love remembering Miss Austen’s first publication, Sense and Sensibility chronicling the story of the Dashwood family and their loss of the Norland estate. We are reminded that second marriages were no more appreciated back then than they may be today. While there was no wicked step-mother I think we can safely reveal that there was a very self-centered and almost evil half-sister-in-law in Mrs. John Dashwood! She was so unkind to Miss Elinor, Miss Marianne, and their younger sister Miss Margaret. We go through the ups and downs of relationships with the Miss Dashwood’s and their learning about the real world of their day. It wasn’t what they knew but who they knew that made the difference for them and that is certainly something I can identify with.
Then comes one of my favorite stories Persuasion which is the story of love in early life lost but found again in middle age. We see the pride and vanity of the Elliot family who are so proud that they refuse to allow their middle daughter Miss Anne to marry Captain Wentworth. Ten years later, considered middle-aged at twenty-nine and after many struggles for poor Miss Anne, she happens quite by accident to meet her cherished Captain who loves her even more than he had before. Watching their love bloom and become exposed is a real treasure. It reminds all of us that love can happen at any time of our lives and that is always hopeful.
Why am I drawn to such books of fiction? I won’t be able to meet these characters in heaven; I won’t be able to sit down and talk with them and ask questions or get answers. I think it is because they tell of a time and place that is far removed from my own era and I like being transported to that place in time. I think it is because those who struggle within the pages of Miss Austen’s books are triumphant in the end and that the selfish and vain characters are shown to be pitied. It may not always be true in our lives that good overcomes evil however in Miss Austen’s books we see that happening. We see people find each other and fall in love and discover along the way to love the truth about life and happiness. We love to see the underdog win because many of us feel like underdogs and we feel we seldom win but Miss Austen’s books give us hope. We hope that one day we will be winners. We love having such hope.
The characters of Miss Austen are people not unlike the people we know today, wouldn’t you say? They struggle with society, culture and sin and entertain us with their struggles. In our homes, down our street, in our communities we all know someone who reminds us of Miss Austen’s characters. We see ourselves and our families, neighbors, acquaintances and friends personalities described by Miss Austen and this, I think, is why her books resonate with so many of us today. If you are honest, which character on the printed page describes you?
I would hope that I have the gentleness and convictions of Miss Fanny Price and that money cannot corrupt me. I would hope that I have the wisdom of Mr. Knightly and always look out for others well-being before my own. I would hope that I am not vain like Mr. and Miss Elliot and that I am not too old to find love again. I would hope that there is a Captain Wentworth out there looking for a past-her-prime overweight kind-hearted God-fearing Christian woman! I would hope. When I think of hope a verse from Proverbs comes to mind.
Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life, Proverbs 13-12, (New International Version).
Miss Austen must have been rather familiar with this scripture as she was a clergyman’s daughter. She has woven hope throughout the pages of her novels and hope really is a scriptural concept. She never married and she died at a relatively young age. Perhaps I will get to visit with her in heaven but of course I won’t know if she is there until I get there. Now that is a hope deferred for sure. I am thankful she was able to publish her writings as I surely do enjoy them. I would love to know if any of you enjoy her writings as well. Let me know please.
Until next time…Katherine