Theme Thursday– Opening lines

theme thursday.jpg

I bet you know a few of Jane Austen’s opening lines. Critics will tell you the first sentence of a novel is crucial, even in a world where readers are browsing in the book stores and picking up books at random less and less. Today’s online buyer will typically select the genre and category before they start browsing. Then the cover and the blurb will entice. Some buy without reading a sample, but many others do. Experts say that the purpose of the first sentence is to convince a reader to read the second and then the third and so on.

I would argue that reading the first sentence is important to begin the emotional journey the reader has with the characters. In the 21st century, characters is what sells a book, not the setting or theme.

How does Jane Austen hold up to that demand?

Sense and Sensibility: The family of Dashwood had been long settled in Sussex.


Pride and Prejudice: It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.


Mansfield Park: About thirty years ago Miss Maria Ward, of Huntingdon, with only seven thousand pounds, had the good luck to captivate Sir Thomas Bertram, of Mansfield Park, in the county of Northampton, and to be thereby raised to the rank of a baronet’s lady, with all the comforts and consequences of an handsome house and large income.


Emma: Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her.


Persuasion: Sir Walter Elliot, of Kellynch Hall, in Somersetshire, was a man who, for his own amusement, never took up any book but the Baronetage; there he found occupation for an idle hour, and consolation in a distressed one; there his faculties were roused into admiration and respect, by contemplating the limited remnant of the earliest patents; there any unwelcome sensations, arising from domestic affairs changed naturally into pity and contempt as he turned over the almost endless creations of the last century; and there, if every other leaf were powerless, he could read his own history with an interest which never failed.


Northanger Abbey: No one who had ever seen Catherine Morland in her infancy would have supposed her born to be an heroine.


Lady Susan: MY DEAR BROTHER,—I can no longer refuse myself the pleasure of profiting by your kind invitation when we last parted of spending some weeks with you at Churchhill, and, therefore, if quite convenient to you and Mrs. Vernon to receive me at present, I shall hope within a few days to be introduced to a sister whom I have so long desired to be acquainted with.

Well, if you can see that very few of Austen’s books begin with anything that connects to a character, let alone the protagonist, what is the purpose of her opening lines?

sense_sensibility

Sense and Sensibility rapidly opens with the death of the patriarch and the history of wills which leaves the females in such dire straits. We know they will soon have to leave Norland–unless their brother asks them to stay. Elinor then meets and falls in love with Edward and there’s a shred of hope that the distress of losing their father will lead to an unexpected blessing. The real turning point in the story happens when they leave Norland. There’s no going back. Life is going to be nothing like it was before. In this case, the opening sentence sets up the old world and lets us know that it is likely to forever change. Austen suggests the conflict of the story (how do Elinor and Marianne make their way in the world once they are no longer privileged and sheltered at Norland?) from the very beginning.

colin-firth-as-mr-darcy-in-pride-and-prejudice-bbc-adaptation-1995-lizzyNethDanceClear006_0001

Again, in Pride and Prejudice, we get the crux of the conflict immediately. Whoever thinks any wealthy unmarried man must be interested in marriage is full of both pride and prejudice. Suggesting it is a universal truth tells us that our characters will be working in a world where this is the basic assumption. We can only expect that any sensible character we would bother liking would reject such a ludicrous idea. However, what will be the ramifications for rejecting such a societal truth? In the end, the interesting fact is that while Elizabeth Bennet wasn’t exactly husband hunting, did she ever consider that a man might be tired of the game? Did Mr. Darcy ever consider that not every lady was playing it as well? Both of them claim to reject the “truth” presented at the beginning and yet they unintentionally prove it.

754d3edd56260451

Mansfield Park gets trickier. Is there a conflict introduced in the first line? No. Is a character introduced? Yes, but she ends up being no one of consequence to the story. In fact, she’s arguably the character with the least impact. The thought of that never ceases to delight me. What is Jane Austen attempting to tell the reader with this beginning sentence? One, it was unlikely that this Maria Ward would obtain the status she did. Very few people live as an island. No, they have relations. These lower relations are now thrust into a baronet’s orbit. We must read the second sentence to gain more information.

She had two sisters to be benefited by her elevation; and such of their acquaintance as thought Miss Ward and Miss Frances quite as handsome as Miss Maria, did not scruple to predict their marrying with almost equal advantage.

Ah. Yes, the relations we previously guessed at are sisters. Sisters that are just as beautiful as the first. Did they marry well? If they did not what was it about Maria Ward that gave her advantage? What became of these sisters? We are told this whole thing happened about thirty years ago so what does all of this mean about the present? It is not exactly a gripping opening but does the job in making the reader ask questions and need to read to find the answers.

