Recently, the Universe sent me a message in the form of a book someone lent me out of the blue. The book is titled, A JANE AUSTEN EDUCATION: HOW SIX NOVELS TAUGHT ME ABOUT LOVE, FRIENDSHIP, AND THE THINGS THAT REALLY MATTER by William Deresiewicz. I greatly enjoyed this book because it combines a personal journey with interesting insights about Jane Austen novels and the life lessons therein. I adore Austen’s work thus revisiting her stories and characters from a different perspective was a joyous experience in addition to re-enforcing some concepts about relationships that are still a bit new to me. (To see a review of the book click here.)
A few posts back I talked about a great article I read in Psychology Today about finding a good mate via looking for certain characteristics and avoiding some major relationship blocking ones. (Click here to go to previous post titled, The Right Stuff.) One of the things that particularly struck me in Deresiewicz’s book were his theories that Jane Austen had similar thoughts. In chapter six of A JANE AUSTEN EDUCATION, he talks about SENSE AND SENSIBILITY. On the jacket cover he summarizes the chapter and the main lesson in the book with these words,
“A true lover is someone who is different from you and is wiling to challenge you. If your lover is just like you, then neither of you has anywhere to go.”
The chapter goes into depth about the difference between the two main characters of the story, the Dashwood sisters, Marianne and Elinor. Marianne is the romantic who falls into a passionate, reckless relationship with a handsome man who shares her tastes and romantic nature. She is the “sensibility ” part of the title, all emotion, all heart. Elinor is the “sense” in the title. Moving cautiously in her love life, she is all judgement and reserve, all head. Austen is really showing us what a successful love match is all about here. Marianne’s love is not a man of character and good judgement we find out half way through the book but she is able to temper herself a bit, grow up and find happiness with Colonel Brandon, a man from whom she differs in age and temperament but one who appreciates her nature, is even tempered , has a commendable character and is patient, kind and generous. In other words he has the characteristics that make for a good long term partner while offering the opportunity for Marianne to grow.
I love this book because I have often said that all you really need to know about navigating life you can learn from reading Jane Austen. It is great to have someone like Deresiewicz to articulate the lessons so clearly. There is a lot more to the chapter, the theory etc but this is all I wanted to touch on today.
All of it gives me pause to rethink what I am really looking for in a mate and how far I still have to grow out of my childish romantic notions.