So, this is it, the last Austen Adventures. I will let this one speak for itself! If you have any questions or comments, leave them below or contact myself or Mathuri on Twitter (@jess_groom and @mathurimaya respectively).
Do you believe “true love” means loving only one person in a lifetime?
Jessica: If you take the idea of “true love” being romantic love, then ideally it would only be one person. However as many of you probably know, life does not work out that way all the time. So, no I do not believe that it is loving only one person in a lifetime, particularly when you consider other forms of love. While this is not Austen-related, one of my favourite shows (Once Upon a Time) takes an interesting perspective on “true love.” Without spoiling too much, one featured “true love” relationship is between a mother and her child. Honestly, I think that “true love” is simply when you love the right person in that period of your life.
Mathuri: Don’t hate me Austen fans but I don’t think I believe in “true love” at all (at least from the romantic standpoint, which is what I believe this question is referring too). As much as I love any fictional romance story, when it comes to real life I can’t see it at all. I know that some couples are more successful than others, and some partners balance each other out, but I don’t believe it should or even has to. People change, life is tough, and it’s perfectly okay to go have multiple partners (that you love) throughout your lifetime.
On a side note, I think a lot has to do with society changing and developing. In Austen’s time, women didn’t have jobs and had to look to husbands for wealth. Not to mention the accessibility of “eligible bachelors” was probably smaller. Now we can have long distance relationships, and be a little more picky with our choices. The reasons behind it have changed too. I recommend Aziz Ansari’s Modern Romance. I haven’t finished it (I might have abandoned it in favour of Austen Adventures), but it delves deep into the intentions that people have now, relating it back to differences previous generations had.
Austen’s society placed numerous constraints on both men and women in terms of what’s expected from them. What pressures do you feel most strongly today in terms of career, marriage, family, etc?
Jessica: If i feel any pressure from society, it is to have it all together all the time. So I have to be a certain weight, look a certain way, have kids, have a career but avoid being bossy…the list goes on. The biggest things for me though are surrounding physical appearance and that apparently I need to be in a relationship. But you know, not have sex with multiple people because a guy is a stud when he does that but a woman is a slut. However, not being willing to have sex also means that I am a prude. So really, there is no winning on that front.
Mathuri: Similar to Jessica, for me the biggest is physical appearance and just having it all together, and to have some sort of plan. My mom is definitely “encouraging” me to more schooling. She expects that i’ll be doing my MBA within a couple years, a managerial position somewhere, getting married, etc. It’s not just my mom, but also my parent’s friends asking about the MBA. I’ve told my mom numerous times that since I have a business degree already I don’t need one, but that doesn’t stop her!
How is Austen able to offer such wise guidance about love and marriage despite having been unmarried herself? Why did she choose not to marry?
Jessica: There are two reasons why she can offer such wise guidance about love and marriage. One is simply offering common sense advice. I have never been married, but many things are just common sense to me. The other thing is that she could have been surrounded by married people and others in relationships and seen some of the issues she related in her books in that way. She could have even experienced some of it herself, aside from marriage obviously (read: turning someone down).
I do not think we can really know about why she chose not to marry. Was it even a choice? Only she really knows the answer to this, and obviously we cannot resurrect her to ask. Despite this, we can theorize about potential reasons why she never married. The most obvious one to me is that maybe she did not want to marry, so she did not. Others that come to mind is that she never fell in love and found the right person, or perhaps no one wanted to marry her. That last one is a little sad, but it is possible. As well, she could have very well been a lesbian, and in that period it was definitely taboo, so it would have been impossible for her to be true to herself without risking a lot. Like I said though, we will never really know why she never got married.
Mathuri: I agree with Jessica, there could be many reasons as to why she never married. I’m sure there’s arguments out there that say she wasn’t straight. Though this is probably not the case, I like to think what happened in Becoming Jane was what actually happened in real life. The movie was based on rumours/texts that suggest Jane Austen was in love with Tom Lefroy. Without spoilers, it gives many problems as to why they can’t be together, money being the biggest reason. I like that she ends up writing and giving characters perfect endings (Lizzie marrying a good, rich man), and I think that having a failed love inspires her to give characters a happy ending she couldn’t have. Maybe she chose not to marry because she strongly believed in the concept of true love, and couldn’t fall in love with anyone else once she had with Lefroy.
As for the first question, I definitely agree with Jessica in the sense that a lot of it could be based on relationships she witnessed and was surrounded by. I think a big one would be Jane and her sister. I think we can imagine that she had a great relationship with her sister in real life, and it carried throughout her books (mainly Elinor and Marriane, and Lizzie and Jane). I realize this example was for sisters, but I think the same line of thought goes into romantic relationships.
What was the most surprising lesson you learned from reading Austen?