59f5e56046b14da399efc454c7ecb4ac--emma-woodhouse-emma-love

Jane Austen has famously claimed in a letter that no one will like Emma Woodhouse as a heroine except herself. Here we do meet a character. However, we are told she has nothing to vex her. She seems to have every blessing in life. Let us recall that the typical heroine of the era was more like Fanny Price–innocent but at a disadvantage in some way. The Dashwood sisters and Elizabeth Bennet both suffered financially compared to those that would judge and demean them. Now, we have a woman with every reason for joy and contentment. We can expect she will either have all of that taken away or should be a paragon of virtue with an endlessly charitable heart so we won’t hate her. However, that’s not the Emma Woodhouse we get. Instead, we are told in the fifth sentence that Emma has real evils. She gets her own way and thinks well of herself. The reader can see these are unlikable traits and the added description of pretending as though they are great flaws prejudices the reader even more, in my opinion. What will make the reader continue? Curiosity and a desire for the lady to get her just desserts? Kind hopefulness that even a rich lady can learn to have a more charitable view of the world? We are told what to think about Emma…and yet we are not so certain. The uncertainty impels us to continue. This fits all the more as some literary critics consider Emma the precursor to a mystery novel. The central question in that framework is “Who can Emma marry?” whereas the opening sentence makes us wonder “Who is Emma really?” People are always more than the sum of their appearances to others.

vlcsnap-00067.pngIn Persuasion, we meet Sir Walter Elliot and how well he thinks of his family legacy. Personally, reading the sarcasm about the baronetage hooked me as a reader. I love a book that begins by poking fun of someone or something. I dearly love a laugh! As the chapter continues, we learn that Sir Walter’s family lacks a crucial thing: an heir of his body. We also learn the youngest daughter has married but the two elder ones have not. We then learn that the family is in debt and will need to leave this ancestral home and pride of place. While we do not understand what the conflict of the story is yet, we know the cause of it is this misplaced pride. Ah, but the family is going through a change. Surely they will amend their views and whatever it has cost the heroine will be reversed! Do you see where Austen sneaks in the fact that it won’t be as simple as that? Cleverly, by exposing Sir Walter as so ridiculous in caring about his position in the world, Austen tells the reader that merely reversing the family’s position will not fix the problem for any sensible person doesn’t care about that. It won’t be enough for someone to see that the heroine’s family must no longer have their pride–even if they were capable of letting it go–for that was not the root of the problem on the other side. She slyly tells us there is a dual conflict. Once we get to know Captain Wentworth, it’s easy to see how that’s the case.

na2007_henry1w

I would not be the first to point out that the traditional heroine of a gothic novel looks more like Eleanor Tilney than Catherine Morland. Austen laughingly points this out right away. Well, if Catherine is not the traditional heroine then who is she? Like Emma, we are introduced to the heroine right away and told what to think about her. It is no wonder that Austen’s working title for this story was Susan and then Catherine. Unlike Emma, we are given a sympathetic view of Catherine. We can’t help but want her to do well in life, even if she doesn’t so desperately deserve it as other heroines do. I think in this way, Northanger Abbey fits as the most modern story. Today’s books quickly introduce the protagonist and convinces us why we should care about him or her. As the story continues, we can see how Mr. Tilney has what Catherine lacks in life and how she can lift his spirits and encourage his sense of humor while preventing him from falling into cynicism.

acbc81-20160526-stillman02.jpg

Lady Susan‘s opening line immediately exposes her selfish and manipulative way. The reader instantly wonders how this family will survive her visit and what this woman will continue to attempt to gain from it.

I have postulated that present-day readers prefer to learn about one of the protagonists . Experts have claimed that the opening line makes the reader continue reading. In some cases, Austen’s lines expose the conflict (S&S, P&P, P). In others, she introduces a character (Emma, NA, P, LS). Another possibility is exposing the setting or theme of the book (S&S, P, LS). Mansfield Park is Jane Austen’s least popular book and by examining the opening line, we might see why. Although it compels the reader to continue to make sense of the importance of the first line it does not introduce a character we can have an emotional reaction to. It does not present a conflict or theme. It’s worth noting that many critics think Mansfield Park is Austen’s greatest work but I would argue that it is also her most subtle. The indifferent beginning continues throughout the work and the true meaning of Austen’s themes, the conflict, the very reason why Fanny is the heroine and not one of her cousins or Mary Crawford all remain mostly hidden in the same way someone may miss the importance of the book’s opening line.

9780307390790.jpg1pppeacock.png

In conclusion, opening lines are pretty crucial for a book. However, a book may be well-written without having a strong opening–if that serves the author’s intent. I like to think that Jane Austen was not surprised when fewer people enjoyed MP than they did her other works. I imagine she knew not many people would see all her deeper meanings and she wanted them to remain hidden as she opened the story in such a way. On the other hand, to become a popular book, you must have a memorable opening. Critics may think Mansfield Park is the superior story but more readers will know Pride and Prejudice‘s opening line.

Wacky Wednesday–Scott’s Grotto

wacky wednesday

I was watching the 2009 production of Emma the other day when I realized Pride and Prejudice is the only Jane Austen story in which the primary male and female characters do not go on an excursion together. Of course, in each scenario there are annoying people amongst them. It made me wonder what it would be like for the Bennets and the Bingley group to go on an outing together. Could you imagine Caroline having to sit in a carriage with Lydia for hours?

emma-picnic1.jpg

Thus I began researching to find a suitable place in Hertfordshire to send our beloved Pride and Prejudice characters. However, I also wanted to post about it for today’s theme. I knew it had to be “wacky.” After a few hours, I found Scott’s Grotto in Ware. It’s about 4 miles from Hertford, which I tend to use as my base for Meryton. I’ve read somewhere, now lost to my memory, that it’s a possible inspiration for Meryton.

 

Scott’s Grotto is not just any grotto. And for those that don’t know, a grotto is a cave. Think Ariel’s grotto from the Little Mermaid. I am a bit biased on the topic of grottoes as I grew up in a town called Grottoes and, if I may say, we have the best caverns in the US. If you ever find yourself in Virginia, be sure to stop by Grand Caverns.

