Aug 6, 2018

Romanticizing Marriage


This discussion is inspired by Study,com's Lesson on Jane Austen's Biography and Major Novels.


"...even though all of Jane Austen's books are about marriage, neither she nor her sister Cassandra ever married, which is kind of interesting. Austen writes about marriage in a way that's clearly saying something about how you don't have a lot of options as a woman in her time. Her take on marriage is that it's something you do and something that can be beneficial in a lot of ways, but it's not something to be happy about...Now, when thinking about all of the books and movies and things that are based on the romantic comedy plotlines that she laid out, we live in a time where you're not forced into marriage, and yet all of those things still end in, if not marriage, the two characters getting together."


How do you think Austen would react to the romanticized stories of today?

Aug 6, 2018

As an author of romantic fiction, I would first hope that Jane would be delighted that her influence remains strong! I think she would, in general, be pleased to know that readers still crave a happy ending, and continue to enjoy the types of stories she wrote. She would likely get a kick out of seeing how her 19th century love stories have evolved in some new directions, eg paranormal romance, romantic suspense, fantasy romance, contemporary settings, historical settings, futuristic settings, etc. I don't know how she would feel about the level of sex in our modern romances, but I suspect, being an open-minded woman, she wouldn't reject it out of hand.


I do think she would scold those of us who write romances for not paying enough attention to character. A love story almost has to be character-driven, and most romance novels are. But I think she would admonish us to remember the secondary characters, the extended family members, the members of the protagonists' communities (her "three or four families in a country village"), the well-drawn cameos of amusing minor characters. Modern romances often focus so much on the hero and heroine that the other people in their lives get little attention. Imagine Pride and Prejudice without all those members of the Bennet family, the neighbors and friends, Mr. Collins, or Lady Catherine. All the people who touch Elizabeth's life (and Darcy's) have an important role to play. So I think Jane would advise those of us who write love stories to widen our lens a bit, and remember that a romance can affect the lives of more than two people.


I also think she would ask us all to write better sentences, to savor the language as much as she did.

Janice Millford
Aug 6, 2018

I am sure Jane would be astonished at the market for "women's stories", the advancement of professionalism, the existence of fan/reader/author conferences such as RWA and the profusion of books in general. She most likely would be sympathetic of the pay structure in publishing and the contracts which strip authors of rights to their products, but in general, I think she would be thrilled to see the abundance of female writers and their successes.

Erotica books might send her scurrying and the more blatant sexual content probably would have embarrassed her sense and sensibility. I don't think she would have agreed that courtship novels, i.e. most "romance" books of today were realistic. Jane was a keen observer of people and not usually very impressed by her impressions, however, I think she would have applauded the idea of women supporting themselves in a wide variety of positions and continuing to do so after marriage. She would have found the ability of women to control their finances, purchase property and live comfortably without male supervision, refreshing.

I would love to have seen Jane's reaction to the FIFTY SHADES OF GREY phenomenon!

Aug 6, 2018

I'm simply giggling at the idea of Jane Austen reading today's steamy romance novels. I think she'd love the power and independence of today's modern woman.

Janice Millford
Aug 6, 2018

I agree that Jane would be amazed at the gains in social and legal rights of women in Great Britain and other first world countries. Can you see her reading the first break through novels of say, Kathleen Woodiwiss or Rosemary Rogers, and coming upon the many and varied genitalia euphemisms? <G> I am of the opinion that had she opened TWILIGHT or FIFTY SHADES within 15 minutes, she would have thrown the book sharply into the nearest wall-----not due the content, but due to the incredibly BAD writing!

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