7 reasons why women love Jane Austen

  1. Her characters are relatable

    Seriously, who doesn’t identify with Anne Elliot, Catherine Morland, Marianne Dashwood or Lizzie Bennet at times? Or indeed, any of her other characters? Love her or loathe her, Jane Austen had a wonderful understanding of the human person, which is why she was able to create such three-dimensional, relatable characters that you could imagine meeting.

  2. She allows you to dwell in an ordered, simpler world

    I fully believe there is a yearning of the human heart for simpler times, when manners and comportment guided everyday life. When men were gentlemen and women were ladies. Before the critics start typing furiously away, I know not everyone was a gentleman or a lady. There have been scoundrels and cheats in every age. I’m also aware the majority of people were extremely poor and life was deeply unpleasant, painful and hard in ways we probably cannot really understand today. However, society was also ordered by gentility, elegance and grace. There were social structures that made everything simpler and easier. For example, you always knew how to greet and address a member of the same sex or opposite sex depending on their status and relation to you. Today’s ambiguity and awkwardness when it comes to social interactions compare unfavourably for many.

  3. Her romances are beautiful and believable

    Arghh the brutality of the proposal scene in Pride and Prejudice, the angst of wondering who Mr Knightley would ultimately choose, the torture of not knowing if Mr Tilney would defy his father and seek Catherine’s hand in the end..! Jane Austen’s romances might be described as roller coaster rides, were they not so genteel, well-paced and expertly-timed. Every time I read or watch P&P (the BBC version, obviously) I am a bit astonished at how much I believe in the love that has grown between Lizzie and Darcy by the time she visits Pemberley, given just one episode, or a few chapters, previously she tears him to shreds when he asks her to marry him! You realise, along with Emma, that she couldn’t possibly be with anyone other than Mr Knightley, and vice-versa. They were simply made for each other – literally, yes, but Jane Austen makes it so believable too.

  4. She’s funny

    If you don’t enjoy Jane Austen’s novels, it’s possible that you either don’t get or don’t like her sense of humour. She’s wonderfully mischievous in her observations, and her reflections on real life are tinged with her iconic sense of irony. This comes across far better in her novels than in the adaptations. If you’ve only seen Jane Austen but never read her, I highly recommend you do!

  5. Her novels portray old-world values

    Imagine a time when everyone was Christian; when divorce was virtually unheard-of, when adultery was a ground-shaking scandal and chaperoned dances were your normal social event. Well, you don’t have to! You can visit this time yourself with just the press of a button or the turn of a page. Sure there was rabid tuberculosis, filth and dirt at every turn and an appalling lack of plumbing – but who cares when you get to flutter your fan in anticipation of dancing with Mr Knightley!

  6. She is an expert story-teller

    Austen’s novels achieve something close to perfection, in my opinion. Her everlasting popularity seems testament to this. She crafts the most delightful combination of realistic plots, believable characters, wonderful romances and drama, peppered with her ironic wit and social commentary. I’ve heard it said that her novels were the prototype of the modern romantic-comedy. While I think most of these should not even be mentioned in the same breath as Austen’s work, I understand this theory, and see how many tropes Austen created have been replicated and carried on in other fictional works ever since.

  7. She understands the female heart

    For the men out there who just don’t get the Austen obsession, this is really what it comes down to. Her books speak to the yearning of the human, and particularly the feminine, heart – for love, romance, to be understood and appreciated. She understands the pain that can come from making poor choices and the hope that can burn through your darkest doubts. Well, Jane Austen never got married, you might say. True, but that doesn’t preclude her from understanding love, suffering, emotion and all the other elements that make up human life. Her writing makes it clear she had a keen eye and a great mind for understanding these things, better than many. Why else does she remain so popular?

I’m interested in hearing what other people, particularly women, think about Jane Austen and why she’s so popular with females.

