Why Jane Austen’s Novels Are Emmazing

Today I want to talk to you guys about Jane Austen. Many of you have probably read an Austen novel or film adaptation. At the very least, you’ve probably seen or read something inspired by Austen. She’s had a huge impact on pop culture, and deservedly so.

I’ve read all six of Austen’s novels, as well as much of her Juvenilia, though most of that so long ago that I don’t really remember it. I’m not an Austen scholar by any means, but I have a deep, abiding love for her writing. The odds that I ever kick my habit of acquiring horrible, published Austen fan fiction are incredibly low. Earlier this year, I did a major purge on my book collection, but I kept a book called Mr. Darcy, Vampyre, despite (or because of) the execrable reviews. (Personally, I think it’s going to be super classy because vampire has been spelled with a y.) Though it’s rare to find one of these books that at all matches the spirit, storytelling, and writing of Austen, I keep trying in hopes that someday I’ll find another author who can capture the magic. No luck so far, but I did find one that turned Pride and Prejudice into an incredibly hilarious (probably not intentionally) erotica. #worthit

gif pride and prejudice almost kiss

I fell in love with Austen’s novels when I was in middle school, when I read Pride and Prejudice for the first time. Despite the fact that I think my mom recommended it, I still remember my nigh breathless anticipation from the moment Darcy showed up at Rosings. Maximum feels were activated. Though I haven’t loved them all as much as that, I will always admire Austen’s talent (and will always wonder how that same person wrote Mansfield Park).

One of my very favorite things about Jane Austen is how different her six books are. On the surface, yes, they’re all set in the same era and all feature heroines who meet a gentleman, end up falling in love, and get married. Generally they flirt with the wrong gentleman somewhere in there too. It would be easy to dismiss Austen as formulaic, but it would also be incorrect.

In each novel, Austen takes on a different sort of heroine. Pride and Prejudice has Elizabeth Bennet, judgmental and witty, and Jane Bennet, sweet and beautiful. Sense and Sensibility has Marianne Dashwood, impulsive and romantic to a fault, and Elinor Dashwood, logical and quiet. Northanger Abbey has Catherine Morland, ordinary except for her imagination which she can’t temper with common sense. Persuasion has Anne Elliot, older and past her bloom. Mansfield Park has Fanny Price, the wettest of blankets. Emma has Emma Woodhouse, wealthy and spoiled. For each heroine, there’s a hero, suited to her personality. It is the personalities that set apart each novel so thoroughly.

gif darcy vanity pride and prejudice

gif jane lbd so good to see you

gif they fucking told you it would rain sense and sensibility

gif sense and sensibility good sense elinor

gif persuasion anne

gif northanger abbey radcliffe

gif i have very little intention of marrying emma
It’s a travesty how hard it was to find gifs not from P&P.

This post was inspired by the gorgeous new copy of Emma, an annotated edition from Penguin coming out for the 200th anniversary of the novel, so I’m now going to focus in on Emma Woodhouse. I’ve only read Emma once so far, and it wasn’t my favorite. To be fair, though, I had to read it for sophomore year English and I hated that teacher. I plan to reread in the next year, and I suspect I’ll love it much more.

Emma 200th Anniversary Edition - Jane Austen

Emma, though, I find very fascinating even among the other Austen leads. Emma, unlike the rest, really doesn’t have any financial compulsion to marry. The closest to Emma in terms of financial stability is Anne Elliot, but, were I her, I wouldn’t feel too comfortable with family like hers. In Emma’s case, she didn’t need to worry about the family’s coffers running dry, and, as she herself points out, she has enough money to remain respectable and single. Elizabeth declared only the deepest love would induce her to marriage, but she would have then had to rely on the goodwill of Jane. Emma’s the most free. Perhaps, then, it’s unsurprising that Emma is also most free of behavior. Raised by her single dad, Emma’s been spoiled all of her life. She’s used to getting her own way and feels no qualms manipulating people.

gif i so need lessons on how to be cool clueless

Of all the Austen heroines, Emma is by far the most “unlikable.” I say this with a very specific concept in mind since, for the record, I personally find Fanny Price intolerable. What I mean by unlikable here is that, were Emma to be in a modern YA novel, she would be a mean girl. I just finished Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy about a fat girl who participates in a beauty pageant; were Emma in the Dumplin’ world, Emma would have been one of the gorgeous contestants who said something rude to the girls she didn’t think belonged there. Emma certainly isn’t horribly cruel, but she is willing to sacrifice others to make things go her way. She’s willful and does view people like toys. Her treatment of both the Bates and Hilary reveal some of the dark parts of her nature. The other heroines are nice except in response to someone else’s rudeness (Elizabeth) or out of sheer thoughtlessness (Marianne).

gif men don't like girls who argue emma

Even now, there’s a lot of push back when female characters try to step out of the box of femininity, which is why I love the daring of Emma so much. Emma’s faults make her frustrating, but they also make her real. Keep in mind that Emma is only twenty (holy crap, I’m so old), barely out of her teen years; it makes sense, I suppose, that Emma has the character arc of a mean girl learning life lessons.

