You all know those Jane Austen quizzes that pop up online: Which Austen Heroine Are You? Which Hero is Your True Love? Does anyone ever get Fanny Price? I’m serious here: I’ve scored as Anne Elliot, Emma, and Elizabeth Bennet (not at the same time), but never as Fanny Price. Poor Fanny. She is so hard for modern readers. Even we who like her sometimes want to slap a little backbone into her, want her to tell off Aunt Norris just once. So I was disturbed to find on the Austen-L mailing list page that Fanny Price and I have something in common: our Myer-Briggs type.
Date: Thu, 15 Aug 1996 11:07:22 -0500
The discussion about Fanny Price has been interesting, and leads me to offer my thoughts. My background is in psychology, and I couldn’t help but to try to identify what puts so many Austen fans off about this particular heroine.
I believe that in Fanny, Jane Austen has developed a perfect INFP personality type (in the Jungian or “Myers-Briggs” classification). INFP stands for Introvert, iNtuitive, Feeling and Perceptive as dominant traits. In a word: an “Idealist”. Interestingly, only 1 percent of the population fits into this group.
Consider this brief portrait: INFPs—
- present a calm, pleasant face to the world.
- are seen as reticent and even shy.
- demonstrate cool reserve toward others, but inside are anything but distant.
- care deeply about a few special persons or causes.
- have a profound sense of honor derived from internal values. (This is not necessarily religious morality—they have their own sense of integrity and morality.)
- are willing to make unusual sacrifices for someone or something believed in.
- seek unity of body, mind, and soul.
- often have a tragic motif running through their lives, which others may not detect.
- show deep commitment to the ‘good’ and are always alert for the ‘bad’.
- are adaptable to new information and ideas.
- are well aware of people and their feelings and relate well to most people while keeping some psychological distance.
- prefer to live in harmony and will go to great lengths to avoid constant conflict.
- tend to be compliant, and may even prefer to have decisions made for them, until their value system is violated—then they will not budge from their ideals.
- will often be found in service careers— social work, ministry, teaching (or in Fanny’s case, serving as a companion to her aunt).
I think the only way she might have been persuaded to marry Henry Crawford was if he had had a profound reformation, so that she was able to believe that not only was his love true and deep, but her values of honesty (integrity) were shared. I believe she could accept less of a passionate love from Edmund Bertram because she believed him to share her same values.
I don’t have the psychological background to debate Theresa’s take on INFPs in general, (anyone? Bueller?) though I do think it’s a good portrait of Fanny. But do I share these characteristics that put “so many Austen fans off about this particular heroine”? I’m really finding it surprisingly discouraging that had I lived in Austenland I would only have had Edmund Bertram to look forward to!
Come to think of it, these characteristics describe Anne Elliot as well as they do Fanny Price. And yet Anne is not so annoying as Fanny, not so very self-effacing. So I think there is some hope for we INFPs after all. We just need to be born rich, rather than as a poor relation given away when we’re young!
Readers, what do you think? Would you be disturbed to be compared to Fanny Price? Do you think Anne Elliot is like Fanny, but born into better circumstances?
Now here‘s a unique marketing strategy: To celebrate and cross-promote the new Marvel Comics Emma, the new Uncanny X-Men (#534) features an alternate cover by Janet K. Lee, the artist behind Emma, featuring Emma Woodhouse as Emma Frost. Get it? Because they’re both named Emma?
Which brings up a point that I kind of hope isn’t as original as I think it is: I’m generally in favor of spreading the Austen universe—ooh la la, genre-speak!—as far and wide as possible, but if we’re going to make graphic novels of Austen novels, why not go all the way? I’m thinking a band of accomplished ladies fighting crime by night, preferably in tall boots and elaborate hairstyles and carrying optional ladylike crime-fighting accessories. They use their powers for the good of proper young ladies everywhere, and have a futuristic lair hidden deep underneath an English country church! There’s a charming, villainous young man with a scandalous past and an insatiable hunger for young girls! Come on: leather and lycra, but with an empire waist? Why hasn’t anybody thought of this before? (Or have they? Readers?)
I call it—wait for it—The A-Team!
