A reader of Jane Austen in the 21st Century

My title does not imply that am going to critically comment on the work of the writer, this summer after a long and tough spring semester, I decided to revisit all my long forgotten hobbies, reading being one of them. It fascinates me how the chain of thoughts always forms up, when you least expect it to and then it leads you on to new angles. I have grown up reading the work of Jane Austen and her contemporaries, I have somehow felt that maybe it’s the early exposure to the classic writers that I have somehow become stuck in the era where a gentleman would make it a point to take the permission of a young lady’s father, before he could sport her hand on his arm; it was not about the actual courtship or the following matrimony rather the beauty was in the way morals were held and values were treasured.

The world that we exist in, is so different than the world that we suppose we live in that at times we actually have to pause to figure out which part of our value system would fit in which form, in which situation. So I was talking about the summer, I dived into Thomas Hardy’s master piece “Tess of the D’Urbevilles” and out of sheer curiosity started watching “Gossip Girls”, I know the combination is more like orange juice and blueberry shake but the experience has been exhilarating, to say the least. Hardy presents the life of a village girl and her mishaps with a cynicism that one can’t help but sympathize as well as feel angry at the kinds of responses the character gets. There is this sheer fabric that holds the societal grace by mere threads of pretentiousness; ready to fall off at all times but somehow to save their grace the society turns a blind eye to it. The way Tess’s unfortunate incidence with the vulgar Mr Alec D’Urbeville was treated by her family and the village is the reminder of how conveniently an ostrich dunks its head in the sand and pretends like all is well. They know what happened, their heart and the guilt are there in the subtle side glances and sighhhs but they would not say a word to relieve the poor young girl’s misery. Fast forward and welcome to the 21st century’s Gossip Girls and notice how Serena’s mother Lily tries to cover up all the mess that her daughter has created, though she is unable to decipher that the true cause of all the acting out might be her own treatment of the girl but she says she is protecting her daughters future by burying her past. Or the cunning lashings of Blair at everyone without the slightest concern of what her nuisances might mean to those whom she treats like trash and the shock of her father on spotting the real face of his daughter.

What is this like it must be something beyond morals that I talked of above, because the same pretentiousness was there in the era of Tess as is in the lives of Blair and Serena. The only difference being that Tess’s mother even though knowing the plight of her daughter shunned her for not ending up being married to the man who changed her life, where as the later two best friends mother’s pretend to not know whom their daughters are with at any time but they would jump to cover up their dirt at all times.
In this age and time if I look around it is not surprising to come across many Blairs and Serenas who would go on carrying their heart on their sleeve, set in motion by their instinctive needs for pleasure but we hardly find a few like Tess, someone who would stand up for she feel is wrong no matter how many a people set their eyes blind to it.

These rambling thoughts always take me back to one point that where did this difference come in like how did the generations change so much in the context of their values, even though the material they are exposed to has changed but the parenting might have changed as well. Even though Tess’s mother had a hypocritical stance of forcing her daughter into something not appropriate still she did cry her heart out for her child as she held her tightly. The presence, not a check, the presence the assurance that you are there for your children and that they can trust you is very important. I was going through this amazing blog by #The36thAvenue on 12 things to tell our daughters before 13, and it was like the answer to all this mess, make your daughters learn to live a life in which they would want to be prized not possessed, make them learn to look out for ways to improve themselves as a person and not for a prince charming, as the prince is always meant to follow the princess if there is one. And of the blog my most favorite points are

7: As your parent I will say NO, because I know you can say yes to wonderful things
10: Friendship and popularity are not the same thing

Raise them with time and concern and then see them finding their way upwards, stumbling but having it in them to stand up again and continue. As for me, I would be holding on to my Austenland for a while as no matter how classical or old school, it introduced me to women who were strong enough to speak out their mind and having the ability to hold their own place amongst the society full of pretentiousness.