There are many reasons why, after two hundred years, Jane Austen and her novels are still so loved, but I think the most important is that we can all see ourselves in her, and in her characters.
During a time when women were not expected to do or be anything, she dared to become something more. She possessed one particular trait women–proper ladylike women–were not to dare exhibit…a sense of humor. Her wit transcends time and cultures, making her stories and her characters relatable and real. Because she created such vivid and memorable characters, people from all time periods and backgrounds can find a kindred spirit amongst her heroines and heroes. And for that reason, reading her novels becomes more like checking in with friends, becoming a part of their world, rather than simply reading a story.
For me, her impact was most meaningful during my divorce, when I found myself turning to the comforting world of Pride & Prejudice in order to escape the disillusionment I felt in the real world, for the happy ending I knew was within reach for Elizabeth and Darcy. Losing myself in the story that has inspired the ultimate romantic archetype, I realized that a love that made you sad could not be true love after all. I think I learned from Elizabeth and Darcy what a strong and healthy relationship was like, one that brought out the best in both parties, one that was of mutual benefit to both. From them I learned what unconditional love truly meant, and from Jane I learned how to spot a narcissist and how to avoid being taken in by one in the future. After all, it is “a truth universally acknowledged” that the sweet talkers that seem to good to be true–usually are. Mostly I just learned about human nature from her, and the nature of the relationships between people. That’s what is the most stirring, I think, about the great Ms. Austen’s work; the reflections the relationships between her characters yield that have the ability to illuminate the relationships the reader is a part of.
Jane herself has always been a source of inspiration to me, for I have dreamt of being a writer since I was a kid, and I greatly admire her tenacity to do what she loved despite the countless people telling her she was foolish for trying. Like many out there, I see a bit of myself in her, and knowing she had the strength to prove all her naysayers wrong drives me to keep pushing, as well.