…Wait. That can’t be right.
Well, whatever! Behold the power of the ladies of Austen! Insert your own cool 70s artwork as needed.
Elizabeth “Prejudice” Bennet: With a muddy hem and a pair of fine (bionic) eyes, she out-snarks any man!
Fanny “The Faninator” Price: Turns invisible in the presence of basically anybody!
Emma “The Matchmaker” Woodhouse: She always gets what she wants. Always.
Elinor “Dash” Wood: Absorbs the rage and desire of those around her…
Marianne Dash “Wood”: …only to transfer them to her sister!
Anne “The Waiter” Elliot: Will wait you under the table with imperturbable patience!
Catherine “P.I.” Morland: Will ferret out the juicy details…whether they’re accurate or not!
Universe, make it happen.
For the first time in a good long while, we have a Disney fairy tale on our hands—a true “Once Upon a Time,” sugar-coated Grimm’s-ripoff fairy tale—and all the buzz over this Rapunzel business has the generic Prince Charming type on my mind. Surprise! But really: his name is Charming. Blame me if you must.
Jane, of course, isn’t in the business of fairy tales. Happy endings? Yes. True love’s kiss? Usually. But Jane is fundamentally a realist, and in her version of Regency England, sometimes perfectly intelligent and likeable ladies end up with guys like Mr. Collins—who never turns into a prince, no matter how many kisses he gets (to be fair: twice, max).
Oddly enough, with a slight change of scene and a good fairy godmother, many of the heroines of the Austen universe would make pretty good fairy tale princesses, or princesses-to-be—think smart, dreamy, plucky, maybe a bit bossy (ahem, Miss Woodhouse), and generally virtuous even in the case of undeserved poverty. The men, however, definitely tend away from the Prince Charming type—probably, to be honest, because Austen took the time to develop her gentlemen in a way that isn’t on the menu for most Disneyfied princes. They’re handsome, those princes, but let’s say complex emotional arcs aren’t exactly their bag (though 30 Rock tells me that Prince Eric, the gold standard for animated hotness, was based on fictional Jon Hamm‘s high school swim team photo—and I’ll take that fake fact to my grave).
Sorry, Austen gents. We’re taking away your…well, whatever it is you call a prince’s little crown (tiaros?), and here’s why:
Mr. Darcy: Prince on the inside, Beast on the outside. Surely in possession of a trusty steed (for that fifty miles of good road) and a true heart, but a bit on the oversensitive side. Definitely doesn’t hold with fairy godmothers; is probably made extra cranky by extraneous acts of the supernatural.
Mr. Knightley: Definitely the most outwardly princely of the bunch—handsome and well-intentioned, and ripe for occasional high-horse unseating at the hands of his lady love, which of course is always a nice touch. Prone to snootiness and angry speeches—theoretically appropriate for the position, but ultimately unbecoming to a man with the last name Charming (who, remember, may eventually need to get it on with a very recent scullery maid).
Captain Wentworth: He’s a pirate, not a prince. I mean, come on.
Col. Brandon – Too old for the Prince Eric treatment. Also, princes don’t have wards or wear flannel waistcoats. Unlikely to burst into song.
Henry Tilney – Okay, cute and clever. He’s the prince’s bookish little brother—sarcastic, and into a good novel and the price of muslin. Possibly too detail-oriented and not take-charge enough for the average dragon-slaying mission, though excellent for an entertaining retelling later.
Edmund Bertram – A clergyman! And not even a first-rate one! Certainly a good guy, but too much in need of a rich princess to bail him out of his own financial duress.
We need more parties, don’t we? Well, I know I do, especially Jane Austen parties! Other people have ventured opinions on this topic. 99% of them involve a) tea, b) watching movies, or c) both. I’m in favor of all three of these activities (well, duh), but I do think we could broaden our horizons here, venture across the ha-ha, as it were.
