Jane Austen was an English author who lived from 1775 until 1817. You may know some of her most famous works, such as Pride and Prejudice, Sense & Sensibility, Emma, and Persuasion. But what you may not know is that this author, one of the most famous writers of all time, started her literary journey with the help of self-publishing. Being unable to get a traditional publisher interested in her work, Austen released both Emma and Sense & Sensibility on her own. Thanks to her determination, people from all around the world now can read her classical treasures. Austen was highly adept at observing and dissecting the character flaws she saw around her. By careful consideration of her work, we can learn valuable lessons about our own behaviours through her writing.
Here are some life lessons which her timeless stories can teach you:
LESSON #1: Laugh at Yourself & Don’t Take Life Too Seriously
Both Jane’s letters and novels illustrate her gift for finding humour in the smallest of things. Austen’s life took some dark turns – she suffered from serious ailments and her family experienced dire financial situations. This darkness can be found in the serious undertones of her books. Yet, despite all this, she was still able to pepper laughter into her writing. She can be seen laughing at certain annoyances, such as a leak in their house at Southampton, ‘Could my ideas flow as fast as the rain in the store closet, it would be charming.’ She also infuses her work with amusing characters, whether that is because of their wit or their ridiculousness, such as Mr. Collins, Mr. Elton, and Mr. Woodhouse. Austen creates a character which epitomises this concept, Elizabeth Bennett, who even says ‘I dearly love to laugh…’.
LESSON #2: Let Your Lover Educate You
This reiterates one of the recognized phrase on love, that ‘opposites attract’. Regardless of its assorted rejections, Austen insists that two different people can complement one another, if one learns from the other. She explains that someone is right for us if they help us overcome our failings, and in turn make us better people. This teaching is put into practice in Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Mr Darcy, an upper class man with an unhappy demeanor, and Elizabeth Bennett, an intelligent young woman who disparages happiness, eventually fall in love. This pairing works so well since both complement one another. Mr Darcy benefited from Elizabeth’s liveliness, resulting in a softening of character. Similarly, Elizabeth gained more knowledge and access to the world from Mr. Darcy. It is a lesson on the truth of successful marriages and relationships.
LESSON #3: Karma Is Real
Austen puts a great emphasis on the probability of receiving what you deserve. From this, a lesson can be inferred that one should have good intentions so to avoid downfall. In her novel Emma, Mr Elton’s search for a rich and beautiful wife was a success, however, he was simultaneously punished, as she wasn’t a particularly loyal wife. Likewise, said wife’s lack of loyalty caught up with her, when after her affair was over she spent the rest of her days with her intolerable Aunt Norris. Other characters received the same treatment, such as Caroline Bingley from Pride and Prejudice. Her attempt at winning Darcy over through her attempt at talking down Elizabeth only made Darcy dislike Caroline and like Elizabeth more.
LESSON #4: We Shouldn’t Stop Judging People, but We Have to Do It More Carefully
Jane Austen highlights that we should not necessarily judge people through just one lens. The most obvious platform from which to judge is one of class and wealth. However, Austen emphasizes in her novels that we should place greater importance on moral character. She demonstrates this by portraying her moral characters the most nobly, allowing the ones of higher class and avoid of a moral character to fail. We see this pattern exhibited by Fanny Price in Mansfield Park. Fanny may be of lower class compared to the rest of her family, but comes out on top because of her morally praiseworthy characteristics.
Written by Isabel Shaw