Back to Scott’s Grotto. It’s the largest in England. Built into the chalk hillside, it has six chambers and is 65 feet long and 30 feet below the surface. There are connecting passages and the area is complete with air and light shafts. Its walls are covered with sea shells, colored glass, and stones. It was made by John Scott, an 18th century Quaker who also wrote poetry and owned the property of Amwell House in which the grotto is located. Scott also had other romantic items in his garden, including a gazebo. From 1779 to 1787, Scott recorded 3,000 visitors to his grotto. Famed writer Samuel Johnson visited in 1773 and called it a “fairy hall.”

Upon Scott’s death in 1783, the estate was inherited by his only daughter, Maria. She married a wealthy Quaker named John Hooper. Unfortunately, when she died in 1863 the property was divided up. The grotto was repaired in 1990s. Both the house and the estate are under management of the Hertford Regional College.

So…how will I work this grotto into a story? You’ll just have to come back and see! 😀

 

Sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scott%27s_Grotto

https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1000918

http://www.scotts-grotto.org/

Wacky Wednesday– Mix up

wacky wednesday

 

Can you guess which Jane Austen heroines I have mixed up in the following opening line?

Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and no one who had ever seen her in her infancy would have supposed her born to be an heroine.

 

 

Could you imagine a story in which Emma Woodhouse experienced Catherine Morland’s circumstances? Wacky indeed! I don’t have any current plans for such a story but I challenge you to consider the possibilities. What do you think might change about Northanger Abbey if Emma Woodhouse were the heroine? What if they both swapped and Catherine is the wealthy heiress of Hartfield? I wonder if Mr. Knightley could tolerate Catherine’s naivete or if Henry Tilney would be annoyed at Emma’s snobbiness. Catherine would never insult Miss Bates but at what moment would she learn she had over-indulged her imagination? When would Emma have to face her bad manners and interference if living in Catherine’s shoes?

As a Jane Austen Fan Fiction writer, it’s not enough to just take a story and “mess” something up. One must consider how a story would change when a detail is altered. The second story I ever wrote was inspired by a writing prompt on a free forum. It was about “wacky holidays.” There were several suggested. One was “letter writing day.” From that prompt, I wrote what became Letters from the Heart. The first draft was “The Best Laid Plans.” It was intended to be a short story of only a few hundred words. A few months later, I decided to edit it and make it longer. I posted it on another site. A few months after that, I decided to edit again. Finally, I decided to publish and it grew even more.

I still enjoy the original story (which was well over 500 words). It was complete on it’s own. However, I also enjoyed digging deeper into the conflict and the minor characters to create its final version. In “The Best Laid Plans” Darcy and Elizabeth mistakenly send letters to one another a few weeks after the Netherfield Ball. In Letters from the Heart, nearly every character’s life changes due to a letter. Interestingly enough, I just rewrote the blurb for Letters from the Heart. In it, I focus on the relationship between Darcy and Elizabeth.

Going back to the prompt of swapping Emma Woodhouse and Catherine Morland. While many things might and must change with such an alteration. Not a soul in either book would not be affected. Naturally, however, the greatest changes would center on the heroines and their love interests. That would be the central theme and what I would include in the blurb. The story, though, would contain all the nuanced changes for everyone else. How would Harriet change if Catherine were her friend instead of Emma? Isabella Thorpe probably doesn’t stand a chance on influencing Emma Woodhouse. Eleanor Tilney might take on a greater role instead. These are the things which a JAFF writer must consider when taking on a “wacky” prompt.

In Letters from the Heart, it is not just that Darcy and Elizabeth have accidentally sent letters. It’s that they both have confessed they love one another. How does the story change when Elizabeth realizes she loves Darcy early on? Well, I can assure you it’s not a smooth path to happily ever after!

What would inspire you to write a “wacky” story?

Thursday Three Hundred–Greater than Friends

 

Rose Letter

On Monday, I posted the song Friends Don’t by Maddie and Tae. I wrote that it reminded me of Emma and Knightley. I could have written from a few other locations in the book, but chose the scene where Harriet Smith acknowledges that she loves Mr. Knightley–and believes he loves her in return. I generously use some lines straight from Miss Austen. I don’t think she would mind. 🙂

cd4fab69d19e6c58bb41e5fe62b0bcaeGreater than Friends

“Let us understand each other now, without the possibility of farther mistake. Are you speaking of—Mr. Knightley?”

“To Be sure I am.”

Harriet continued speaking, and Emma vaguely registered the girl’s words, managing somehow to talk while all her mind worked on Harriet’s strange series of utterances. Harriet Smith in love with her good friend Mr. Knightley? But no, that was not the correct word for Mr. Knightley.

Did friends mean to one another what Mr. Knightley and Emma meant to one another? How often had they made plans around the feeling of the other? How many silent conversations had they had with nothing but their eyes? If Mr. Knightley were only a friend, should she not be able to hear Mrs. Elton speak of him with familiarity without possessive irritation?

For months, years, even he had often visited Hartfield. His visits began shortly, but now they seemed to linger. He found any excuse to come and the purpose seemed just as much to visit Emma as to sit with her father. A hundred tender memories of conversations and Knightley’s nearness flashed like lightning in Emma’s mind and swelled her heart.

However, unfortunate recollections also recollected. She had pushed him aside. He probably believed—just as everyone else did, it seemed—that she loved Frank Churchill. His low opinion of her was very plain and Harriet—sweet, simple, pretty Harriet—he had confessed to think well of.

