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Monday, June 24, 2013

Jane Austen and the Revolutionary Happily Ever After Ending

Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy

Few couples in literature are as well known- Romeo and Juliet, Tristan and Isolde, Anthony and Cleopatra- but their stories are tragedies. Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy get their happy ending and in giving it to them, Jane Austen took a bold step.

2005 Cinema Adaptation
Now, marrying for love, the heroine getting the guy and a happy ending of the couple together are thought of as expected, sometimes even cliché. But, for Jane Austen this was ground breaking, revolutionary. Jane Austen was allowing her heroines the fate that many real life characters (including Jane Austen herself) were not afforded. They were locked into the societal customs and dictates of the times. Matches were made based on status and money.

"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife."
So begins Pride and Prejudice. Before we are ever introduced to Elizabeth or to Mr. Darcy, we are confronted with the circumstances of the times. If a man has money, then he may seek a wife. Now, people chuckle at this line. They're amused by it, but I don't think that Jane was trying to be clever. I think that she was merely stating a fact.

"Darcy, as well as Elizabeth, really loved them; and they were both ever sensible of the warmest gratitude towards the persons who, by bringing her into Derbyshire, had been the means of uniting them."

These lines, considerably less well-known and quoted are how Pride and Prejudice end. I propose that they are far more radical than the opening lines that Jane penned. Love, gratitude, location and friends were the elements attributed to Elizabeth and Darcy's relationship. Now, they are commonplace, expected, but for Jane Austen and her readers, they were entirely new and unexpected.

My best to you all,
Megan

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