If you're a visitor of this site, you're obviously a fan of Mrs. Austen's works. But have you ever tried to incorporate attitudes into your own life?
I wrote this as an original Oratory for a state-wide forensics tournament. Once I got started with the idea, I couldn't stop, and when I was done, I ended up having to cut three minutes out of it. Even though it was still thirty seconds longer than the maximum time limit, I won first place at the tournament and got to perform it in the Best of the Best showcase in front of everyone who had attended. This is the full version you're about to read. Have fun!
by Becca B
Admit it. You're in love with Mr. Darcy. Just the other night you were swooning over Colin Firth (or Matthew Macfadyen or Sir Lawrence Olivier or, for the hard-core fangirls among us, you were rereading your favorite passages from the book) and wishing you were Lizzie Bennet.
I know I was. Unfortunately, unless someone discovers a magic spell that makes fictional characters come to life anytime soon, girls like us are out of luck. However, while we may not be announcing our engagement to the most wonderful man in the whole entire fictional world, there are a few things we can do to live a Jane Austen life.
The first thing you need to do to life a Jane Austen life is to not be afraid to be brutally honest. As much as this practice is looked down upon in today's society, it's essential you master it in order to become a full-fledged Austenian. Our dear Ms. Austen was known for her sharp tongue and sense of humor. In her book, Persuasion, the characters are sympathetically discussing the death of the Musgroves' son when Austen steps in to play the role of snarky narrator by telling us that "the real circumstances of this pathetic piece of family history were that the Musgroves had had the ill fortune of a very troublesome, hopeless son, and the good fortune to lose him before he reached his twentieth year." Now, if that doesn't put the brutal in brutally honest, I don't know what does.
So, if you're intent on being like Ms. Austen, the next time your BFF asks you how you like her brand new hot pink and baby-blue Chihuahua-print leggings, you won't reply that they're fabulous-no you'll tell her the colors burn your retinas and Chihuahuas should only be inflicted on the public through Taco Bell commercials.
No, seriously. Don't be afraid to speak your mind. When our beloved Mr. Darcy first confesses his "most ardent" love for Lizzie in Pride and Prejudice, she has no shame telling him she doesn't love him and proceeds to give him a list of all the reasons why. This causes him to explain all the mistakes he has made and she realizes he had good intentions behind everything he did and that she had heard several lies about his past. The honesty Lizzie displays is one we need to acquire. For example, if a friend of yours has gotten into a relationship you think could be dangerous, talk to her about it. It could be that you, like Lizzie, are mistaken about the person's character, and you'll be able to feel at peace when you learn otherwise. Or it could be that you're right, and your friend hasn't heard the things about this person you have. Even if they say they don't believe you, they will probably be on the watch for anything odd, and be able to get out of the relationship before they regret anything. However you look at it, brutal honesty is key to living a Jane Austen life.
Another step you must take is to know that happiness is not always found where you look for it. Ms. Austen addresses this topic in Sense and Sensibility with the character Marianne Dashwood. Marianne meets John Willoughby, a man who appears to be worth marrying, and falls in love with him before getting to know him very well. Marianne feels that everything in her life is going perfectly...until Willoughby mysteriously disappears. Marianne later discovers Willoughby has impregnated a poor girl, lost all his money, and is engaged to the very wealthy Miss Grey. This leaves her heartbroken, and she falls into a small depression until she realizes she loves Colonel Brandon, a very close family friend whom she's known for quite a while. She learns that he loves her in return, and the two get married and life happily ever after! Marianne had been looking for love in new exciting places, when it turned out that it had been right there with her all along.
Life gets boring every once in a while. You realize you do the same thing everyday, in the same order, and it all just seems monotonous. You want to get out-leave your town, quit school, anything just to make life seem exciting again, and like you're actually going somewhere and accomplishing something! I know: I've felt the same way. It's not fun. Instead of wishing you lived somewhere else, or daydreaming about how wonderful life will be once you're finally out of high school, take advantage of what you have around you! Get in your car and drive around town looking for things you've never noticed before; it could be something small like a beautiful, old house, or something exciting, like a thrift store with really good clothes you never realized was there (a friend of mine in Tallahassee once stumbled upon a Goodwill store where you could get new Gucci products for $5)! Life is full of wonderful things that we often overlook because we're too busy looking for something bigger and better instead of noticing what we already have. So, next time you're feeling bored, look for happiness where you don't expect it to be-right where you already are.
Finally, never settle for less than what you know you deserve. The most obvious example of this is when Lizzie turns down Mr. Collins proposal. Marriage was all the world to girls in the nineteenth century...literally. If you didn't marry, you would die as an old spintress who had to be taken care of by relatives. The mindset was that if you married young, and married money, your whole life would then be happy. Lizzie realizes this isn't so, and when Mr. Collins-a weak, sniveling, wheedling, little man-proposes to her and offers her a very comfortable life through marriage, she is able to look past what society thinks she should do, and know she can't marry him because they would never be happy together. At this point, she doesn't know of Darcy's feelings for her, and she hasn't even dreamed of liking him. For all she knows, this could be the only proposal she gets, and by turning it down, she could be submitting herself to a life of dependency, knitting, and too many cats. But she knows she's worth more than Mr. Collins can offer, so she lets down society's expectations, and does what she knows will make her happy.