No, no, no! It would not do! “Good God!” cried Emma, “this has been a most unfortunate—most deplorable mistake!—What is to be done?”

Again, Harriet chattered on. Emma could not speak. Mr. Knightley would never linger at Hartfield again. No, he would have his dear Harriet to think about. They would visit together, and Emma would have to find a way to send them off. No more chats after supper while the stars shone. No more daily walks from Donwell Abbey.

No, no. Mr. Knightley was not merely her friend. “Have you any idea of Mr. Knightley’s returning your affection?”

“Yes,” replied Harriet modestly, but not fearfully—”I must say that I have.”

Emma sat in silence while a thunderclap sounded in her mind—nay, her heart. With the speed of an arrow, she acknowledged Mr. Knightley must marry no one but herself!

On and on, Harriet continued explaining and rationalizing—with merit, Emma detested to admit—that Knightley did care for her.

Feeling her heart die and her soul weep, Emma acknowledged, “I will only venture to declare, that Mr. Knightley is the last man in the world, who would intentionally give any woman the idea of his feeling for her more than he really does.”

Finally, Harriet left, and Emma sat in dejected spirits wishing she had never met the girl. This much she knew, no one would love Mr. Knightley as she did. How she wished she had the opportunity to tell him before he made a choice that would forever separate them.

 

Tea Time Tattle–Knightley loved Emma as a child??

 

on a white wooden table red roses, cup of tea, heart made of lac

I’ve seen many articles around the Austen-verse with writers opining that Mr. Knightley is a better romantic hero than Mr. Darcy. I won’t bother to touch on that. 🙂 However, I think the thing that makes many readers uncomfortable about Mr. Knightley is the following line:

“The good was all to myself, by making you an object of the tenderest affection to me. I could not think about you so much without doating on you, faults and all; and by dint of fancying so many errors, have been in love with you ever since you were thirteen at least.”

This must be broken down into two sections. The first, which seems most egregious to a modern reader, is his loving Emma while she was only thirteen. The second, that he shaped her into a woman to marry.

tumblr_m6xu9pG4TV1rakqzoo2_400

Let’s establish a bit of history for Emma and Knightley. Emma is twenty-one and is the younger of two heiresses of a very comfortable estate. Her father lives, is quite old, and seems generally anxious about everything. We are also told she is far cleverer than her elder sister and was from an early age. In fact, she’s so clever she doesn’t really have a mental companion for her save Mr. Knightley. He’s a neighbor, and his younger brother married Emma’s sister some years ago. However, he’s 37 or 38, so there’s quite the age gap.

So, if he loved Emma at 13, then he would have been 27 or 28. I mean, that’s a huge red flag, even if we want to make allowances for things like Lydia marrying at 16 to a man who is 26. Developmentally, there would be quite a difference between 13 and 16, even in an era that treated teenagers as adults. Even though women could be treated as adults around age 16 (this seems to differ for men), very few of their class married at that age. The average age across the nation for women to marry was 26, and I’ve seen estimates at around 22 or 23 for the gentry. So, although 16-year-olds could join in Society things they were not, generally, accepting suitors and marrying. Emma is “underage” no matter how you slice it.

emma_strongbeckinsale.jpgHowever, did he really romantically love her at age 13? First, we are told that Knightley  “was not only a very old and intimate friend of the family, but particularly connected with it, as the elder brother of Isabella’s husband.”

Emma was 12 years old when Isabella married. There’s little reason to believe that Knightley was often visiting the house when Emma was so young and his brother and new sister-in-law lived in London. It appears for some time he only visited when the John Knightleys were in the area. Even if Mr. Woodhouse invited him to dine, Emma would not have been at the table at such a young age. We are told of this:

The list she drew up when only fourteen—I remember thinking it did her judgment so much credit, that I preserved it some time; and I dare say she may have made out a very good list now.

This statement is before Frank Churchill has arrived, which is worth noting for once Knightley proposes, we are told the following:

On his side, there had been a long-standing jealousy, old as the arrival, or even the expectation, of Frank Churchill.—He had been in love with Emma, and jealous of Frank Churchill, from about the same period, one sentiment having probably enlightened him as to the other. It was his jealousy of Frank Churchill that had taken him from the country.—The Box Hill party had decided him on going away. He would save himself from witnessing again such permitted, encouraged attentions.—He had gone to learn to be indifferent.

Perhaps he did not realize he preserved Emma’s early list out of love, but I think it far more likely that he was merely impressed with a child making such a list. She might have even done it purposefully to please him, as a child often does. She was his sister-in-law for two years by this point. There’s no reason to consider that he desired her as a wife at such an age, or even considered that she could one day become one for him when we also take into account that he did not recognize it as love until long after Frank was in the picture.

I think Knightley is acquitted of anything akin to craving Emma as a companion at such a young age. He loved her as a sister, and that is all the notice he took of her. However, what about his statement that he made her into someone that he could love?

If a man is of sound means at 37 or 38, especially in such an era, one might wonder if he will ever marry. Emma makes sound arguments:

“But Mr. Knightley does not want to marry. I am sure he has not the least idea of it. Do not put it into his head. Why should he marry?—He is as happy as possible by himself; with his farm, and his sheep, and his library, and all the parish to manage; and he is extremely fond of his brother’s children. He has no occasion to marry, either to fill up his time or his heart.”