Basic steps: This write-up has some good ideas, including period card games, period snacks, and trivia. Be warned that you are venturing into weirder territory here than you know, as Miss Osborne’s cooking experiments have shown us. Stick to syllabub, is my advice. As far as card games go, I love them, but Miss Austen did not, or at any rate none of her heroines did. So if you play them, stick to the more “comfortable, noisy” games, like Speculation, and avoid Whist as all costs. Whist (the precursor of Bridge) is bo-ring, both in Mansfield Park and in my experience. Still, you get good discussions around the card table, and good insights into people’s characters, the Crawfords’ in particular.
Crafty steps: While “painting tables, covering screens, and netting purses” may draw derision from Mr. Darcy, I am all in favor of “cutting up silk and gold paper” as the girls do in Persuasion, and crafts in general. Here’s some Regency party craft ideas.
Ballsy steps: Lots of places have Regency balls, where you can be spurned by Mr. Darcy and overhear Mr. Elton insulting your best friend, and have good times generally. You can also do this at home, even if you have to dance down the hall to lively tunes from your MP3 player. (It’s better than Mary Bennet on the piano.) Make sure to have white soup, negus, and indiscreet conversations, and, ladies, I happen to know that many gentlemen find Regency/square dancing less intimidating than ballroom. Show them diagrams! Let them figure it out!
RPG steps: It’s funny how you never hear “role-playing” and “Jane Austen” in the same sentence, especially when you consider all that fanfic out there. So, if you are really feeling adventurous, I suggest designing some sort of Austen role-playing activity. You could, you know, assign the different parts from a book beforehand, get everyone together, and let them have at it. Sounds sort of like Lost in Austen, doesn’t it? Or, since it’s almost Halloween, why not do a Pride and Prejudice and Zombies flash mob? Everyone decide beforehand whether you’ll be a zombie, a Bennet sister, or an innocent bystander; show up someplace and have it out! Regency zombie battles on the National Mall! I see this happening, people! Serious Austen party-ers will do this in full costume, of course. But watch where you put that sword. You could put someone’s eye out with that thing.
Olympic steps: OK, OK, it’s true that zombies aren’t genuine Austen. But it’s also true that whenever you get together, you are probably having a party pretty close to one Jane Austen wrote! Oh, the food, drink, dancing, and clothes might be different, but I bet the social dynamics are not far off. I know that’s not what you want to hear, though, so I suggest the Jane Austen Olympics! Events can include: the 100-meter Dash Across the Lawn to Find Mr. Bennet, the All-Terrain Walk to Netherfield (points deducted per inch of dirty hem), the Louisa Musgrove Stair-Jumping Contest, the Pairs’ Rainy Hillside Rescue Dance, Fencing Wits, and Conversational Gymnastics (Lizzie’s an odds-on favorite there, clearly), and . . . .
But you see! The possibilities are endless! Now get your corsets on, go out there, and PARTY!!!
Photo credits: ©juzka81. Used through Creative Commons licensing.
Pop quiz: Which Jane Austen character said this?
Anyone can revolt. It is more difficult silently to obey our own inner promptings, and to spend our lives finding sincere and fitting means of expression for our temperament and our gifts.
Actually, it was none of them. The quote, according to The Happiness Project, is from a French painter named Georges Rouault. But it sounds like Elinor Dashwood, doesn’t it? Or possibly Fanny Price, or Anne Elliot, or any one of Austen’s more serious heroines. (It also sounds a lot like Dorothea Brooke from Middlemarch, but that’s another story.) It sounds like the backstory of any Austen novel.
I don’t think, by the way, that Georges meant this to relate to political revolt. I think he, and Jane, were talking about good old ordinary life, and how hard it can be to find your niche, your “inner resources,” as Mrs. Elton would say. Then and even more now you get a lot more attention if you are revolting (Lydia, I’m looking at you) than if you’re just trying to lead a good life, or even your own life. Perhaps sometimes you have to revolt to do that. But all Jane’s heroines learn Georges’ lesson, don’t they? They all have to spazz less and look beneath the surface of events rather than respond on a superficial level.
One of Jane’s more subtle messages, really. But a true message, I think, and one leading to happiness.
Photo credit: ©2010 by Heather Dever. All rights reserved.
