Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Further Reflections on John Plumtre (and Jane Austen)

In last Friday's post, I failed to mention an area of importance in Jane Austen's novels. While her books may often end in happiness and lovers being brought together, it's important to remember the instances in which this very nearly doesn't occur, doesn't occur at all, or isn't what is anticipated. For instance, in Pride and Prejudice, Darcy convinces Mr. Bingley not to pursue Lizzie Bennett's sister Jane. Also, we have Charlotte Lucas' marriage to Mr. Collin's and her perspective on love and marriage versus Lizzie's, and of course the infamous Mr. Wickham who appears the perfect lover but is anything but. We've also got the devious Willoughby in Sense and Sensibility, and of course Emma Woodhouse's good-intentioned but misled attempts at matchmaking in Emma.

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Austen does a marvelous job of showing the vividness and realness of romance along with the turmoils and troubles and realistic obstacles and ends that occur. I merely want to make sure that this important point doesn't get lost in my squabbles with dealing with romantic stories and plot lines. I don't think I've ever really discussed my love for Austen on here and it's a shame; she's one of my favorite writers and one that has deeply influenced me in terms of my writing and perspectives in the world. I used to stare at my mom's copy of Sense and Sensibility on our TV stand in one of our Indiana houses, one with a cover for the film version with Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet, and I used to dream about the day when I'd finally be old enough to read and understand it. I ended up reading Pride and Prejudice first but grew to love all of Austen's books and any film adaptation I could manage to see of her work. I cried my eyes out while watching Becoming Jane at a friend's sleepover in high school and realized, in another beautiful story of romance without the expected happy ending similar to Miss Austen Regrets, that I found an interesting link between Ms. Austen and myself as a writer. Some of her worries felt similar to my own and some of her perspectives and prejudices reflected mine. I adored that she wrote characters that were so interesting, so rounded, and captured their flaws with vividness and grace. Her ability to explain a society I knew little about and had never lived in through ways that were forthright and humorous marveled my mind and caused me to realize how much I felt my own society not being that different from hers. Austen is a witty, clever, and doesn't shy away from difficult topics. Perhaps in one of my favorite scenes in Miss Austen Regrets, Jane is concerned that no one will like her newest book Emma because the main character is a bit dislikeable. I like that this perspective is taken, showing the worries writers have and the variety of character perspectives Austen wrote from and that her leading ladies, while being marvelous characters, are not perfect but rather perfectly human. They make mistakes, as anyone would, and the way in which she captures this in her novels is splendid.

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To tie this back to the lovely Mr. Plumtre, what Austen writes about is often portrayed in fictionalizations of her life - she is surrounded by her own stories that eventually find their way on paper. While Mr. Darcy might be spread through popular culture as the perfect man, in Austen's story, he may be great for Lizzie, but he is human and he has flaws. We mustn't forget the original prejudice Lizzie had against him, as there was some truth in the matter and he did very nearly ruin the relationship between Jane and Bingley. But Lizzie herself is flawed and it is through the acceptance of each others flaws and virtues that Darcy and Lizzie come together. What's so wonderful about films like Becoming Jane and Miss Austen Regrets is that they show these sort of characters outside of Austen novels. Mr. Plumtre and Fanny are very much like Bingley and Fanny had Darcy's convincing (perhaps Jane Austen in the film) gone too far. Fanny is like Charlotte, marrying so that she can have a comfortable home and find some happiness. And Jane is very much like her Emma, full of assumptions about love that may not entirely be correct.

In short, I felt I wasn't doing Austen quite enough justice in my previous post, focusing too much on my romantic ramblings and influences from my own assumptions. So here's me giving it another go and getting the chance to squee over the wondrous and eternal Jane Austen.

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