viernes, 2 de diciembre de 2011

On disliking Jane Austen

Another commentary in The Joys of Teaching Literature:

I confess that I don’t share your dislike for Jane Austen, she is a delight to read, whatever her notions (like Milton, or Homer, say) and I’m a sucker for Jane Austen films as well, but anyway, count that out as a personal weakness. Now what I question is when you say take these authors to task for their belief that “a single man may be in want of a wife but remain single, whereas a single woman is always in dire need of finding a husband even when she’s rich” – this assumption is not their own, but their age and culture’s, it’s something like the atmosphere they breathe, so I find it’s unfair to ask them to question it. There are other worlds, but they are (were) in this one. And I think that in this social milieu of course women were (in principle) worse off if they did not get married, they became something like third-class citizens, assuming married women were the second-class ones. It’s a matter of social status and identity above anything else, perhaps, and you know status of all kinds did matter in Austen’s world. Now perhaps she shows her heroes in too good a light, the solid men I mean, but you only have to look at the older generation of her characters and find what the marriages might look like a few years afterwards, she’s more skeptical there. She’s more of an ironist than a romantic, I find, in spite of the successful love story on which the plot is built.

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