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article imageReview: Jane Austen's Guide to Life

By Alexandra Christopoulos     May 4, 2012 in Arts
If Jane Austen, who authored some of classic literature's most famous love stories, (i.e. Pride and Prejudice) were alive today, what would she make of our quest for romance today? Lori Smith, an Austen scholar and adorer gives readers a new insight.
In The Jane Austen Guide to Life: Thoughtful Lessons for the Modern Woman , Smith not only draws on the world acclaimed novelist for advice, but finds insightful ways to blend two very different time periods, perhaps to suggest that when it comes to love, dating and life, the best advice may be the most overlapping.
On the importance of moral character:
"It's tempting to think that our world is so different from the staid and proper eighteenth century that Jane called home. We value people for how much money they make, how beautiful they are, and how famous they become.
If they're famous, they can get away with just about anything. For many people, life goals can be summed up as achieving celebrity and making a lot of money. If it takes a little bending the rules to reach these goals, a fair share of people are willing to do that. And people barely expect their politicians to be honest anymore. The importance of character as a concept in our national conversation is somewhat questionable.
But actually, that would almost describe Jane Austen's eighteenth century world as well. People were valued almost exclusively based on how much they were worth . A common life goal simply was to become rich.... Those who had money, along with a place in society, could get away with cruelty. Without Twitter, YouTube and reality TV, fame on a grand scale was not so easy to achieve in the eighteenth century, but it's apparent that the best character traits - kindness, humility, modesty- were still not abundant as we might imagine, given that century's emphasis on them. We may not be so far removed from Austen's world as we imagine."
Smith, and others who've studied Austen's novels no doubt, would understand the writer was fiercely independent, headstrong, a voracious reader, and everything else a typical lady of her day was thought she shouldn't be. She also did not believe in love in first sight and kept a close circle of friends and supporters nearby, as she persevered, paving the road for other women following their own paths.
More than 200 years later, from beyond the grave, it's hard to envision what Austen would make of television shows like The Bachelor, or our Real Housewives, and our relentless pursuits of finding the "one." But if her literary works serve as any indication, perhaps one might hear her words of wisdom after all.
More about Jane austen, Life, Literature, American literature, Classic american literature