Mariella Frostrup over at The Guardian recently wrote this in an advice column:
Despite achieving a position in the modern world where we are not only self-supporting but also increasingly outshining the men, we act like a gaggle of competitive girls whose most important goal is how blokes view us. Female-to-female behaviour hasn’t evolved much since Jane Austen’s day and the sad result is we continue to fail to provide sisterhood.
The rest of the column is similarly depressing. Mariella does suggest that the 40-something woman who feels life is slipping out of her grasp should age gracefully while at the same time make a noise, and “Rage, rage, rage when they attempt to turn out the light.” Sounds like a plan to me.
What about this talk of lack of sisterhood, now and in Jane Austen? Surely Jane and Cassandra Austen themselves are in the Sisterhood Hall of Fame? And Jane wrote about all sorts of sisters. Here’s Lizzie and Jane Bennet: “. . . do you think that any consideration would tempt me to accept the man, who has been the means of ruining, perhaps for ever, the happiness of a most beloved sister?” Not the words of someone who’s putting a bloke above a sister. Elinor and Marianne are another loving pair of sisters, though it’s true that Marianne does put her romantic notions above Elinor’s feelings sometimes. But isn’t that her great failing, what Jane Austen is warning us against? It’s also true that there’s some unpleasant sisters in the books. Maria and Julia Bertram certainly get into a catfight over Henry Crawford in Mansfield Park, and, more chillingly, Lady Bertram, Mrs. Norris, and Mrs. Price take their separation from each other with perfect calm. As with the Elliot sisters in Persuasion, Austen seems to assume that there’s no reason that sisters would hang together, if circumstances or temperament didn’t allow it. And it’s true that we see very little genuine womanly friendship in Austen: Lizzie and Charlotte Lucas and Catherine Morland and Eleanor Tilney are the only examples I can think of. I guess it would make sense when getting a husband was like getting a job that you mightn’t be very nice to the competition, especially in a limited pool. So, I concede, Austen was pretty cynical about the whole sisterhood thing.
But what about now? Miss Osborne, Miss Ball, and I don’t have any sisters. We came together as Beloved Sisters through a shared love of Jane Austen, eating, and talking smack. So we can’t comment on the modern state of sisterhood between actual sisters. But between women in general? I think it’s a pretty mixed bag. I personally haven’t seen much catfight action, have you? And also, isn’t it a bit sexist to assume that women should get along all the time? As if men do!
OK, obviously it’d be nice if we all got along. As it says in our header, Jane will keep us together. This may be terribly ironic, considering the above, but I suggest we try it. Send loving thoughts to all those of your acquaintance, even if there are few people you really love, and still fewer of whom you think well. It’s either that or back to the meat market, apparently.
Photo credit: ©David Stephensen. Used under Creative Commons licensing.
Lovely Jenn over at Citivolus Sus asked us whether she was the only Austenite who like beer. Well, I hardly think so. She even posted recommendations on which beers go with which books. I am, sadly, allergic to beer, but I do like to eat and drink (and travel), so here are my own recommendations on the right ambiance for each book. I won’t insist on Regency dishes. I won’t even go into the hardback/paperback split, and how the musky odors of old books bring out the woodier notes in certain pinot noirs, changing the whole dynamic. Just imagine Giles twittering on in the background, and making you read your Kindle only on the airplane, eating airplane food.
Northanger Abbey has a hard feeling, and such sharp edges and corners. So I see it as going well with Chinese food. I’m not particular as to the dish. Something spicy hot, perhaps with fermented black beans in it. You should drink lots of jasmine tea and get a really surreal Jane Austen fortune cookie afterward. Try to be in a restaurant that at least has Chinese people in it. No P.F. Chang’s, please. If the people are speaking Mandarin or some other form of Chinese, this is a bonus.
Sense and Sensibility: What a weird book, foodwise. There’s no doubt it can be unsettling to the stomach. I think a nice butternut squash soup. Or maybe Welsh rabbit. Orange food is called for, apparently. Orange juice? Sure. Maybe you should be in Orange County, too, whatthehey. Or in any one of these fine Orange places.