“My dear Emma, as long as he thinks so, it is so; but if he really loves Jane Fairfax—”

Knightley has no impetus to marry for companionship or lack of an heir. He would only marry for love. The fact that he’s reached such an age and has not fallen in love makes it pretty clear that most people are not up to his requirements. Does it follow, then, that he would have to shape a person into his designs? Would he take nearly ten years to do it? Would that even be love?

An additional question arises from this notion. Does Emma yield to Knightley’s molding? There would be too many quotes to use as they consistently argue throughout the book, but Knightley complains many times that Emma listens to no one, including him. Within her thoughts, we are sure she will never capitulate to anything simply because he says so–lest we forget the dread affair about Harriet and Mr. Martin.

However, when Knightley scolds her after she makes fun of Miss Bates, Emma feels the reproach.

It was badly done, indeed! You, whom she had known from an infant, whom she had seen grow up from a period when her notice was an honour, to have you now, in thoughtless spirits, and the pride of the moment, laugh at her, humble her—and before her niece, too—and before others, many of whom (certainly some,) would be entirely guided by your treatment of her.—This is not pleasant to you, Emma—and it is very far from pleasant to me; but I must, I will,—I will tell you truths while I can; satisfied with proving myself your friend by very faithful counsel, and trusting that you will some time or other do me greater justice than you can do now.”

Emma is described as feeling thus:

He had misinterpreted the feelings which had kept her face averted, and her tongue motionless. They were combined only of anger against herself, mortification, and deep concern.

She was vexed beyond what could have been expressed—almost beyond what she could conceal. Never had she felt so agitated, mortified, grieved, at any circumstance in her life. She was most forcibly struck. The truth of this representation there was no denying. She felt it at her heart. How could she have been so brutal, so cruel to Miss Bates! How could she have exposed herself to such ill opinion in any one she valued! And how suffer him to leave her without saying one word of gratitude, of concurrence, of common kindness!

It is not enough, however, for Emma to regret the justness of Knightley’s remarks or hate that she has disappointed him. The real turning point in Emma’s story comes when she enters self-reproach:

She had been often remiss, her conscience told her so; remiss, perhaps, more in thought than fact; scornful, ungracious. But it should be so no more. In the warmth of true contrition, she would call upon her the very next morning, and it should be the beginning, on her side, of a regular, equal, kindly intercourse.

Knightley tries, again and again, to make Emma understand her ways. He doesn’t like her matchmaking. He doesn’t like Frank Churchill. He doesn’t like Emma making fun of Jane Fairfax. He doesn’t like her friendship with Harriet Smith. He doesn’t like approve of her idleness. However, he always sees the good and the potential in Emma. Emma never backs down and agrees just to please him–or anyone else. She thinks well of Knightley and doesn’t like it when they’ve argued, and it appears he is disappointed in her, but it’s only when she feels the disappointment herself that we see her reverse her opinion. The fact that she’s not obstinate in resisting what needs to change simply because Knightley has said it should be a mark in her favor.

I would say Knightley has no more influence over Emma than most friends have over one another. This should be a familiar theme for Austen deals with friendly persuasion in each novel.

Instead of viewing Emma and Knightley’s relationship beginning at the point of romance, let us consider it from the progression of brother and sister-in-law, to friends, to lovers.

emmapart03_422-2

From Volume III Chapter III, after Knightley is well acquainted with his growing feelings for Emma:

“Whom are you going to dance with?” asked Mr. Knightley.

She hesitated a moment, and then replied, “With you, if you will ask me.”

“Will you?” said he, offering his hand.

“Indeed I will. You have shewn that you can dance, and you know we are not really so much brother and sister as to make it at all improper.”

“Brother and sister! no, indeed.”

So we see they have left brother and sister long behind. They are friends. Knightley even says this when Mrs. Weston is pestering him about Emma’s friendship with Harriet (and I believe trying to make him own his feelings):

“I do not know what I could imagine, but I confess that I have seldom seen a face or figure more pleasing to me than hers. But I am a partial old friend.”

By the end of the novel, however, they are no longer satisfied to simply be friends. A person may have a hundred friends, and they may come and go through life. Emma and Knightley are the best of friends, but that is such an inadequate word for their feelings.

But if you have any wish to speak openly to me as a friend, or to ask my opinion of any thing that you may have in contemplation—as a friend, indeed, you may command me.—I will hear whatever you like. I will tell you exactly what I think.”

“As a friend!”—repeated Mr. Knightley.—”Emma, that I fear is a word—No, I have no wish—Stay, yes, why should I hesitate?—

Instead of leaving it at friendship, Knightley expresses more:

“My dearest Emma,” said he, “for dearest you will always be, whatever the event of this hour’s conversation, my dearest, most beloved Emma—”

Knightley and Emma have ascended from kinship to friendship to potential lovers.

“I cannot make speeches, Emma:” he soon resumed; and in a tone of such sincere, decided, intelligible tenderness as was tolerably convincing.—”If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more. But you know what I am.—You hear nothing but truth from me.—I have blamed you, and lectured you, and you have borne it as no other woman in England would have borne it.—Bear with the truths I would tell you now, dearest Emma, as well as you have borne with them. The manner, perhaps, may have as little to recommend them. God knows, I have been a very indifferent lover.—But you understand me.—Yes, you see, you understand my feelings—and will return them if you can. At present, I ask only to hear, once to hear your voice.”

Indeed, Emma returns his affections.

She spoke then, on being so entreated.—What did she say?—Just what she ought, of course. A lady always does.—She said enough to shew there need not be despair—and to invite him to say more himself.


tumblr_m541hoc46w1r53l28o7_250And so we have one of the earliest examples in literature of a romance blossoming from friendship to beloved.

