I wonder what the conservative christians have to say about Willoughby's callous abandonment of Eliza Williams after he gets her pregnant--and the fact that our very own Elinor forgives him for it and does not expect him to marry Eliza!

The only ones who responded to the situation appropriately were Col. Brandon, who set off to rescue his ward, and Willoughby's aunt or whoever, who cut him off for not marrying her (although maybe I shouldn't give her a break as she later seems to have made it clear that Willoughby marrying Marianne would have suited her just as well.)

Not Christian at all, yet Elinor (and I think Austen) forgives him for it.

That said, I love Austen's books. She is bound by her time in some ways, but her women characters are so strong and fascinating. (Except mothers. If you think about it, they are all bumblers or annoying saps in her books. Or just not there.)

The Happy Feminist

Now that you mention it, the mothers all do seem to be complete idiots -- especially Lady ? in Sense and Sensibility who has nothing to say unless she is talking about her children. Of course, beating up on mothers isn't very feminist in modern day terms, but it's not very family values-ish either.

A Pang

Was planning on blogging about this later, but -- I'm reading Mary Wollstonecraft's Vindication of the Rights of Woman alongside Pride and Prejudice. One of Wollstonecraft's arguments is that women have been made weak and silly and inferior by lack of education, as they are only supposed to concern themselves with the domestic sphere. Maybe that's what Austen's mothers reflect?


That's the best defense of Austen I've ever heard; I am one of two people I know who is nowhere near a fan, and this certainly hasn't converted me (most of my issues with her regard her abilities as a novelist, and the only constrant of her time that I think affects this is that the novel hadn't been around all that long, unless I'm hopelessly misremembering her dates), but at least I sort of get what at least some people see in her now.


If conservative Christians are holding up Pride & Prejudice as the model in which modern woman should aspire, they need to go back and read the rest of Austen's books. I hardly find Maria Bertram's decision to leave Rushworth and run off with Henry Crawford in Mansfield Park as "chaste" or "proper". In fact Mansfield Park is ripe with characters who do everything but act in a chaste and proper manner. What would they think of the priggish, prim Fanny Price openly defying her uncle by refusing to marry Henry Crawford? (Full disclosure: Mansfield Park is my second favorite Austen novel).

In contrast, what about the high emotional and spiritual price Anne Elliot pays for obeying the advice of her family and refusing the hand of Captain Wentworth?


Shocking! -ro8i56l1


I totally agree. Great post. Especially about Austen's humor.

The Happy Feminist

Jenn, I was of the impression though that Austen didn't approve of Maria Bertram's behavior at all.


Now I want to go back and re-read all the Austen novels...


Your observation that both feminists and conservatists like Austen's books, but read different things into them was really interesting to me. It made me wonder how many books or other forms of media that happens with. I know that this could be opening up a huge can of worms.... but couldn't the Bible be interpreted in similar seemingly contradictory ways? I'm definitely not an expert on the subject, though...

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