Jane Austen: always in style – Alyssa Goodnight
By Alyssa Goodnight
Last year marked the two hundredth anniversary of the publication of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. The novel is an undisputed literary classic, but it’s a classic of a different sort: The sort that inspires fan fiction in an impressive array of genres, not to mention a cult-like following. ♥
The reasons this novel, and the rest of Austen’s canon, is so beloved are many. Jane wrote what she knew, with wit, spunk, and a romantic soul. She wrote love stories with regular people. They made mistakes, and they fixed them … if it mattered. Her heroines are intelligent, determined, likeable women; her heroes are gentlemen: chivalrous, honorable, and kind. She wrote the stories of Everywoman, complete with pesky neighbors, illness, bad weather, and misguided crushes. Even now, as modern life whirls with technology, we relate, cheer and commiserate, and greedily gulp down these happily-ever-afters.
But six novels, no matter how sigh-invoking and swoon-worthy, just aren’t enough. So modern authors have endeavored to capture of bit of Ms. Austen’s style and charm, for the good of us all. Being particularly character-driven, her plotlines are relatively straightforward, making them well-suited to a wide variety of settings and situations. Fan fiction allows both authors and readers to revisit favorite characters, pursue alternate or continued storylines, and recreate the sensibility inspired by Jane’s novels.
Quite simply, Ms. Austen is the total package … considered the patron saint of romance, and her canon, the touchstone for happily-ever-afters.
The expectations are high — justified by the standard Jane has set — but the popularity of Austen-inspired fan fiction continues to thrive, because people trust Jane (and her legacy) to steer them on the course to love, romance, and happiness. In Jane’s novels, every character gets what is deserved, whether it be a happily-ever-after, or a comeuppance. In Jane’s novels, life is fair. And in an uncertain world, there is something immensely satisfying in that.
Take Darcy and Elizabeth. He is arrogant, shy, and misunderstood, while she is witty, well-read, and outspoken. And we know instinctively that they are perfect for each other. We are enormously invested in the story of Pride and Prejudice — he is the tortured hero…but she can fix him! Just as he can fix her hopeless financial situation. And while the hurdles are huge: pride, prejudice, (see what I did there?), awkwardness, uncertainty, bad timing … there are no throwaway misunderstandings, no easy solutions. There is only an utterly believable — and relatable — string of characters, situations, and emotions that stand in the way of Lizzie and Darcy being together. Until they manage to vanquish them all. *Happy sigh.*
It’s real. But it’s romantic too. And you get the sense that they really will live happily ever after. Because they had to work for it — had to fight for it — and they won. And that’s definitely something to be celebrated.
Quite simply, Ms. Austen is the total package. Her books have wonderful, memorable characters, from the swoon-worthy heroes to the ones we love to hate. They have exasperating situations intermingled with the poignant, romantic, and emotional ones (just like life!) They have wit and humor. They have hope. Not to mention, plenty of etiquette and life lessons. Austen could be considered the patron saint of romance, and her canon, the touchstone for happily-ever-afters. She may as well have written the book on classics.
Alyssa Goodnight is the author of Austentatious and Austensibly Ordinary. She lives between Houston and Galveston with her husband, two sons, and dog Indiana Jones.