It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a reader who enjoys enemies to lovers, must be in love with Pride and Prejudice. Jane Austen has given us all the best tropes in the most pleasing way possible. Friends to Lovers in Emma or Enemies to Lovers in Pride and Prejudice, her books cover it all. Though she is hailed as an amazing writer, there are many who often criticize her works for being targeted only to a slim group of people. The English Elites. For her birthday, let’s see the different ways she is viewed in our world.
Jane Austen Appreciations
An important discussion that has come up in the literature world is of the male and female gaze. This conversation prompted the categorizing of, not only books but people too as “written by a man” or “written by a woman”. The latter gaining more appreciation for being thoughtful and worldly. It goes without saying that the initial few men in the list written by women included Darcy, Knightley, Brandon, and Ferrars. I would go further to say that they were the blueprint for all the other men that would fall in this category.
Darcy evolving into a better version of himself was not a credit to Elizabeth as he took it upon himself to change and become the man who he thinks Elizabeth deserves, or at the least finds agreeable. We all can agree the “I-can-fix-him” trope is highly problematic. For this reason, Austen is viewed with great appreciation. She did not keep romance in the foreground. Her stories have an element of love which is written in a way that does not overpower the other facets of her plot. Female characters are strong-minded and are not stuck on the whims of marriage or finding great love. They are also not vehemently against it either which balances the overall structure.
Jane Austen Debates
On the other hand are the ones who find her book to be meaningless to all who aren’t part of the small group of elites for whom the book was written. People like Winston Churchill, Sir Walter Scott were some who mentioned this. The former specifically requested her books to be read aloud to him while he was hospitalized saying that the lives written in the book were of people who never knew pain, hadn’t been affected by wars, and were so dissociated from the society that for them slavery wasn’t an issue. Her contemporary, Charlotte Bronte also commented “I should hardly like to live with her ladies and gentlemen in their elegant but confined houses.”
No one could hate her work as in all other senses she was an amazing writer. The only jibe applicable to her works that were often mentioned was of it being escapist fiction. Virginia Woolf’s father explained that her works suggested that she was completely at peace and those essential problems did not have a part in the order of her things.
Ironically, her books are enjoyed by those who she detests in her books. Times may have changed as the number of people who enjoy her work is increasing though this could be the result of the overall growth in society. We may all have reached the luxury level of those elites in her time. Many are disassociated from the problems of society. This does not mean that she did not feel for the issues present; it could mean that she was just not affected by it.
Her readers know that the differential views would not pose to be a problem for her. Through her books, we can say that Jane Austen might have thoroughly enjoyed the debate.