Jane Austen novels are a portal into classical England. Parties, gossip and chivalry dominate the social sphere. My personal favorites are Pride and Prejudice and Emma. Though all of Austen’s works are memorable and feature female protagonists I found Emma and Elizabeth the most relatable to myself. Both are strong women without any intention to conform to societies expectations of them. While Elizabeth only plans to marry for love Emma does not plan to marry at all, both very strong viewpoints for a woman to hold when her identity was supposed to be tied to her marriage. Despite their flaws both women had many lessons to teach:
1. Don’t Judge Others for their Choices
From a young age girls are in competition with each another. Many times, this attitude begins in middle school when children begin to explore their individuality for the first time. This leads to bullying and results in low self-esteem in women later in life.
When Elizabeth Bennet gets a proposal from Mr. Collins she refuses. She later judges her friend Charlotte for marrying Mr. Collins. Charlotte is from the same financial status as Elizabeth and does not want to risk her future financial situation any further. She does not hold the same confidence as Elizabeth, who believes she will get a better offer of marriage from a man who will also love her.
It is only after the wedding when Elizabeth visits her friend at her new home that she can accept Charlotte’s decision. Upon seeing the house and wealth that Charlotte has acquired through marriage. Elizabeth realizes that not everyone can uphold the same ideals and goals of marrying for love as she has. Sometimes, people have different goals and standards defined by other factors in their life and that’s okay.
2. Set and Keep your Standards
For so long women hear from those around her that they can’t expect perfection. Many times, women are told that no one is perfect and it’s better to accept a good person even if they don’t match the standards expected, because what is the likelihood that someone better will come along.
Elizabeth Bennet is unwilling to sacrifice her standards and pride when it comes time to find a husband. She rejects Mr. Collins first. Later when Mr. Darcy declares his love for her despite her family’s state of poverty and lack of good connections Elizabeth is not swayed. She does not want to be associated with Mr. Darcy because in her perception he is an egotistical man that uses money to achieve his desires. She prefers soldier Wickham to Mr. Darcy until she can see past her prejudices of him and fall in love with him herself.
Confidence is Key
This may seem like a cliché. From a young age, most people are told to fake the confidence until they truly possess it. They are also told that confidence is the biggest secret to success. This is exemplified by Emma. Emma Woodhouse has vowed to remain unmarried however this does not stop her from matchmaking for others in her community. She claims to have been the reason for Mr. Weston marrying her governess Miss. Taylor thus bolstered by her confidence she undertakes the task of finding a match for vicar Mr. Elton and introducing Harriet Smith into good society. She fails at match-making multiple times first with Mr. Elton then on multiple accounts with Harriet. This does not deter Emma in the least. She keeps on trying her skills as a match-maker until both she and Harriet fall in love with Mr. Kingsley. Although Emma is not successful in her attempt in managing the hearts of others she does not give up hope that she will at succeed in at least one attempt. Each failed attempt strengthens her resolve to be more successful the next time. Her confidence in her ability to eventually succeed helps her maintain positivity and at the very least succeed in being happy for Harriet when she does eventually marry.
Leave a comment below about how Emma and Elizabeth have influenced