Well, I certainly hope you’re not tired of hearing about Jane Austen yet. I have been reading through all of her novels within the last year, and I never tire of being able to apply her stories to everyday life.
I was folding laundry the other day (how exciting, I know), and apparently I do my best thinking when I’m completing mundane tasks. As I was matching socks and hanging up shirts, I was reflecting on some of my favorite moments from Sense & Sensibility, which I was reading at the time. The more I thought about it, the more I realized just how many things Austen has taught me about life, love and everything in between. Today I’d like to share just a few of them with you.
Getting what you need is always better than getting what you want
If there’s one overarching lesson to sum up my life, it’s that getting what I need is always better than getting what I want. Yes, most of the time that lesson is painful, but I know that God’s plans are always so much more superior than my plans. There have been many seasons in my life when I have prayed for very specific things, and God did not bring those things to pass. Instead, he paved new and better paths in another direction. And in retrospect, I have to admit that the way things have turned out is so much better than what I thought I wanted.
This is also true for Sense & Sensibility’s Marianne Dashwood. If you are familiar with this story, you know that Marianne falls in love with a man named John Willoughby. She loves him for shallow reasons, however. For example, she admires him because he can read Shakespeare with passion – the type of quality that says “romantic” but doesn’t necessarily shout “husband material.” And those can be two completely different things.
As you can probably guess, Willoughby breaks her heart, and she goes through a really rough season of mourning his love. But, in the end, she is swept off her feet by a caring, gentle, dependable man – a man who is romantic in his own quiet way. You see, in the end she got what she needed (a man who loved her unselfishly) instead of what she wanted (a man who never really loved her).
Avoid meddling in the business of others
Jane teaches us this lesson in the most hilarious way through Emma, which is most certainly one of my favorite novels! It tells the story of the title character – a rich young woman named Emma Woodhouse – who refuses to marry but loves to play matchmaker for others.
Along the way, Emma makes many poor choices as a result of pride and a high opinion of herself. In fact, she tries to match up her friend Harriet with a man who ends up falling for Emma herself! However, thanks to the kindness, love and advice of the swoon-worthy Mr. Knightley, she learns her lesson, quits her matchmaking career and even falls in love along the way.
Don’t judge someone before you get to know them
Who can teach us this lesson better than Elizabeth Bennet & Mr. Darcy of Pride & Prejudice?! If you know this story, you know that Elizabeth and Darcy’s high opinions of themselves pit them against each other at the start. But, as their walls come tumbling down, they realize how alike they are and how happy they could be together. Sprinkle in a few balls, a little sisterly affection and multiple quirky relations, and you’ve got yourself the best novel of all time.
Novels are great, but make sure you live in reality
If I’m honest, I like to read much more than I like to watch TV or movies, so you’ll more often find my nose in a book than my eyes on the television. That being said, I happen to read a lot of novels. When Rory Gilmore gave her valedictorian speech at her high school graduation in Gilmore girls, she said, “I live in two worlds. One is a world of books.” And that is exactly how I feel about my life.
But I have to be careful to remember that novels are just novels. They aren’t real life any more than my favorite movie is real life. And they don’t necessarily portray real life, either. It can be easy to get caught up in the adventure of a novel, but it’s good to practice caution and not get too carried away.
Northanger Abbey’s Catherine Morland learns this lesson the hard way. She gets swept off her feet by Ann Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho and gets herself into trouble with her love interest, Mr. Tilney, when she wrongfully suspects foul play in the death of his mother. After a few misadventures, things work out and she finds happiness. But it certainly was a (hilariously) rocky road to get there!
Don’t miss out on what’s right in front of you
Let’s go back to talking about Emma for just a moment. For most of Emma’s life, she has been a close friend of Mr. Knightley. But, as I already stated, she declared she would never marry. Why should she? She lived a comfortable life with her rich father, and her sister had plenty of children with whom she could be entertained whenever she pleased.
However, after many misadventures playing cupid, she realizes not only that she should stay out of the business of others, but also that she was deeply in love herself. With the man who’s been there all along.