Pride and Prejudice: There is no wrong thing to eat or drink with Pride and Prejudice, right? And no wrong place to read it. For all that I have to say: No junk food. Do not insult Miss Austen with McDonald’s, or I will kill you. There are some things beyond even irony. If you must have a specific setting, I seem to see you in a wonderful Belle Epoque patisserie in Alexandria, sipping your tea and eating French/Egyptian sweets. It’s probably sunset or something, too.
Mansfield Park: Somehow, I see Mansfield Park as going best with Indian food. A good rogan josh and a steaming cup of chai make a nice counterpoint to the sometimes startling flavor of this book. You should be somewhere rainy. By the ocean.
Emma is a summertime book. Think a picnic lunch on the lawn, with strawberry shortcake. Please be nice to Miss Bates. Do try the cheese-and-pickle sandwiches, and make the Assam tea strong, with plenty of cream. As long as you sit in the sun, you may be anywhere you like.
Persuasion: This is also a book that makes me want to feel cozy and warm. It has, yes, autumnal overtones. A traditional Irish dinner followed by a really good whiskey, and some chocolate cake, maybe? Please curl up on the couch and enjoy a roaring fire while you read.
Lady Susan and The Watsons: You really should be absolutely drunk to read these, and possibly high on opium as well.* I don’t mean this in a bad way! Absinthe, I think, is the way to go. If you want to smoke a hookah and be in Istanbul as well, just to get the feel right, we’re down with that.
Sanditon: With its emphasis on health fads, I do see Sanditon as a breakfast book. You can do the straightforward hippie thing with yogurt and granola, or go all ironic with croissants and coffee. I seem to see you doing this in Paris, I don’t know why. Can you even get granola in Paris?
As a final note, I feel that all Jane Austen is most properly accompanied by chocolate. Dark, rich, delicious chocolate. Any other suggestions are optional. Readers, what do you think?
*Austenacious does not endorse the use of illegal drugs, even if they are picturesque. Note that absinthe is not illegal in the U.S. anymore. Yay!
Photo credit: ©Ed Yourdon. Used under Creative Commons licensing.
You all remember that Fanny Price and Edmund walked happily off into the sunset or vicarage (admiring the verdure). Julia had run off with Mr. Yates, Maria was disgraced and living with Aunt Norris, and Fanny’s sister Susan came to live at Mansfield Park. The End.
. . .
Ten years later, Sir Thomas Bertram decided to visit his estates in Bermuda once more. And what happened then? In a most unusual burst of energy, Lady Bertram decided the entire family should go with him. Except Maria and Aunt Norris, of course. Edmund and Fanny packed up their two children, Tom and his wife packed up their four, and Susan simply had to come too, even though by this time she was running the village newspaper. Julia and Mr. Yates managed to get out of it, though, by “renewing their vows” in Gretna Green.
And off they went. . .
Did I mention that Sir Thomas, as a cost-saving measure, bunked Susan in with two of her nephews? Also, that the “staterooms” were more like cabins? Here’s one of Tom Bertram’s wee sons, Mustaschio Man, strutting his stuff before forcing Miss Osborne, er, Susan, to watch Beverly Hills Ninja and Cats and Dogs on TV.
Whoever said “you can’t feel a thing when you’re on a big cruise ship” lied lied lied. While Susan turned green and whimpered as the boat rocked to and fro, the boys got pizza and ice cream. Not gingerbread cakes. No one really eats those, you know. They’re for tourists.
At long last, the Bertrams arrived in Bermuda. While Tom and Edmund tried to convince their father that slavery had been outlawed 200 years earlier, and Bermuda was independent, and he had no more estates, the ladies lounged on the beach. That’s Fanny on the left in the pink bikini. Marriage has really lightened that girl up.
Alas, at dinner things turned ugly. The Bertrams, if you can believe it, got into a huge family row about whose estates they didn’t have, exactly, and whether Fanny and Edmund should build a vicarage on the beach. Fanny’s own sweet little daughter broke her Aunt Susan’s arm. With a fork. Maybe she’s in the . . . oh, first rule.
For the rest of the trip, Susan sported an arm sling made with muslin that she had intended to embroider. It made her look rather like the Nutcracker Prince, but that couldn’t be helped.
