‘Indeed, there is a merciless quality in Austen’

‘I don’t think we continue to turn to Austen because, unlike us, she was protected from the capricious miseries of life. On the contrary, I’d argue that her power to connect with us in hard times arises not because her retired life shielded her from grief, pain, and fear—but because she knew very well what it was like to feel vulnerable, exposed, and anxious about the well-being of those she cared about…

Everyone was a potential victim—her sister Cassandra’s fiancé died suddenly at 29—but women were especially exposed. Pregnancy placed a woman squarely on the front lines of the struggle for survival, and the casualty rate was high. Three of Austen’s sisters-in-law died in childbirth, two in their eleventh confinements. It’s no surprise that Austen’s books are haunted by dead mothers; Anne Elliot, Emma Wodehouse, and Georgiana Darcy have all experienced this loss. Everyone had a black dress in their wardrobe and all too often was obliged to put it on.’

Janice Hadlow, author of The Other Bennet Sister, asks why we turn to Jane Austen when times get hard. Beyond the ‘light, bright and sparkling’ mood, Hadlow argues for Austen’s steely resilience and determination not to give in to depondency.

Read more: https://electricliterature.com/why-we-turn-to-jane-austen-in-dark-times/

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