I recently picked up my Jane Austen novels that have been dusting on the shelves for a couple of years. It was really hard to get into the writing at first because the atmosphere of old English propriety in these Austen novels seems not relevant to our modern society at all.
But once I got past the initial mental resistance of getting lost in a book, I became lost in those Austen books. Her writing is so enticing, describing the social interaction and the heroines’ state of mind so exquisitely that all the characters come ALIVE in the same room with me. The heroines’ conversation with other people, especially with the men they love, are always interesting and reflective of the best observance of human character and follies.
The more I read Jane Austen novels, the more I realize she has the best advice to women and men of how to find the perfect mate and how to conduct oneself to gain a happy, rewarding union with others. By deriding materialistic and deceitful charaters who seek shallow socio-economic superiority, Austen boldly highlights the superior character, peace of mind and society’s high regard for those acting with decorum, thoughtfulness and selflessness.
The old English propriety sought to protect women and ensure them the best chance for marriage and domestic bliss. We see in her novels that women who are good-natured and behave in the socially respectable ways have good and wealthy men vying for them. Men who go after pretentious, immature and deceitful women are those without integrity, intelligence or good fortune.
Pride and prejudice is an exception. The heroine Elizabeth conducts herself in the haste and immature manner at first when she misjudges and lashes out on the honorable Mr Darcy. However, she could afford to do so but still arrive at happy ending because she is at heart good-natured, giving, and extremely protective of those she loves. She has the fierce attractiveness of an opinionated child-woman who refuses to be put in a mold by society. She is an equal to men. That is not such a rare phenomenon in modern days when women work and are quite tough. But in the Austen world of old English propriety, it is a rare thing indeed.