Saturday, 28 December 2013

A Letter to my Niece

When you are old enough I will encourage you to read Jane Austen, just as I did as a young girl. We currently enjoy fairytales together… Cinderella and The Little Mermaid… where the girl is swept off her feet by her prince. Sadly, you will come to realise life is not as straight forward as a fairy tale.

Jane Austen, however, delivers a bigger dose of realism in her tales, where the heroine does get her happy ending but there are just a few more obstacles to jump over, than a lost glass slipper or sea witch, until you reach that happy ending.

You may think that Austen’s society has no relevance on ours. A woman’s world back then was filled with balls, taking a turn on the lawn, embroidery and finding men of good fortune, whereas we communicate online, shop for fun, workout in the gym, and are encouraged to make our own good fortune.

I wish, however, I had taken more notice of Austen’s characterisation of men in her novels, as although her books were written hundreds of years ago, I believe her portrayal of men and their character traits is still so relevant to us girls today.

I think our world is divided up by two types of men, expertly outlined by Austen in her novels. They are the Willoughby’s, Wickham’s and Churchill’s vs the Darcy’s, Brandon’s and Knightly’s.

For a woman who never married, I do believe Austen must have experienced relations with men rather than just through an outside perspective, as they are articulated so perfectly in her books. In Emma, Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice, Austen’s heroines are seduced and taken in by the charm of a certain kind of gentleman. I

n Emma, it is Frank Churchill, who is originally considered a suitor to the choosy match-making Emma, yet he is already secretly betrothed to another woman. Emma cannot help but be seduced by his charm and intellect, and feels silly for being fooled when his secret engagement comes to light.

Mr Willoughby in Sense and Sensibility is another extremely handsome and charming character, full of charisma and fun, and Marianne is all consumed by his attention. However, it is revealed he is secretly engaged to a woman with a bigger fortune than Marianne, whose father’s death leaves her, her sisters and mother with nothing. The closest male relative back then got everything, tut-tut.

In Pride and Prejudice our favourite Austen heroine, Lizzie Bennett, is also taken in by the charm and charisma of the ultimate caddish character, Mr Wickham! He flirts and flatters his way into Lizzie’s heart before eloping with her youngest sister Lydia… not so charming after all.

So I guess you are wondering when I am going to get to my point?

Well, what Lizzie, Marianne and Emma have in common is they eventually fall for the man that was there all along, patiently waiting in the wings whilst each heroine goes through the heart ache that comes with falling for a cad or a man that is simply wrong for them.

Emma marries Mr Knightly, who in the beginning she cannot imagine having any romantic feelings for, but his loyalty to her and her father, humour and friendship, she realises she cannot live without it.

Marianne marries Colonel Brandon, who at first Marianne believes to be too old and quiet for her liking, but in the end rescues her from her heart ache and she realises his honourable and caring nature is what she needs.

Lizzie, of course, marries Mr Darcy, who on first impressions appears to be proud, indifferent and snobby in Lizzie’s eyes. Through Mr Wickham’s despicable behaviour and Darcy’s simmering love for Lizzie, she soon sees his true colours and explains to her dumb-founded father that he is the ‘best man she has ever met’.

Like me, you may meet your Willoughby or Wickham. You will be pulled in by his charm; he will give you a little and leave you wanting more. Your head will believe this to be desirable and unattainable but you will soon realise you deserve so much more. U

Ultimately, you realise you have to go through this pain to understand what you want in life and what you deserve. You have to live and learn, and keep the positivity that one day you will meet your Mr Darcy. .