Alright. If you recognize the title of this entry, probably best to stop reading now. Fair warning.
James gifted me with a beautiful mother's day present earlier this month - the BBC collection of Jane Austen productions. Somewhere I also have her completel literary collection, of which I can only recollect reading one or two novels. And so my opinions come mostly from the films, which, I have heard, are fairly accurate renditions, only lacking insomuch as the art of film lacks in adapting large novels.
It seems to me that there is but one plot: a headstrong girl meets the man she should be with, spends the entire film flitting about, entangled in misunderstandings of niceties and courtesy, matches those around her with their proper mates, and ends up with the man meant for her all along.
I admit I was taken by the first one I watched, "Emma". I was lured by the eloquent language (which, forgive me, is no doubt seeping through into my writing), the elegance of the society, the drollness of the propriety, and the charm of the era. But as I moved onto "Persuasion" and "Sense and Sensibility," especially watching them back to back, the characters and plots seemed to blur into one big 19th Century romance.
I wonder that the allure of Austen isn't akin to the allure of music: that feeling you get that "ah - that's exactly how I feel!" You know, the song that exactly voices the emotions bubbling inside. Perhaps Jane Austen has put her finger on exactly that - each story slightly different so that one might feel a kinship to one character or another, depending on their love story and situation and history. Maybe I have come across her too late, well-settled into a strong relationship of my own with no sense left of love misunderstood. Then again, I have never had high tolerance for stories that rely on "misunderstandings." A girl who watches a man rush off without running after and saying "you idiot! That was Miss Taylor my sister, not me, who was married last week!" Even now so many romantic stories rely on weak points like this. Austen's work is all the more driven by it, because of the caste and era of her stories. I guess there was a sense of proper behaviour and mode of conversation and polite gestures - but let me tell you, I wouldn't let something like that come between me and my love. (If you know mine and James' love story you'll know I speak from experience).
The only thing I hope is that the films have adapted the essence of the love story well enough, but have left something on the cutting room floor in terms of societal themes. Perhaps, like Charles Dickens or Victor Hugo the social commentaries on the time and people are just as important as plot and character. Or, perhaps after all, Jane Austen is a celebrated classic author for her romantic tales, which I simply don't seem to take to.
Before this year, I might have wondered at myself reviewing classic works as such. But in reading the letters of C.S. Lewis, I chuckled at his reviews of several classic works - in fact, there were many he thought were terrible. Just because a book is classic doesn't make it to everyone's liking, I suppose. And to end off, a few quotes on the true nature of classics: (I say in jest - I'm a huge classic devourer, most to my liking, some I have never gotten past the first chapter.)
"A classic is a book which people praise and don't read."
"A classic is a book that has never finished saying what it has to say."
"A classic is something that everyone wants to have read but nobody wants to read."
"A classic is a book everyone tells you they have read but never have."