I’ve had Austen on my mind lately as I just recorded a couple of podcasts, one about her books and one about the televised adaptations. Shameless self-promotion, but if you’re interested in hearing these, search for Campion Conversations on your podcast app. The first was released this week and it’s called “Getting lost in Austen”. The second will appear in a couple of weeks. It will also give you a chance to hear what my voice sounds like, if that interests you 🙂

6 thoughts on “7 reasons why women love Jane Austen

  1. Hi Anna. Re Jane Austen. Hilariously I was in high school when P&P came out from the BBC. We also happened to be reading it (or supposed to) in Grade 12. But nearly every female watched it instead, multiple times. I can’t remember if I actually finished the book then, but read it a year ago and honestly (I can’t believe I’m saying this)… it felt like a period-piece romance novel. Argh.
    I agree that the BBC version is the best. I do have the Keira Knightly version and upon watching it multiple times against it’s longer/older version, got annoyed at that Jane, and it was only watching Mr Darcy in it that got me through.
    I’ve watched and bought, both versions (BBC/ITV) of Persuasion (yes I actually watch them too back to back and enjoy them both). I’ve also watched and bought (but haven’t rewatched) Northanger Abby. And also loved Mansfield Park (hello Jonny Lee Miller and Frances O Connor), definitely don’t like the ITV remake of that nor of S&S. I love the Emma Thompson one of it.
    Anyways, I’ve blathered on enough… yes men were men, women were women. Classes probably stuck if you were stuck in a lower one. And so did the medical system and poverty etc. I’ve always thought it’s easier for me as a women to be a lady, if the man I am with is a gentleman.
    Just like how I adore watching both the 80s BBC version of Sherlock Holmes and Ms Marple. I watch the remakes and go… I’m sorry but what happened to them? I liked them because of when they were written, and their specific plot etc. Nowadays? The plots are skewed to (ahem) today’s changing “culture” or worldviews.
    I even just read an article that talked about adapting Nancy Drew to today’s culture? Is this how society is now? We must adapt everything to what the world has become? I’ve been saying for awhile now, the world is without absolutes. It’s hard to even read the news let alone watch movies or TV shows for what is going to be on them. So instead of I stick to anything pre 90s.

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  2. I understand women’s obsession with Jane Austen even if I don’t share it.
    Something about 19th-century rural England must be appealing. Is it a romantic view of the rural way of life as the age of industrialization and secularization was dawning?
    During the past year or so I have been obsessed with 19th-century England. I wonder what Austen would’ve said about the repeal of the Corn Laws if she had lived longer?

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  3. Hmmmm. I used to feel that way about Jane Austen, but I may have outgrown her, or perhaps just gotten interested in other things.

    I was always very aware that Mr Bennett – a feckless and ineffectual father – could have easily ordered Lizzie to marry Mr Collins, who was stable and financially secure. What seems to have stopped him is that he was selfish enough to prefer her company at home. Lizzie would have had little or no redress in this instance. Charlotte marries the tedious snob Collins instead because her options are pretty much zero, even though she is capable and intelligent.

    The Brontes understood it: ‘Jane Eyre’ is a pretty compelling example – once you strip away the obvious Gothic – of how economically precarious a woman’s life was without marriage. I think it would be very hard to get romantic about a man if your entire future was in his hands and rested on his acceptance or refusal. Certainly Jane struggled with St John over this – how could she love someone who had measured her usefulness to him like horseflesh?

    Austen was writing romances for readers, but I think she was also vividly aware – as an unmarried and intelligent, observant woman – of the painful realities of her existence and that of thousands of other middle-class women in England. To us, it looks desperately cute with the bonnets and so forth, but that’s because we are utterly detached from the realities.

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  4. Thank you Miss Hitchings for covering such a delightful topic!
    “always knowing how to greet and address members of the opposite sex” – yes! I have certainly observed this when reading/watching Jane Austin’s works, and wish it were the case today! Even in the most awkward or less-than-ideal of circumstances, the characters manage to converse in a measured and polite manner.
    As someone who often says the wrong thing or doesn’t know what to say at all, I wish I had the skills to be able to carry a conversation with eloquence in the same way these characters do – without the awkwardness, fear of silence, mumbling, and ‘likes’ and ‘ums’ that is commonplace today.
    Although I do not consider myself to be a naturally good conversationalist, I find I am often in situations where the other person seems relatively unable, or perhaps unwilling, to provide much momentum from their end and it seems I have to be the one to carry the conversation. This is particularly difficult and disheartening in dating situations.
    I feel that intentionally learning the art of conversation and having clearer social norms and etiquette as they did in Austin’s era would really help us today!

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