It’s 200 years ago today since Pride and Prejudice was published. This fact makes me feel quite emotional, partly because of my own novel-writing aspirations, but also because Pride and Prejudice, and Emma, and Sense and Sensibility and Mansfield Park are some of the most important novels ever written. Anyone who dismisses them as 19th century chick lit hasn’t really understood them. It’s not just their central themes of marriage, money and class, which tell us so much about society and life for women not only in the 19th century, and beyond. It’s been the topic of much debate for years, but in my opinion Jane Austen was indeed a feminist, and she gave women a voice.
For anyone writing fiction for women I think the characters of Elizabeth Bennet, Emma Woodhouse and Elinor Dashwood are some of the most three-dimensional ever created. Intelligent, witty, strong-spirited, all in their own way fighting against the conventions of a society that constrains them. It would be difficult to choose a favourite novel, or indeed scene – the one where Elizabeth agrees to marry Mr Darcy? The one where Emma realises she loves Mr Knightley? Or the one where Elinor Dashwood discovers that Edward Ferrars hasn’t married, as she originally thought, and is in fact in love with her *sobs*.
Jane Austen set a precedent in terms of plot and characterisation that writers of women’s fiction have been trying to emulate ever since.
So thank you Jane. I bet you would have loved twitter.