Tuesday, February 10, 2009
I keep trying....but I seriously dislike Jane Austen
I know it's almost sacrilege, but I just can't stand her. Well not her, but her writings. Every couple of years I try yet another of her novels, or re-read one which has been pretty much completely forgotten. In the intervening years I try to watch the movie adaptations which are so beloved by nearly anyone with xx chromosomes. I keep trying.....but I each time the result is sour disgust rising up into my throat.
This week I checked out the 1985 BBC production of Pride and Prejudice, and watched part of Sense and Sensibility Sunday night on Masterpiece (no longer called Masterpiece Theater much to my chagrin- is nothing sacrosanct!?) . Every fifteen minutes or so of watching , I would realise that my face was tense and taut having once again twisted itself into a snarl.
From the outset, isn't it clear that every girl is going to end up with their relegated man?? And yet the reader or viewer must endure the intervening hours suffering all of the characters speaking their trite and uninteresting words. The reader or viewer must endure truly painful characters like Mrs. Bennet, and their boring pointless lives. The reader or viewer must wait, and wait, and wait for something, anything, to happen. I find after an hour or so of interloping, I just don't care if Eliza marries Mr. Darcy or if they just fell off the cliffs of Dover!!
The characters' lives are just an offense to humanity, so full of ennui and nothing of any value to anyone whatsoever. Even our Austen heroines, lack any truly heroic qualities other than saying "No!" to marriage so forcefully that they end up marrying anyway. Apparently no doesn't always mean no, at least not where Ms. Austen's protagonists are concerned.
I truly wonder if the appeal of Ms. Austen's novels isn't built around a mythology of sorts. The mythology of pretty dresses, and parties, and trying to land a man. In short, though of another time, it seems to be the mythology of the American college experience for young women, which our youth-obsessed culture continues to try to convince us is the best time of our lives. The argument has been made that Ms. Austen is a feminist writer, which just seems completely ludicrous to me. For if that is true, women do not seem to think very highly of their liberation.
People have tried to explain their love of Ms. Austen to me before, hence my continuing to read thinking there must be something I am missing. However I just cannot seem to see what they see. Technically I think she is among the best of the best of English language novelists, how unfortunate for humankind that Ms. Austen chose to use her talent to write about such completely unengaging characters and circumstances.