This one half-hour had given to each the same precious certainty of being beloved, had cleared from each the same degree of ignorance, jealousy, or distrust.

Now, the next time you see a Knightley vs. Darcy debate, you might find the fight closer than ever as, I believe, Knightley is free from any immoral insinuation. Jane Austen would not be the last to write such a concept. Romance books are rife with the trope of from friends to lovers or the adopted sibling to lovers etc. I consider my own love story closer to friends to lovers, so it has a soft spot in my heart.

 

Austen’s Brides- Overachievers

Oh they say when you marry in June
You’re a bride all your life,
And the bridegroom who marries in June
Has a sweetheart for a wife,
Winter weddings can be gay
Like a Christmas holiday,
But the June bride hears a song
Of a spring that lasts all summer long,
By the light of the silvery moon,
Home you ride, side by side,
With the echo of Mandelson’s tune
In your hearts as you ride,
For they say when you marry in June
You will always be a bride.

-“June Bride” from Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Lyrics by Johnny Mercer

Young bride in forest

Wedding season has begun! I have a friend who is a wedding planner, and she’s booked through the summer. I thought it would be a good time to consider Jane Austen’s brides. To the general public, they think of Austen’s books as romances detailing the courtship between a couple; the epitome of will-they-or-won’t-they literature.

More observant readers will notice that while courtships are central to the plot, that is not the primary theme. However, Austen’s heroes and heroines have a myriad of feelings regarding marriage. Obviously, there are married couples who influenced the characters as they grew up- usually parents but not always. There is also the presence of new marriages. The main characters have a chance to examine these marriages of their peers through different eyes than one has as a child.

Through examining the newly-wed in Austen’s six novels, I see two main categories. There are those who married for social or financial advantage. Others settled after years of having no suitors, compromising their aspirations, or had interests in another direction. We’ll consider the happiness these different categories achieve.

kinopoisk.ruIn Sense and Sensibility, we meet many married couples. Henry Dashwood seemed affectionate toward his wife and children. His son, John, is described as being very fond of his wife. In reality, he is entirely ruled by her. Next, we meet Sir John Middleton and his wife. He is very affable and delights in company. Lady Middleton is happiest when playing the host. One can see what they might have in common. However, these three couples have been married for several years.

We are eventually introduced to Mr. and Mrs. Palmer. She is Lady Middleton’s sister, and he is a member of parliament and rather a sour-puss. Mrs. Palmer points out how ironic it is that now he must be agreeable to everyone. They have recently married and are expecting their first child. The reader cannot conceive what brought them together other than a desire to wed and seeing that their financial and social statuses were compatible. For all Mrs. Jennings match-making, she never discusses love very much.

Another couple that wed for their social and financial compatibilities is Mr. and Mrs. Elton in Emma. Much is made of class in this novel. Mr. Elton had previously refused the idea of courting Emma’s friend, Harriet Smith, due to her illegitimacy and the unknown status of her parents. Additionally, Mr. Knightley says that Elton would never marry cheap. He first set his sights on Emma with her twenty thousand pounds and once rejected, married Augusta Hawkins of Bath who had ten thousand pounds. She came from a merchant family and while Elton probably did not have much more than the average clergyman’s pay (about one hundred pounds a year), he had a gentleman’s rank, and her dowry would enable a very comfortable living. Upon meeting the new Mrs. Elton, it’s immediately clear that her personality is very equal to Mr. Elton’s. As they never seem unhappy with each other and are not well-bred enough to hide it if they had been, we must conclude they admire one another.

Finally, let us consider Mary Elliot Musgrove. Anne Elliot’s younger sister, Mary, staunchly believed in marrying only where it was agreeable to her family and taking social and financial status into account. At the heart of Persuasion is the class distance between the daughter of an impoverished baronet and a newly wealthy Naval captain. While Anne was obliged to break off her engagement with Wentworth, she refused to settle for Charles Musgrove when he proposed to her. Instead, Musgrove married Anne’s sister who frequently feigns illness for attention, easily feels slighted and victimized, and at her heart is very, very selfish. Charles, by contrast, is kind-hearted and if he fails in being attentive to Mary, it must only be out of fatigue. They have two young children, and one imagines the household will only grow unhappier as the years progress.

One of Jane Austen’s most well-known quotes is “Happiness in marriage is a matter of chance,” and looking at these statistics, it might be entirely accurate. The Palmers both seem kind enough when separated. Next, to her husband, she appears ditzier. Dealing with her, he is more sarcastic. The Eltons both had unkind qualities underneath polite veneers. Certainly, Musgrove’s patience and kindness could balance out Mary’s moods. And yet, once married it seems that the couple with the greatest possibility of marital happiness are the Eltons. I dare not think that in the world as a whole two unhappy people can make a content marriage, and so I rather believe they are just a fluke. Chance indeed!

As none of Austen’s heroines ever consider marrying without affection and simply for material gain, I think they learned from their peers’ mistakes. Next week, we’ll look into the marriages of Charlotte Lucas and Maria Bertram, as well as the failed engagement of Isabella Thorpe.

 

Austen Writes Romance- Legacy

Valentines Day - Wicker Hearts On Red Shiny Background

Despite my assertions that Jane Austen did not set out to write Romance, she nonetheless has had a profound impact on the genre. If focused on the romantic elements instead of themes of identity, her books can be summarized as follows:

Sense and Sensibility: Heartbroken, can she love again? Can their attraction overcome his dark secret?

