Thursday, December 16, 2010

Happy birthday!

Today is Jane Austen's birthday.

Happy birthday, Miss Austen. You are my hero.

In honor of her birthday, (which, if she were still alive, would have been her 235th) I will say a kind word or two about each of her novels and what I love about them.

I have also put them in order of my least favorite to most favorite.

Mansfield Park

Mansfield park is probably my least favorite Jane Austen novel, but I still have a great appreciation for it.

Many people criticize Fanny Price as being "self-righteous," but they are wrong. She is not self-righteous, she is simply right.

The difference between this and almost every other Jane Austen novel is that, in this case, the heroine does not have to mature and change her mind about something. Fanny is the constant throughout this novel; she is observant and wise, humble enough to take others' advice but strong enough to stand against something she believes is wrong.

I like this novel because, like Fanny, I am extremely shy and awkward in social situations. It was nice to identify in that way with the heroine when I read it the first time.

Sense and Sensibility

Sense and Sensibility is a great book. It is about a relationship between sisters, which I enjoyed as I have three of them. I really admire Elinor as a character. She is so patient and practical, the opposite of her dramatic and self-centered sister Marianne.

All of the characters in this book seem stereotypical at first glance, but in everyday life I encounter more characters from this book than any other. I think everyone has had a Mrs. Jennings, an Elinor, a Marianne, or a Lucy Steele in their life. Robert Ferrars and John Dashwood are also two people who I have seen in the modern world. When I think about it, I could probably cast the entire book with people I know.

Pride and Prejudice

Pride and Prejudice. This is the book that started my Jane Austen obsession. My first exposure to Jane Austen was the BBC mini-series of this book, and I read the book itself soon afterwards. I was pretty young, maybe 10-12 years old.

This book is "rather too light, and bright, and sparkling," according to Jane Austen herself. However, I have a feeling that she was still speaking satirically when she wrote that, because she goes on to describe an exaggerated version of serious topics she should have thrown into the middle of the book for no other reason than to darken it.

I think this book is a work of genius. It is a romance, and yet that's not really the focus of the plot. It follows Elizabeth Bennet as she matures and figures out who she wants to be.

Pride and Prejudice is not my favorite of Jane Austen's novels, but I still appreciate it.


Emma. This book is one of my favorite books in the world. It is a romance, a mystery, and a commentary on the social structure of the early 1800's. It's filled with wonderfully faulty characters who interact in a realistic way and make stupid mistakes. It's about the nature of love and friendship, redemption, forgiveness, misunderstandings, patience and self-awareness.

For more of my feelings about this book, see this post.


Persuasion was the last novel written by Jane Austen, and it has a bitter-sweet feeling to it that I love. It's about second chances and the constancy of true love.

Anne Elliot is a person I really admire and respect. (Yes, I'm aware that she's fictional... I'm just in denial.) She is so incredibly lonely, but she is determined to be happy and content despite everything in her life going against her.

Persuasion is one of my favorite novels, along with Northanger Abbey. They trade places as my favorite and second favorite depending on what mood I'm in.

Northanger Abbey

There are some books that are impossible to be made into movies, and Northanger Abbey is one of them. The plot can be captured, but the novel is a satire of gothic romance novels, a fact which is conveyed through the sarcastic voice of the narrator.

This book is probably the funniest of all of her novels, with the witty sarcasm of the narrator and the teasing banter between Henry Tilney and Catherine.

Henry is the youngest and most charming hero in any of the novels. He is so sweet to Catherine, but he has such a distinct personality that he is not the stereotypical romantic hero. He ties with Mr. Knightly as my favorite.
This book also has the greatest "defense of the novel" ever written. : )


So, there are my thoughts on the six major Jane Austen novels. I feel like my comments were largely redundant and could be summed up by "I like Jane Austen and her novels," but I was afraid to talk too much about them for fear of making this post extremely long. : )

Happy birthday, Jane Austen.


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