Tuesday’s 10: Reasons to Read Jane Austen’s Novels

1.  C. S. Lewis Loved Her Work. Listen, would you ask C.S. Lewis, the veteran of WWI for his man card because he loved Austen? I didn’t think so. Do you think you know great literature from bad literature better than he?

2. She Was A Great Writer. Some say the greatest in the English language. Most of you guys couldn’t write your way out of a wet paper bag. But Austen writes sentences that hang in the air like stars and hit your ears like echoes of all the truth you know but had forgotten. No one writes sentences like her.

3. She Is Funny. There are some incredibly funny characters and scenes throughout her works. Mr Collins is a prime example in Pride and Prejudice. But they are never funny like the easy picking of jokes issuing from the bedroom and the bathroom. They are funny because of they have the weight of truth.

4. She Knows Evil. Most of us need extreme obvious forms of evil to move us. But Jane Austen knew more than us in all our supposed wisdom of the world. She gave us the character of Crawford. You might need Hannibal Lecter. She gave us the subtle evil of one who would devour the heart of the innocent and make us all complicit.

5. Pictures of Kindness. When Darcy shows up unexpected at Pemberly and shows nothing but unexpected kindness to Lizzy and her Aunt and Uncle, I am moved every single time. Kindness is not hip. We defer so we can change the world.

6. Pictures of Manliness. Speaking of Darcy there is a reason his very name makes women swoon. And Knightly, the hero of Emma. Here are just two examples of steadfastness, kindness, humility, and virtue. Flawed? Sure. But worthy of our attention.

7. Contrition. Emma Woodhouse is one of my favorite characters. Her contrition and recognition of fault is a rare ideal in a world full of the confident and self-assured. I was so struck by her admissions of failure and the beauty of it, I named our first child, Emma, after her.

8. Seeing Things As They Really Are. Sense and Sensibility is a profound book. In my work as a youth pastor I have worked with hundreds of teenage girls. I have never known one single Elinor among them. Many of them are dearly loved still but every one a Marianne, with emotions at the helm of every moment. Austen saw the “Sensibility” movement for what it was. We have yet to see it as a culture mired in it.

9. Steadfast Love. The steadfast affection between Captain Wentworth and Ann in Persuasion is exceptional. We could learn a thing or two. We give up easily. We feign affection but as soon as inconveniences such as time or space get in the way, we move on to greener pastures. Or at least the blooming fields before us. We give up. We get bored. We divorce at will.

10. Just Love Stories? Some of you will dismiss her novels as mere love stories with a wave of the hand. Men, love stories are God’s idea. The first story we have is one of love between a man and a woman. If you don’t like love stories, you are nothing more than a fool. Ladies, if you have the choice, stay away from such. Real love between a man and woman may not always be exciting. But it is always worth a story.

2 thoughts on “Tuesday’s 10: Reasons to Read Jane Austen’s Novels

  1. glornacara September 27, 2011 / 2:34 pm

    #10. –Yes, yes!!! (The same goes for #1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, & 9, too. Very yes.)

  2. Jamie Laslo September 27, 2011 / 7:39 pm

    My philosophy prof. in college read through the works of Austen with his wife every year. He used to say that "real men read Austen." Elinor Dashwood continues to be my favorite among the heroines. Not because I am necessarily so much like her, but her generous strength of character and ability to bear through disappointment with grace are qualities I would very much like to posses.

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