Pride and Prejudice: Boy meets girl, girl hates boy, boy loves girl. Alpha male, sassy heroine. Imbalance of power. Sexual tension. And if you want to add Jane and Bingley: Can she trust him and can he take what he wants? (See my post about how Jane is an unsung hero because I believe this is a very popular theme in contemporary romances even if it gets little limelight in Pride and Prejudice.)

Mansfield Park: Boy can’t see the good woman right before him and nearly falls for a wanton temptress. Unforeseen events finally unite them. The heroine has overcome a traumatic background. Girl next door.

Emma: They’ve been friends forever, can it be more? Boy next door.

Persuasion: The one that got away/never got over a bad break up and meet again/family responsibility gets in the way of true love/family demands someone rich/has fallen on hard times.

Northanger Abbey- She’s young, innocent and naive. He wasn’t looking for love but ends up as her knight in shining armor. When she rescues herself, can they have a future? Can be insta-love and sugary.

Now, let’s look at current bestsellers in the Romance genre on Amazon. (Note: I have not read these books and am not recommending them, I am only analyzing their blurbs.)

41xibccnbelA luminous debut with unexpected twists, Everything We Keep explores the devastation of loss, the euphoria of finding love again, and the pulse-racing repercussions of discovering the truth about the ones we hold dear and the lengths they will go to protect us.

Sous chef Aimee Tierney has the perfect recipe for the perfect life: marry her childhood sweetheart, raise a family, and buy out her parents’ restaurant. But when her fiancé, James Donato, vanishes in a boating accident, her well-baked future is swept out to sea. Instead of walking down the aisle on their wedding day, Aimee is at James’s funeral—a funeral that leaves her more unsettled than at peace.

As Aimee struggles to reconstruct her life, she delves deeper into James’s disappearance. What she uncovers is an ocean of secrets that make her question everything about the life they built together. And just below the surface is a truth that may set Aimee free…or shatter her forever.

Translation: Sense and Sensibility.

51fxbujpplAlena is a princess, and with that comes responsibility. Like marrying the giant caveman King Roman, who looks more like a warrior than a ruler. Everything about him is intense. Especially the way he looks at her. But she’s been promised to him, and there’s no way out.

Roman took one look and made up his mind. Princess Alena will be his and no one will stop him from taking her. Everything about her belongs to him now, and waiting one week for a wedding isn’t going to happen.

This beast of a man might just claim his princess before she has a chance to say “I do.”

Translation: Jane and Bingley from Pride and Prejudice.

51rxofogxrlLove. Guilt. Heartbreak. The Secret Wife, is about the romance between cavalry officer Dmitri Malama and Grand Duchess Tatiana, the second daughter of Russia’s last tsar, who first met in 1914. It’s also about a young woman in 2016 deciding whether to forgive her husband after an infidelity.

Translation: Jane and Bingley from Pride and Prejudice.

51y422xflwlEli Strong got out of the military and all he wanted to do was get better. He never expected that the officer he was living with would have a daughter who tested his honor.

Maggie Drummond has been moved around more times than she can count, and starting at a new high school sucks. But when a wounded Marine comes to live with her and her dad, suddenly Maggie figures out what home is.

She’s forbidden fruit, and he’s trying to not to taste… But desire can only be denied for so long. Circumstances keep pulling them back together, and something truly unforeseen happens. Overnight, Eli becomes a guardian and Maggie his ward.

Will Eli keep his hands off Maggie? Will Maggie like it if he doesn’t? Will the two of them break the law because it feels so good? Only one way to find out!

Translation: Northanger Abbey.

51xgqcwctllFlirting With The Law is a quick and filthy book involving two utterly obsessed alpha heroes, one sassy heroine, and enough insta-love, steam, and sugary-sweetness to make your Kindles melt.

Translation: Pride and Prejudice.

 

512vdlb1j3lMallory Sims is late for her first day of work.

After spilling her tea, she discovers she has no gas in her car. Add that her arm keeps sticking to her dress from syrup left on the console of her car, flustered feels like an understatement.

Then she sees her new boss.

Graham Landry is the epitome of NSFW in his custom-fit suit, black-rimmed glasses, and a look so stern her libido doesn’t stand a chance. Being flustered is just the start of her problems.

Her punctuality is only the start of his. With a pink slip in hand, he’s been waiting on his new secretary to show up only to let her go. Then she rushes in with her doe eyes and rambling excuses, smelling like bacon and lavender. The termination paper falls to the side as she falls in his arms.

This is a disaster in the making. Not because of his pinpoint exactness or her free spirit, but because when they’re together, the sparks that fly threaten to burn the whole place down.

Translation: Pride and Prejudice.

51o1jwgaellMy grandfather left me his business with one insane condition:
I need a wife and two kids. Too bad I’m a divorced single dad.
Cue my ex-wife’s best friend moving in next door.
And then mix in a few bad decisions.
What do you get? A complicated, sexy mess.

SANDRA

The list of reasons I should stay away from my neighbor is about as long as his… wrench. He’s a dirty mechanic, he’s a single dad, and he can’t seem to keep his shirt on for more than five minutes.

Did I mention his ex wife is my best friend? Yeah. Reid Riggins is absolutely, one hundred percent, the last person in the world I should get involved with. Even if he is heart-stoppingly gorgeous with strong, powerful hands that could rip my clothes off with ease.

Not that I’ve imagined that, of course.