Jessica: Honestly, I am not sure that any of her lessons were all that surprising when I really think about it. All of them just make sense. If I were to pick my favourite from the ones that come to mind, I would have to say “love will always find you, especially when you least expect it.”
Mathuri: I agree, that most lessons were a little more obvious. I think the one I enjoyed the most (and maybe didn’t realize how prominent the lesson) was all the family and friend relationships. I think the relationships that stood out to me the most was Elinor and Marianne, Emma and her father, and Lizzie and Charlotte. Let’s not forget to mention the lack of relationships, like Fanny.
Did you relate to any of Austen’s heroines, or minor female characters? Why?
Jessica: Honestly, I think I might identify with Harriet the most. I don’t think I am as confident as some of Austen’s heroines, and Harriet and I seem to share some of the nervousness. Additionally, she mistakenly believes that someone is into her multiple times in Emma–something that happens to me on a seemingly regular basis. That said, I can see a little bit of myself in Elizabeth and Emma (at the end). I just identify more with Harriet.
Mathuri: I found myself relating to Elinor quite a bit. I find that I’m reserved and quiet about my emotions, and generally afraid of confrontation. I also think I’m a little bit Harriet along with Jessica, we all share that very Harriest-esque nervousness.
Which is your favourite Austen novel and why?
Jessica: I have to say Emma hands down. I know Mathuri is probably going to say Pride and Prejudice (and also berate me for not picking that one). I will admit that Pride and Prejudice probably takes second in this, but after reflecting on it I cannot pick it anymore and it has to be Emma. I think that Emma rings much more believable in my opinion. Although I still very much enjoy reading about Elizabeth and Darcy, their love story comes around with the two of them being cold to one another…it just does not seem quite real to me.
Emma is the Austen heroine who, in my opinion, grows the most over the course of her story. Austen imagined her as a person who no one would really like apart from Austen herself, which probably rings true for many people (although I like her). However, I bet that many people who disliked her at the beginning ended up liking her at the end of the book. Finally, I have to mention that a love story involving two close friends falling for one another is basically my kryptonite. I just love stories like that.
Mathuri: I am absolutely going to pick Pride and Prejudice, and I was definitely going to berate you for not choosing it until I read your explanation. Pride and Prejudice is surprisingly still my favourite Austen novel (my first!). I feel like I can’t forget the the most romantic story of all. Yes, it be a little unrealistic but to balance out my cynicism in real life, I enjoy the most out of the fictional stories. Lizzie and Jane deserved handsome, rich, nice men so they could live happily ever after. I love the growth Lizzie and Darcy went through, and the changes to their relationship throughout the book.
I will give Jessica credit though, Emma was a great read, and I loved her character growth as well. I think she definitely has the most growth of Austen’s heroines, and I have mentioned countless times that I do love that character development. I will say that I was pleasantly surprised with Sense and Sensibility (I will be watching that soon!)
Austen’s novels are full of desirable men. Does one in particular catch your eye? Why?
Jessica: I have to go with Mr. Knightley for this one. We get to know him right from the start and the way that he cares for Emma (even before we realize he likes her) is amazing. Pulling in the modern adaptations of Emma and Pride and Prejudice, Emma Approved and The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, I sink further into Knightley. We don’t meet Darcy until episode 60 (I think) of LBD, but we know Knightley from the very beginning of Emma Approved. Even beyond Emma, Knightley is also genuinely kind to all of his friends. While other Austen men are, it is the way Knightley shows it that catches my eye.
Mathuri: Again, I have to go through the predictable route and choose Darcy. I love that character development, and while Emma was the most developed I think Darcy would come first in regards to the male characters. He learned from his mistakes and helped the Bennet family solve their problems (while Lizzie was slowly falling in love with him in the process). I do want honourable mentions to go to Knightley, who I loved even more after the book, and to Colonel Brandon, for being a wonderful sweetheart by the end of the book (and of course to Alan Rickman, whom I’m sure portrayed the character amazingly).
Final Thoughts From Mathuri
Now at the end of these Austen Adventures, I’m so happy to have participated. I feel like I’ve read a lot these past few months (MONTHS!), and hopefully I learned some lessons along the way. I feel like I understand these characters way more, and Austen way more. I think that in the future I’d love to do a reread (perhaps where I can take a little bit longer as I might have had to rush for Jessica’s very strict deadlines…just kidding Jess!). I feel like I know these character so much more. I would love to find these stories in other mediums. I know that a Lizzie Bennet Diaries re-watch is in order, and an Emma Approved one right after. I look forward to watching the Sense and Sensibility movie, and seeing what other adaptations come after! Thank you to Jess who asked me to join her in these adventures. I’ve had a lot of fun, and I look forward to reading more wonderful posts and book recommendations on the blog. Thank you for reading!