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“Jane Addiction”:Love stories are a double-edged sword

Melissa Sue Kort, author of Reading 69 in our textbook titled “Jane Addiction” describes the authenticity of Jane Austen’s widely popular works of fiction, such as Pride and Prejudice, as stories which serve as feminism icons. Kort counteracts the claims made of Austen’s works as anti-feminist because, although they only seem to offer stories of small, “apparently insulated world inhabited by a few wealthy country families and the primary drama of their plots which confer the search for enough husbands to go around”. Despite Austen’s focus on members of the wealthy upper class, Austen’s characters maintain independent principles of defying social conventions through methods of challenging authority, thinking for oneself, and rejecting anything that doesn’t fulfill one’s needs.

For example, Mr. Darcy of Pride and Prejudice emphasizes the eyes of his love-interest Elizabeth Bennett, not because of physical attraction, but as a metaphor for her lively demeanor, or as Kort puts it, their mutual taste, discernment, and understanding.

Kort warns, however, that love can be a double-edged sword, particularly in the cause of Austen’s novels. It could either serve as the cliched fairy tale, or the unconventional love story. One should not dismiss, however, the thought-provoking questions Austen’s novels often entail. One in particular which struck me was the question “Is it possible to love and be happy and financially secure–and still have an independent spirit?” Must there be one without the other, or can we have our cake and eat it too?

I’m a huge fan of Jane Austen, so I was immediately drawn to this particular article as the author, Melissa Kort, analyzed the various dimensions of the characters of Austen’s various novels and how representative they are of women. Kort makes a point that it’s no wonder that Austen’s novels still sell, because, despite the criticisms of her characters’ seemingly insulated, wealthy status, a similar theme weaves her novels together: “women are rational creators with a right to education and opportunity, and marriage must be more than a financial transaction” (Jane Addition, Kort, pg. 477).


3 Comments

  1. arnoldjm says:

    I’m also a huge Austen fan (I even named my dog Darcy… seriously). I never thought of her works as anti-feminist, though I could see the argument that they were somewhat elitist at times. I think critics of Austen should consider the period they were written in and realized her literary heroines are actually were quite unconventional for the 19th century. In Pride and Prejudice Elizabeth Bennet walked alone for several miles in the countryside without a male escort. Though not a big deal today it was in fact pretty unorthodox and frowned upon for women to do back then.

    • hebasha says:

      Woah, I hadn’t realized that simply walking alone without an escort was frowned upon. That’s a real eye-opener. It’s interesting that you mention that though, because overseas in Saudi Arabia, women cannot walk around without a male escort either. I wonder if the same social conventions underly both situations in Saudi Arabia and 19th century America.

  2. arnoldjm says:

    Thats a really interesting parallel you’ve made. I have a ton of respect for Saudi Arabian women that live in those difficult conditions. I hope one day their political situation improves and that the government recognizes its mothers, sisters and daughters as equals.

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