Jane Austen's Guide to Happily Ever After
Beliefnet blogger Gayle Trotter caught up with author Elizabeth Kantor on her new book highlighting lessons of love by the timeless Jane Austen.
Now that we’re all leaving a cyber trail, we’re getting, I think, to have a character again. To have a kind of record that we’re leaving that people can find out about. For The Jane Austen Guide to Happily Ever After I interviewed a woman who’s kind of known among her friends as being somebody who’s really expert in finding out about guys online.
She told me a couple of interesting stories about dating a guy and in one case being able to figure out that really she was sort of like a girl-on-the-side for him. He had a girlfriend but wasn’t being honest about it. But she found it out from the web.
GT: That’s very painful.
EK: Yes, it is painful, but the sooner you find out, the better.
GT: Yes, yes. What did Jane Austen see as the most reliable source of happiness in this life?
EK: Jane Austen’s understanding of happiness is — there’s a whole chapter in The Jane Austen Guide where I talk about what she really means by what Elizabeth Bennet calls rational happiness, or permanent happiness. But essentially it’s a kind of balance. Captain Wentworth talks about Anne Elliot as “The loveliest medium.”
That happy medium idea. But it’s not like a boring, not-too-hot, not-too-cold kind of thing. It’s really a dynamic balance where the heroines are walking a tightrope, and it’s exciting every minute that they accomplish being that loveliest medium. Especially in Elizabeth and Darcy’s relationship, what you see is, both Elizabeth and Darcy sort of start out being not in very good balance. She starts out with an instant prejudice against him, and he starts out with a lot of pride and unwillingness to kind of bend to society and be pleasant to folks. And to question himself, really at all.
And in the course of the book, they move, both of them, toward the center and toward each other and learn how to correct themselves and become better people together, and that’s really what their love affair is about. That’s the theme of their love affair — the two of them getting to be better people.
GT: How did the living arrangements of Jane Austen’s day help her characters to be more considerate of others’ needs, and how does our financial independence harm this development today?