In the last year I had the chance to write for a Jane Austen themed e-zine to celebrate the iconic author. With so much talk of her and comparison to today’s cultures, I got to thinking about the parallels between Jane’s world and ours. Each of Jane’s stories follow a strict pattern, although I only read one of her novels, I do like to think of myself as an “expert” on the movie adaptations. From a Mormon inspired flick to the colorfulness of Bollywood, if I saw one, I’ve seen them all.Jane Austen & Today's Era #FWarchives Click To Tweet
Probably what any fan will recognize is that Miss Austen doesn’t ever write from her hero’s perspective. In fact, the novels are often a collection of observations. With the exception of one or two, all of Jane’s heroine’s have spirit, especially for the time period; likely “embellished” on-screen to be relatable to modern audiences. Most of them encounter some type of scandal in their life: Marianne emotionally tainted by her acquaintance with Willoughby; Wickham “seducing” and “ruining” Lydia Bennet; Harriet Smith the “natural” daughter of “nobody knows who” (Emma) and Henry Crawford eloping with the very married Maria Bertram (Mansfield Park). Either a heroine or secondary character in Austen’s works were the “talk” of their community – some for reason’s not of their own making and some, from seduction of the men they shamelessly flirted with.
Today, if a girl is in Lydia’s or Marianne’s predicament, it’s fine. In fact, it’s encouraged, “expected” and accepted. Either way, it’s a sobering statistic. On the other hand we (using “we” generically speaking) women want and allow ourselves to be “taken in,” even when there are no promises made. Yet, when things end badly, “victim” is the card women play. Yes, it’s a cliché, but so true: women “settle.” They become desperate and assume that by the time they reach their twenties, mid-twenties, late-twenties and so on, if they don’t have a mate yet, they won’t. Yet, if the unthinkable ever happens, it’s often in a situation where the female willingly went, but might later regret. That does not excuse in any way, shape or form the man, but God gave us a mind, and he expects us to be smart.
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Why do parents feel its “okay” for their ten-year-olds to hold hands, go to a movie and at the end of the night, lean in to give their “date” an innocent peck? If that happens on your front porch at ten, what do you expect at twelve, fifteen, or eighteen? Do we really think that things will stay the same? I don’t think so. Unlike times past when Lydia Bennet may have lived, nowadays, we don’t need a man urging us towards immoral behavior; women degrade themselves quite on their own – through various
avenues, immodesty being one of them. Girls have no idea just how terrible they look; others know exactly what they want to “say” by their clothes and don’t care (in fact they “want” that).
I haven’t personally experienced both extremes of modest/immodest clothing, but am of the belief that you can still be trendy and modest at the same time. As a result I’m actually somewhere in the middle of those extremes. I know families that believe it’s biblical to wear dresses/skirts no matter what. And that is fine, because it’s a conviction for them. That hasn’t ever been an issue for me, and although I do not profess to know scriptures as I should, I don’t believe that God expects us to wear clothing that covers us from neck to ankle or as would have defined the term “modest” when the scriptures were penned. I believe that He won’t judge us for wearing modern (but modest)clothing. It’s interesting to speculate if it wouldn’t be better if our culture would revert to some past customs.
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Here’s a thought; a new approach to dating make your sixteen-year-old roll her eyes and exclaim that you’re being “old-fashioned”? Likely, if that is the first you’ve discussed such a concept, it will inspire rebellion… or worse. We cannot suddenly awake one morning and decide a pre-teen or teenager should be “different.” You don’t like her wardrobe or the friends she is hanging out with? A time to teach those principles starts much earlier. In Austen’s day, excluding dance, even the act of holding hands is limited lest you’re engaged or courting.
I don’t have daughters nor do I see myself married in the very near future, but I am a daughter, and although I am just on the outside looking in, I have no regrets how my parents choose to raise me. Many girls bemoan missing prom. but it’s never disturbed me. Recently, I viewed a DVD about a “new” way of thinking in raising daughters. To most women it will “offend” because of their feminist principles and will make them scoff, thinking it unrealistic. In actuality, it’s not only encouragement to those who believe similarly, but biblical.
Obviously, through every era, there’s parental disappointments; even if only one daughter is off acting inappropriately, it didn’t exempt her family from scandal, quite the opposite; this action also taints her sisters. Each era is imperfect, but there is something about men who are truly gentlemen and women who choose to behave and conduct themselves as ladies. It’s a scary thought when looking at this generation seeing how rare that is. Looking for a guy who shares same values may find it a daunting task. Many of us perhaps think that a fantasy waits for us, while others are too cynical, so we “settle.”
I’m not so naïve to think that life is a Disney fable, but even this era, as long as we make good choice, we can find an “ideal” romance. But for now, we’ll simply sigh over Knightly’s romantic proposal; Brandon’s steadfast love of Marianne and Darcy’s disregard of “polite society’s” talk of Elizabeth Bennet. These men knew how to treat their female counterparts with respect and ultimately the love that each deserved.