Like most women, I imagine, the works of Jane Austen have been truly inspiring in my life. It gave me fantastic (both good and bad meaning of the word) ideas of relationships and especially of men. If you were to ask me or anyone else which character I most identify with, it would be Elizabeth Bennett naturally. She is smart and witty, but gives far too much credence to her own opinions and judgments, thus pride and prejudice. Yet, I identify with Darcy as well; he is rough around the edges, a great guy, but often comes off quite badly. And of course, he struggles with the same dilemma as Elizabeth- he is too quick to believe his own notions. These characters- this story makes so much sense to me. In some ways, I can only hope that my relationship can be built upon such passion albeit misguided from time to time.
Another Jane Austen work that I love is Sense & Sensibility. Now I cannot relate to either Marianne or Elinor, they are on such different sides of the spectrum. I would love to have the passion that Marianne possesses, to give herself so completely without regard to the future and her expression of all of her feelings. It’s not something I can even admit to having- I’m a naturally cautious person, and giving myself completely to something or someone is quite possibly one of the scariest things you can do. So it is in this sense, that I understand Elinor, reserved and subtle, feeling and yet passive. And what of the men? Colonel Brandon is the most upright, and Edward is a bit like Elinor; trying to do the right thing but not really considering himself or his feelings. Just too much passivity for both men. But Willoughby? He’s a great character.
Willoughby is passion, but guided, almost calculated passion. Wiloughby knows what he wants yet he submits to what he thinks needs, and he is not upright at all. There are so many people in this world like that; taking what they want and then leaving it for what they THINK they need.
There are too many Willoughbys with this attitude of taking and taking, but when it’s time for giving, they cannot follow through for whatever reason. That is the lesson Austen aims to teach over and over again. Perseverance. We break our hearts but they will mend and we’ll learn to not be fooled by the people who cannot stick around and to wait for the person who has been or will be there all along.
And this is the biggest lesson of all- you are going to be offered chances in your life to walk away from something that seems hard and impossible. And you could be like all the Willoughbys and do that, and no one will judge you for it. But you have to make the other chances to find a solution to an impossible problem, to work through something that is difficult and scary. And if it’s love- isn’t it worth it? That’s what Jane tells us, love is always worth it, and if you cannot overcome the difficulties, question the strength and the passion of this so-called love. In the end, Emma realized her affections for Mr. Knightley, Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy found a way to get past all their confusion, Anne and Sir Walter overcame the past and were persuaded by their undying feelings, Fanny rejoiced in the compassion of her Edmund, Catherine’s overactive imagination don’t keep her away from Henry, and lastly, Elinor shows her true feelings when Edward works through his passivity while Marianne will never forgive or forget her Willoughby– she can find happiness with the stable and kind Colonel Brandon. These may be just characters in stories from a place far away and in a time different than ours, but if they can work it out- why can’t we?