Oh fellow YA readers, if you never hopped on the Austen obsession bandwagon, you should. We have handsome gentleman, sea bathing, and balls galore.

gif haters to the left emma

Start now by entering to win a copy of the new annotated Emma, courtesy of Penguin. US only, I’m afraid.
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12 responses to “Why Jane Austen’s Novels Are Emmazing”

  1. Hannah says:

    I have yet to read Mansfield Park or Emma, but I’ve completed Austen’s other 4 novels! Have to say that Persuasion is my favourite – I like that it has an older protagonist, and that it deals with first loves lost and then found again. *sighs dreamily*

    I think I’ll make Emma my next classic read for the year!
    Hannah recently posted…Review: Cam Girl – Leah RaederMy Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      Mansfield Park, obviously, is not my favorite one. I really love the film adaptation with Frances O’Connor though, because they gave Fanny way more fire. Awww, Persuasion is a good one. I’m curious if I’ll love it more and more as I grow up. I didn’t relate as much to Anne when I was in high school/college.

      Good choice!

  2. I went through a big Jane Austen phase in college and read every book (some multiple times), but it’s been so many years that I can’t tell you which was my favorite. But I was recently “forced” to watch the Lizzie Bennet Diaries and, wow, it was so good! Please tell me you’ve seen it!
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    • Christina Franke says:

      That’s a good phase. πŸ™‚

      Yessss, I think I was also initially forced to watch LBD. I wasn’t sure how a web series could be good (man, I was such a snob). I’ve watched it four times now, I think, and, since I have the Lydia book coming up soon on my tbr pile, I’ll probably end up watching the whole thing again. :-p

      I actually love it even more than P&P because of the Lydia plot line. So yeah, it’s pretty damn close to my heart.

  3. I adore Jane Austen, too. It’s funny, though, or maybe shameful on my part, but I’ve only ever read Emma and Pride and Prejudice. P&P was the first Austen I read, and I fell so in love with it, that for years, whenever I would get an Austen craving, I just picked up P&P. But I have read Emma a year or two ago and really liked it.

    Emma is definitely the most independent. And she can be unlikable, but I also felt like she was realistc. Not so unlikeable, I guess, but just realistic. And this is from someone who really does need to like the heroine. I need to look into that annotated copy of Emma though!
    Quinn @ Quinn’s Book Nook recently posted…Review: Once Upon a Rose by Laura FlorandMy Profile

  4. Mr. Darcy is my favorite… πŸ˜€ I’m currently reading P&P (haven’t finished), but it’s so much fun! The writing style takes a little getting used to, though. Thanks for the giveaway!
    Jana @ That Artsy Reader Girl recently posted…Top Ten Book Series I Want to QuitMy Profile

  5. Melanie V says:

    I haven’t actually read any Jane Austen (shameful, I know), but I absolutely adore the Lizzie Bennet Diaries. LBD just makes me feel so many things, I can’t handle it (I love Lydia’s storyline so much, it’s amazing). I think I’ll have to do a rewatch soon as I have Lydia’s book coming and a rewatch is in order before I read it (but let’s face it, I’m just looking for a reason to rewatch). I think I’ll have to pick up P&P soon as well due to my love of LBD.

  6. “Oh fellow YA readers, if you never hopped on the Austen obsession bandwagon, you should. We have handsome gentleman, sea bathing, and balls galore.”

    BEST. The Gwyneth Paltrow version of Emma has been a favorite movie of mine for SO long. I didn’t read the book until college when I took a Jane Austen class taught by a very old man (haha). We read all 6 novels, which is the first time I had done so. I read P&P once before, after I saw the 2005 movie. I actually really enjoyed Emma but your observation of her as a modern YA mean girl is so accurate! It’s more like her meanness and selfishness is… careless. Thoughtless, you know? She doesn’t intend malice but she also doesn’t think about others unless it suits her. You’ll probably like it way more on a reread. Every time her age comes up, I want to swoon in the fainting way though. Oy. And I adooore her relationship with Mr. Knightley. They’re good for each other.

    I think my personal favorite heroine might be Anne Eliot. When I first read Persuasion, I felt a real kinship towards her. I had never dated or had a boyfriend and I was afraid of ending up “old” (27 omg, I’M OLDER THAN HER NOW) and alone. I could relate more to her as an older heroine and thinking about Captain Wentworth’s letter makes me positively die. But of course I love Elizabeth Bennett and I do love Emma. Fanny is, and will always be, the worst.

  7. Katelyn says:

    I’m re-reading P&P right now, featuring my favorite character Elizabeth Bennett. I especially love her now that my daughter shares her nickname: Eliza. Many laughs are being had over Mr. Collins. What a delightful fellow.

    I still haven’t read Sense and Sensibility… which is a shame. I should fix that ASAP.

  8. Fellow Austen-ite here πŸ™‚ What I love about Jane Austen is that she captures every aspect of the female personality. She refused to write woman as they “should” be during the Victorian age. As you said, all six of her ladies were different and she showed us how women can be multifaceted. And she did it during a time where women were to be seen and not heard, and always act like a respectable lady.
    Also, I have moved a handful of times over the past few years, and every city I have lived in, the local library has had a Jane Austen book club. That’s gotta be saying something.
    Sarah @ The Country Bookworm recently posted…Thirsty ThursdayMy Profile

  9. Lyn Kaye says:

    “Even now, there’s a lot of push back when female characters try to step out of the box of femininity…”

    Oh, I just had a mini-stroke.

    Yes, yes yes yes. It is amazing and horrifying that a woman could write about this so many years ago, and it is still relevant to this day. It breaks your heart, but I try to step back and look at the progress that is made nowadays.
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  10. Casey says:

    I really should reread P&P post-LBD because I know I’d forgotten a lot. Sadly, I’m not sure I’ve actually finished any of her others? I know I got about 1/2 way through Emma before getting a fierce cold and quitting it for comfort reading. I do have a big book with all of her books in it somewhere that I should crack open.

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