ane Austen is once again one of my favorite figures from childhood and teenage reading, and I often wonder why she wrote only six books. She is an absolute delight to read.
But as I grew up and started developing the so called ‘liberal’ viewpoint and challenging all traditional structures and hierarchies (gender, class, caste etc), it also became more and more difficult to accept her writing. I recognized that within the limits of her mileu, Austen still tried to subtly challenge boundaries and liberate her characters. But she still accepted the larger social boundaries. For instance, social Class was to be respected always, and her heroes and heroines always seem to marry within the same ‘social class’, even if there are differences in their actual economic background.
This liking for a book, along with a conflict with the values the book espouses has troubled me with other books as well. I have written earlier about how Gone with the Wind is my favorite book, but I cannot accept the way it legitimizes slavery.
And my journey with Jane Austen is significant only because by reading her, I became able to reconcile with the notion that people may have different views from you on certain things, and it was still possible to like what they did otherwise. There was no way I could turn away from her books, no matter how earnest and red hot my liberal views were. They were still a delight to read. So I learnt to deal with my value conflict, I learnt to accept and appreciate what she wrote within her own context, I realized that not all writers were social reformers, and they wrote about their world, not with the intention of changing all that was wrong with their world. Most importantly, it taught me to accept and deal with people who thought differently from me.