Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Jane Austen Guide: Part 4



Now, as a refreshing, happier, more hopeful alternative to the guidance offered by Hanna Rosin in yesterday's post, here is my final post on The Jane Austen Guide to Happily Ever After. I highly recommend to all of you who have enjoyed these posts to go read the book yourself!

After finishing this book, I'm left with a real feeling of admiration for its author, Elizabeth Kantor. In this book, she has done what I consider to be a very difficult thing in today's world: she has urged women to play by different rules. She has latched onto what women want the most (to be loved fiercely) and showed us the most extraordinary, achingly beautiful ways that Jane Austen heroines find it. She has analyzed what makes men and women different, and she has developed guidelines to finding the man who will bring out our best qualities, and who we can inspire to be the best version of himself. She has shown modern women how we, too, can behave with Elizabeth Bennet's dignity and wisdom, with her thoughtful consideration and her open heart.

And she has directed this advice specifically at a generation of women (I know, I'm part of it) who are so often told that marriage and children are overrated; that relationships can be all about fun and low commitment; that self-control is something of the past and no longer necessary; that being an independent woman is what will ultimately bring us happiness. In other words, we are told to play by this generation's rules.

This book takes the hard way out, and urges women to play by different rules. It's not fluffy advice--it's never easy to swim against the tide, and Kantor makes it clear that to find the kind of Jane Austen heroine-level love that is within our grasp, we must swim against the tide:


"But through all the vicissitudes and complications, you follow those real, original rules for finding happiness in love. You keep your distance until getting close is warranted by unmistakable signs that you're the guy's object of pursuit. You don't offer him "unsolicited proofs of tenderness." You weigh his character, and you determine his intentions. You pace the progress of your own falling-in-love as carefully as you can. And having determined 1) that he's seriously interested in you, and 2) that he's worth loving--not just for his fine figure and the beautiful grounds of his Derbyshire estate, but for his character, too, that is, what he's really like as a person--you decide that you love him. Or at least that you could, if he loves you. But you don't blurt it out to him, and you don't start scheming to rush him into commitment. You wait for him to catch up to you--and you do that very uncomfortable waiting in the full knowledge that he may not. You don't let yourself depend on his love until he gives you the unmistakable evidence that he's stepped out of present-bound views into the kind of love that comes so naturally to you as a woman--love that makes him as eager as you are to offer you a permanent commitment, and secure one from you."


These are not always easy suggestions to follow. But the rewards? They will be enormous:


"And when he finally tells you he loves you that way, you're blissfully happy. Because what the hero offers the Jane Austen heroine isn't just a big step toward happily ever after, or one part of what she's longing for. It's the whole ball of wax: love, sex, marriage, real mutual respect grounded in knowledge of each other's characters, children, shared financial resources, a family of her own."


[If you missed the other parts in this series, you can find them here: Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3]

8 comments:

  1. Beautiful! Can't wait to read it! I was hoping our public library would have it but it only has Kantor's book, "The politically incorrect guide to English and American Literature", which actually sounds pretty interesting.

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    1. I know, I tried to find it in the library too! It was only published in April so I guess that's why it's not in libraries just yet. And yes, I think that her other book looks really interesting too. :)

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  2. Paradoxically, Hanna Rosin’s amazingly ugly and short-sighted arguments in favor of smashing and grabbing one’s way to personal gratification in the modern red-light district of love appeared at a perfect moment for your argument. They highlight what’s at stake in this powerful series you’ve just completed, with its sketches of a deeper and more humane path to lasting satisfaction.

    There are many things that have improved wondrously over the last two hundred years or so, but there are also some--city architecture, the tastiness of tomatoes, the richness of novels, and guidance from the chattering class on how to pursue love so as to find meaning in life--where it’s been all downhill since 1817.

    Luckily all we need to do to reverse that last failure is to change our minds. First step: walk away from the pathetic promoters of mutual manipulation. Then think differently, drawing on the hard-won lessons of earlier generations.

    Thanks for helping.

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    1. Well said, Anonymous! Thanks for reading.

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  3. You should do like a blog book club! Your insights are great!http://coffeebeansandbobbypins.blogspot.com//

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    1. Thanks Amy, that's sweet of you to say!

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  4. Great review! I love how you focused on character development. So important to me!

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