Thursday, December 16, 2010

A Cause for Celebration - Jane Austen Turns 235!

It's officially the 235th anniversary of Jane Austen's birthday. If there was ever cause for celebration, today is certainly the day.Without the achievements of this woman, the literary world (not to mention this blog) would be sorely deprived.

If you can't already tell from the name of this blog, its purpose, or its hero-like appreciation of Jane, please allow me to give you a better idea of why I so admire this literary figure.

Quite simply, Jane Austen saved my born-in-the-wrong-time-period soul and captured my heart with her unforgettable characters and patent use of satire.

All this and I hadn't even met Mr. Darcy yet.

I never realized when I picked up my first copy of Sense and Sensibility that one woman's words would eventually come to hold such sway over my life. The more I read, the more I fell in love with the novels. 

I constantly found myself daydreaming about taking tea with Elinor Dashwood, hiding from the shrieking calls of Mrs. Bennet, exploring the Abbey with Catherine Morland and meddling in matchmaking with Emma Woodhouse. 

The possibilities were limitless when I was in the company of Jane's novels. Her comic barbs in examining 18th century society were also factors that hooked me. Of course, practicing this satirical social commentary on my fellow middle-schoolers was never very successful (not many American teenagers fully grasped 18th century English), but it was one of many Jane Austen pleasures to be had. 

Whether you love Jane's work or hate it (blasphemous indeed), it cannot be denied that she had talent and keen observation skills. Just look at how her work has stood the test of time--it's a marker by anyone's standards. If you've never read any of her work on the basis of it being deemed "romantic fluff," look beyond what the critics have to say and be your own judge. 

Jane never enjoyed much critical praise while she was alive, but that didn't stop her from writing. The same sort of stereotypes shouldn't stop you reading her work. You might be surprised at how much you enjoy and learn from them.

There's always time for tea with Jane
However you choose to honor Jane's memory on this December 16, take a moment for a cup of tea and perhaps a rereading of your favorite passage from one of her novels. Personally, Captain Wentworth's love letter to Anne Elliot in Persuasion tops my list. A fabulous rendition of the letter can be found in the 1995 film version of the novel.

So here is a very Happy Birthday to you, Jane. Literature, daydreams of Bath, and a strong cup of tea just wouldn't be the same without you. A girl simply couldn't ask for a better guide to life.