The point is I don’t want anything to do with him. He can stay in his stupid garage with his stupidly cute son and hit things with wrenches all day. He can keep on wearing those blue jeans that fit him just right for all I care.

Except I may have told a white lie to my eccentric, rich parents. I may have told them I’m engaged to a wealthy businessman, and now they want to meet my fake fiance. Unfortunately, Reid might be the only guy who’s willing to play along.

Translation: Emma mixed with Pride and Prejudice with a dash of Persuasion or Northanger Abbey for the familial obligations.

41x1qbzpwxlSometimes your life is split by a single decision.

I’ve spent every day of the last seven years regretting mine: he left, and I didn’t follow. A thousand letters went unanswered, my words like petals in the wind, spinning away into nothing, taking me with them.

But now he’s back.

I barely recognize the man he’s become, but I can still see a glimmer of the boy who asked me to be his forever, the boy I walked away from when I was young and afraid.

Maybe if he’d come home under better circumstances, he could speak to me without anger in his voice. Maybe if I’d said yes all those years ago, he’d look at me without the weight of rejection in his eyes. Maybe if things were different, we would have had a chance.

One regretted decision sent him away. One painful journey brought him back to me. I only wish I could keep him.

*A contemporary romance inspired by Jane Austen’s Persuasion*

Translation: Ok, so she says it’s Persuasion right there, but I was thinking it by the second line.

51ljijaibjlJess O’Brien has overcome a lot—the challenges of attention deficit disorder, the near bankruptcy of her beloved Inn at Eagle Point and her self-perception as a screwup in a family of overachievers. Now she’s ready to share the future with a man. Her friends persuade her to join a dating service—but she gets no takers! Which is fine with her childhood friend, psychologist Will Lincoln, who’s already chosen the perfect man for Jess: himself.

Will has loved Jess practically forever. He knows her faults and her strengths. But for all Will’s sincerity and charm, Jess fears he views her as some psychological case study. With her family and the town of Chesapeake Shores behind him, Will finally makes his case. But is it enough to convince Jess to take the risk of a lifetime.

511cxdwl6el-_sy346_Translation: Emma with a bit of Mansfield Park.

I’d never fallen for a student—but she was different.

Headstrong and unrelenting, she begged to be claimed. She just didn’t know it yet.

I was going to break her, and make her mine.

-REGAN

Translation: Pride and Prejudice, maybe some Northanger Abbey

Out of these top 10 books with prominent Austen influence, Pride and Prejudice is the definite strong suit. Darcy and Elizabeth’s relationship of sexual tension, power/money imbalance, love/hate is a classic. However, a variation on Jane and Bingley’s relationship is also popular. A common complaint about Bingley is that he’s not dominant enough, not an “alpha male” and allows himself to be talked out of what he wants by family and friends. In twenty-first century Romances, we want a man who will take what he wants! Although it takes Austen’s Bingley longer, I believe that is appropriate for the era.

I was surprised to see Mansfield Park make the list at all, but in many ways it is very similar to Emma and the boy next door trope is probably the second most common Romance trope. Matching it with a Pride and Prejudice hate to love theme is common as well. Adding a dash of Persuasion or Northanger Abbey with family obligations is innovative. I think I’ll try this one to see how the plot holds together with that many elements or if the wheels come of the bus.

It’s no surprise to see books with Persuasion themes on here. Second Chances is a category of its own in Romance, I think. For first time relationships Romance seems to fall into hate/love, boy/girl next door, insta-love, love triangles, or trust issues. Second Chances can either be with the same partner after a separation that seems insurmountable or with learning to love again, although that one heavily leans on the trust issues sub-category.

On Amazon you may search by Romantic hero, themes, or sub-genre. As classic as Austen is, I think we could find her fingerprints on something as obscure as Second Chances Paranormal Firefighter. Let’s see…

51n1-ctcq-lA curvy pilot wary of flighty men + a firefighter pegasus shifter determined to win her heart + a high speed air race with even higher stakes = one explosive romance!

Curvy pilot Connie West hates taking risks. But when her reckless father stakes her beloved airplane in a bet with a ruthless loan shark, Connie is forced to enter the Rydon Cup, a dangerous high-speed air race. To win the bet, she needs a co-pilot she can trust completely. Someone cautious and sensible. Someone completely unlike the gorgeous, wild Chase…

Pegasus shifter and firefighter Chase Tiernach lives life at top speed, but not even his close friends in his elite, all-shifter fire crew can guess that his ready grin conceals a broken heart. Three years ago, he met his fated mate Connie… and lost her again, thanks to his reputation for recklessness.

When Chase unexpectedly rescues Connie from a fire, he’s determined that this time, he’ll win her trust. All he has to do is fight off a gang of criminal shark shifters, defend Connie from a mysterious assassin, convince her to marry him so his clan will let him tell her he shifts into a flying horse, and win a perilous air race in a vintage warplane! What could possibly go wrong?

With enemies who’ll stop at nothing to prevent her from winning the bet, Connie is in danger of losing her plane, her life — and, most frighteningly of all, her heart. Can Chase persuade her to take a chance on him, or will their love crash and burn… again?

Firefighter Pegasus is a sizzling hot, standalone BBW pegasus shifter romance. No cliffhangers!

Translation: Persuasion

All more proof that Jane is here to stay! I hope you’ve enjoyed this segment. Next month, I’ll be talking about Spring in Austen’s works. Join me at Austen Authors for the first post, Thursday, March 2nd!