So, you feel left out of teen society because you've never been on a date, or you've been on what you feel is too many, and you're tired of playing the dating game. What you need is a good dose of Austen. Men don't define you, darling-you define you. If you're someone like me who has never been on a date, please don't go out with the first guy who asks you just because you feel it's your only chance! Make sure he's someone you know will respect you, someone who won't make you feel inferior, and someone who will make you feel good about who you are, and not who he thinks you should be. If the dating game is starting to make you feel worn out, realize that it's okay to spend Friday nights alone, or with all your girl-friends. Go ahead, forget about guys for a night, and have a date with a Jane Austen movie and a tub of Ben and Jerry's. You know you want it. If you're already in what you consider to be a healthy relationship, congratulations: you're officially the heroine of your own Jane Austen novel. Let your Mr. Darcy know how much you appreciate him. Wherever you are, you need to know your self-worth and not let anyone make you believe you're worth less than what you know you are.
So, even if you don't have a Mr. Darcy in your near future, you can still live life as our beloved Ms. Austen intended it to be lived. Remember, be brutally honest, look for happiness in the no-so-obvious places, and know what you're worth. Follow these three keys, and you'll be living a Jane Austen life in no time at all! Oh, and just so you know, Jane never found her Mr. Darcy-she lived her life single, and if you ask me, she was pretty amazing.
Copyright held by Becca B, 2007
by Francine Davis
The Victorian era is defined as the years from 1837 until 1901 as this was the time in which Queen Victoria ruled England. There is no exact date as to when the Victorian era truly ended as the Victorian lifestyle continued to influence culture, customs, and societal ways for several years following Queen Victoria's death. Queen Victoria's son, King Edward VII ruled from 1901 until 1910 and historians refer to these years as the Edwardian era; however, throughout this period, Victorian influence was strong.
Women and men who held greater standards of morality and social etiquette marked the Victorian era. Sexual restraint was in great demand. Societal norms taught men and women to behave with modesty and prudence. Those in the upper echelons of society closely adhered to rules of etiquette. The working and lower classes were more liberal with their thoughts, behaviors, and explored sexual freedom, though high society looked down upon them for doing so. Women and men also faced strict rules regarding courtship. The notion of two people falling wildly and madly in love and running away into the night, regardless of the opinions of their families or plan for the future was not something commonplace to the upper and middle class. Society viewed courtship as a career move for men and a woman's way of securing her position in life and security for her children. A Victorian man could amass great wealth simply by choosing a woman of great means, as her property would transfer to the man once married. Though this may seem restrictive, it was actually an improvement as the Victorian era saw less arranged marriages and couples selected their own partners. This does not indicate that all was left to romantic chance meetings. Families played a pivotal role by introducing young couples whom they thought would be well suited for one another. Though parents no longer arranged marriages, they still had an impact in arranging courtships.
Balls and dances were the primary method of introductions and courtships. Young Victorian women would be introduced to society through a ball or dance. This was called "coming out" and indicated that a young woman was interested in potential suitors. The Victorian dances were nothing like modern dances and even these were controlled. A chaperone would oversee the activities to ensure a man did not somehow defile the young Victorian woman at the dance. Men would fill out their names on a dance card, and then chaperones gave them the opportunity to dance with the woman. Up to three dances per man was allowed and after the ball, the woman could review the cards left with her then choose a man she felt she would like to suit her. After a woman selected a suitor from the list of cards, she would give her card to the man. This signified that the man could call upon the lady and begin the courting process. Once the courtship began, there were more rules for both men and women to follow.
There may have been nothing more important in Victorian society than a woman's reputation and many of the rules of courtship were designed to protect it. Men and women were not at liberty to just speak to each other while passing by but had to be properly introduced first. The courtship process took place in stages, beginning with the ball or dance and proceeding with speaking before progressing to taking a walk together. Once the couple had affirmed they wished to move forward with courtship they were said to "keep company." While keeping company they would enjoy chaperoned dates together to ensure the young woman remains unspoiled before marriage.
Many books were written during the Victorian era for explaining the rules of etiquette to both genders. Some of these include Godey's Lady Book, Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management, Manners for Men by Mrs. C.E. Humphry, The Laws of Etiquette: or, short rules and reflections for conduct in society, by a gentleman, and Manners and Social Usages. These books explained numerous rules for societal behavior and those in the Victorian age closely practiced them.
Flirting and Courting Rituals of the Victorian Era
Courtship, Class, and Gender in Victorian England
Courting Desire? Love and Intimacy in Late 19th and early 20th Century
Courtship by Mail in Antebellum America
19th Century American Etiquette and Dancing Manuals
Nineteenth Century Social- Dance
Copyright held by Francine Davis, 2013
Note: Francine has been collecting resources for her final unit plan that explores what she would include in her own classpage as an English/Language Arts teacher