Jane Austen is one of my favorite authors of all time and for good reason. Not only do I find her writing and stories entertaining, but I think they are timeless classics that will never go out of style. I was recently thinking about how over 200 years after she was first published, she still has such a huge impact on literature, movies, TV, you name it, today. So if you’re a Jane Austen fan or if you’re not too familiar with her works, then sit back for a few minutes and let me share my thoughts!
My love for Austen first began back in high school. During my junior year (11th grade) my teacher assigned Pride & Prejudice. I absolutely loved the love story with wit, humor, temporary heartbreak. After reading the novel, we watched the movie – the miniseries version with Colin Firth that’s like over 5 hours long. This was before the Keira Knightly version came out. I remember watching the movie and being utterly enthralled by the whole story. Then, a few years later the Keira Knightly version came out and I adored that one as well. Plus, that’s a few hours shorter and much easier to rewatch!
As the years went on, I continued to read and enjoy more of Austen’s novels and writings.
Now you may be wondering how exactly do her stories still resonate with us today 200+ years later? I think there’s something so real and relatable to her characters and stories. Her female protagonists are intelligent, witty, and fiercely independent. Yet, at the end of the day they still want to find love. I think a lot of 21st century women can relate to that. We can take care of ourselves and have thriving careers, but that doesn’t mean we don’t also secretly or not so secretly want to be swept off our feet.
I recently watched Sense & Sensibility with my AP Literature class and there’s a line that I love in the movie. It may be in the book, I don’t remember. Edward and Elinor are talking about their lives and futures and Edward laments that he doesn’t really have a say in his profession and has to be a dutiful son and that in a way he and Elinor have the same lot in life. Elinor responds with, “Except that you will inherit your fortune. We cannot even earn ours”. This is a prime example of how forward thinking, honest, and pro-women’s rights Austen was.
You might be thinking, well you’re an English teacher so of course you’ll like Jane Austen. Well, let me tell you my AP Literature students – 17-18 year olds who are more urban than suburban, loved reading Pride & Prejudice and watching Sense & Sensibility. We had such in-depth discussions about Pride & Prejudice – they were quite vocal about how annoying Mrs. Bennett and Lydia are. And get this – while watching Sense & Sensibility, we had about 15 minutes left and I told them we would finish it the next class. They actually could not wait so they came during lunch to finish the movie! I would have never imagined these teenagers would want to come during lunch time because they couldn’t wait another day to see how this British story from the 1800s would all end. I was so happy to see and hear them yelling with joy when *spoiler alert* Marianne walks out of the church with Colonel Brandon *End Spoiler*
Aside from period pieces, Austen has influenced so many other books and movies. There’s The Jane Austen Book Club – a movie about a group of Austen fans who form a book club to discuss her works and come to realize their own relationships resemble the novels.
There’s Austenland which is about a woman who is such a huge fan of Jane Austen that she goes on vacation to a place that immerses you in a Jane Austen themed world. You stay on an estate, are given the clothes to wear, the whole shebang. Everyone plays the part and it’s hilarious. Keri Russell’s character comes to realize that maybe this world she has romanticized for so long isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
Then there are lots of TV movies that are inspired by her stories like Hallmark Channel’s original movie from this past spring, Unleashing Mr. Darcy, which had a similar storyline to Pride & Prejudice except it takes play in 2016 New York City and the main settings are various dog shows. I know, it sounds ridiculous, but it’s not a bad made for TV movie and again is an example of how far Austen’s reach is! Last year Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was released in theaters, which I didn’t see and I heard was not great. But it was based on a popular book and although it flopped in the theaters, again, it shows that people cannot get enough of Jane Austen’s stories if they are making stories about her stories and including zombies! The novel, Atonement, even has an excerpt from Northanger Abbey as its epigraph. In the movie You’ve Got Mail, there’s a thread throughout the story where they discuss the pride and prejudice of Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy. And in a way when you think about it, You’ve Got Mail, is another version of Pride & Prejudice! Love & Friendship is out in theaters now and I hear it’s getting rave reviews!
To sum it up, I can see why so many cannot get enough of Jane Austen and how she is still relatable to this day. Plus it doesn’t hurt that some of her characters like Mr. Darcy are swoon worthy.