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AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: Jane Austen

English novelist Jane Austen, shown here in an original family portrait, was born in December 1775.

English novelist Jane Austen, shown here in an original family portrait, was born in December 1775.[/caption]

England has produced dozens of the world’s greatest authors, but none of them come close to Jane Austen.

One of the most daring writers of Britain, Jane Austen penned six novels: Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Persuasion, Emma, Mansfield Park and Northanger Abbey. Austen’s work is known best for her insights on society in the Georgian era, often narrated through the eyes of women. While it has been centuries since she lived, her titles are still being studied in classrooms to this day.

Becoming Jane

Jane Austen was the youngest daughter in a family of eight children. Her father, George, was a clergyman and her mother, Cassandra, a woman of the upper class.

Although all of Jane’s siblings were literary, she was the only published novelist. At only twenty-three, she’d already finished the manuscripts of three of her novels, namely, Northanger Abbey, Pride and Prejudice, and Sense and Sensibility.

Her last two novels, Persuasion and Northanger Abbey, were published post-mortem and were the only ones to bear her name. The first four were published anonymously, stating that the books were written “By a Lady.”

A Rise in Popularity

Jane Austen’s writing style is often described as witty, concise, and above all, realistic. It deals with clashes between classes and shockingly realistic romances. It has universal themes of love, power and status, as well as the search for happiness. These are said to be the elements that make Austen’s work popular to this day.

Readers over time have come to appreciate Austen’s criticism of society, as it is still reflected in society today. Pride and Prejudice’s Lizzie Bennet is a prime example of what readers enjoy. Unlike her sisters, she is rebellious, tomboyish, independent, and witty. Lizzie is a character out of her time and is comparable to more modern characters such as Hermione Granger, Padme Amidala, and even Elsa from Frozen. Her character stands out to girls who wish to break out of the damsel-in-distress mold.

Pride and Prejudice: 202 Years Strong

With already four adaptations under its belt, Pride and Prejudice is easily the most popular of Austen’s novels. Other than these films (and a BBC television series), there are also novels written after Pride and Prejudice. An example is Jo Baker’s Longbourn, a retelling of Pride and Prejudice from the servants below the stairs. Crime novelist P. D. James wrote Death Comes to Pemberley, bringing murder to the original Austen story. Even more popular is Seth Grahame-Smith’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, in which the characters battle the undead. (Later on, Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters was published.) Clearly, Austen struck gold when she penned Pride and Prejudice (not that she’d find out).

In a piece for USA Today, Deirdre Donahue writes 10 reasons why Pride and Prejudice is still relevant two centuries after its publication. In summary, Pride and Prejudice is still popular because it’s timeless. Lizzie’s struggle to prove herself, Kitty and Lydia’s dream of an idyllic romance, Mr. Bennet harrying to have his daughters married, Lady Catherine’s behavior toward the middle-class Bennets—these are situations that are relatable then and are still relatable today.

 

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