Why Does Jane Austen Still Appeal To Young Women Like Us Even After 200 Years?

Posted: November 28, 2017

Author of only six major English novels set in 18th century British middle-class society; lived more than 200 years ago. Isn’t it intriguing why Jane Austen still attracts young women? 

Known to be one of the first English women novelists who started writing and publishing, at a time when women were hardly allowed to enter the domain of public writing, Jane Austen (16 December 1775 – 18 July 1817) vehemently critiqued in her novels the dependence of women on marriage in the pursuit of favourable social standing and economic prosperity.

At that time in England women only had two options open in front of them – either marry someone rich or become a teacher. That’s where the term ‘Miss’ for a teacher has come from, which is prevalent in most schools in India.

Matrimony has been the prime focus of her novels. Her widely read novels such as Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Mansfield Park and Emma deal with issues regarding marriage, property rights of women and their education. These issues still pose as a matter of grave concern for Indian women. What we are facing for centuries was once faced by the women of England too.

Marriage is considered sacred. One can say that it truly is. But, marriages are not made in heaven as people often say. Mrs.Bennet’s obsession with getting her daughters married to some rich gentlemen only reminds us how our parents become desperate to find a suitable groom as soon as we reach the ‘ideal age’ for marriage. In those days in England 15 – 19 was considered to be the ideal age to be up for the marriage market as we see Marianne and Elinor Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility and Fanny price in Mansfield Park all become engaged while still in teens. Similarly, we all know the ‘ideal age’ for marriage in India.

Here’s a small list on why Jane Austen’s books still attract us today:-

Women of substance

From Elizabeth to Emma the female protagonists of Austen’s novels show exemplary strength in character. Austen’s women are independent, witty as well as self-sufficient. Similarly, we modern day women also perform our duties towards our parents but also don’t mind in getting pampered by them.

Centred on women

Austen’s novels revolve around women protagonists, exploring their quest for love, social security and prosperity. Absolutely nothing wrong if you are a woman looking for a soul mate. After all, we all need love and attention.

Excellent lessons

Austen throughout her novels has assessed the line between greed and practicality when it comes to chosing a husband. Yes, you should be cautious while choosing your life-partner, especially if you’re living in a country like India where text books provide us with ‘advantages of dowry’.

Friendship is soothing

Once Jane Austen had said, “Friendship is certainly the finest balm for the pangs of disappointed love.” Our best friends are indeed the real soulmates one could ask for.

Matrimony

If you are reading any of Austen’s novels one thing that will be common are the issues related to marriage. While living through the pages of Pride and Prejudice all of us wanted to be the Elizabeth who emerges as fulfilled individual, not dependent on any man for recognition or identity.

Property disputes

In England having a son as the heir to the family property was crucial. Women had no right over their father’s property post marriage. Here comes Elizabeth who refuses Mr. Collins marriage proposal, holds the legal rights to the family residence and the refusal might cost the family their home.

Back in the 18th century on one hand Austen showcased the fragile conditions of women prevalent in the British middle-class society yet turned up with high-spirited confident women as protagonists who dared to differ. Her works have been adapted into cinema in both Hollywood as well as Bollywood.

In Austen’s novels, even when the women character decide to marry, they exercise their choice and marry only for love. The message that she tries to convey is that marriage is not a shackle. A strong, independent woman also requires affection and care. But, take the vow ‘in sickness and in health’ only when you’re sure about your man with whom you would be spending the rest of your lifetime.

Image source: is a screen grab from the 1995 movie Pride And Prejudice

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I'm a Political Science student from St.Xavier's College, Kolkata. Biryani and F.

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