Susan did allow Edmund (alias Mr. David Osborne) to escort her up on some rocks to take in the beauty of the sun and surf. After he’d apologized for his daughter’s behavior, of course.
The Bertrams, happy and united once more, visited the City Hall and Art Centre in Bermuda’s capital city, Hamilton. All those pictures of men reminded Lady Bertram that her dear niece Susan really ought to find a rich husband.
As a matter of fact, Susan had her eye on a man mysteriously appearing in her magic mirror.
Then one night, Cary Grant traveled back in time, and they had An Affair to Remember. Susan decided that despite the indignities of mass family transit, Bermuda was a very beautiful place to visit. “The beaches are spectacular, the sand is soft, clean and lovely, and the water is delightful!” she wrote in the village paper.
Miss Osborne, on the other hand, has been known to sigh and say, “Winter must be cold for those with no warm memories . . . we’ve already missed the spring.”
We’re glad they’re both back home, safe and sound, if devoid of rich husbands and Cary Grant.
Photo credita: All images ©2010 by Christine Osborne. All rights reserved.
We Austenites can be a boy-crazy bunch.
We make much of Mr. Darcy diving into a pond in a puffy shirt (which isn’t even in the book!). We divide into camps over, say, Knightley and Wentworth, and then further into sub-camps over Jonny Lee Miller and Jeremy Northam (or Colin Firth and Matthew McFadyen, or Ciaran Hinds and Rupert Penry-Jones). We admire the mutton chops and the fancy dance moves of Austen heroes from Sense and Sensibility all the way up to Persuasion. We objectify the pants off those fictional characters—see what I did there?—and have a fantastic time doing it.
And we’re missing half the story.
In Friday’s Telegraph, “novelist and ladies’ man” (heh) Jay McInerney gave us the other side of the coin: the male perspective on the ladies of Austen. Spoiler alert: It seems the menfolk can’t get enough of the fine eyes and dirty hems of Elizabeth Bennet any more than Darcy could; McInerney also reveals things for Emma Woodhouse and, with a charming note of self-consciousness, Fanny Price.
We don’t get a lot of this perspective around these parts; being primarily female and straight, the Austen community in general tends to spend way more time on what’s underneath Darcy’s breeches than what might be going on with those boobalicious Regency gowns.
McInerney goes on to claim some degree of depth in his Austen attachments—he really does love them for their minds, he says, both as characters and as representations of Jane herself. But what if he didn’t? What if this guy fixated—with an unusual sense of publicity and and odd sort of camaraderie—on the rain-drenched Marianne Dashwood, or on Jane Bennet’s mid-storm arrival at Netherfield? What if he sat around writing fan fiction about Lydia and either Wickham or, because it’s fanfic and he can, Mr. Collins or Charlotte Lucas or (crossover alert!) Hermione Granger or Sirius Black? Or all of the above? Would we react to him differently, and to his way of experiencing the Austen universe? How would we approach him as a man and as an admirer and/or objectifier of the women of Austen?
Readers, what do you think? (And while we’re at it, who’s your biggest Austen crush—of either gender?)
So, how can I put this? Let’s see. Okay, so. Sometimes, it seems to me that Austen adaptations are…shall we say, remiss in failing to offer a satisfying ending? Failing to seal the deal, if you know what I mean? Sure, Lizzy and Darcy end up in the Carriage of Loooove at the end of the 1995 adaptation, but what’s with the little peck as they’re driving off (frozen for effect, even—what, BBC, do you think we didn’t see what you did there, you dirty cheaters)? And, really, nothing for Jane and Bingley? They’re going to get a complex, people. Even Emma Thompson’s Elinor promptly explodes with emotion when Edward turns out not to be married—but does she sweep him off his feet and carry him away, complete with soaring music and distracting crane-shot camera work? Spoiler alert: she does not. And oh, sure, maybe it’s not in the book, exactly, but then neither is a thirty-six-year-old Elinor, a Jane Bennet that looks vaguely like a Greek statue, or that awesome cake on a pedestal (with ribbons!) at the end of Sense and Sensibility. I stand by what I say: more kissing, please! Jane won’t mind.
Thankfully, there are some recent Austen adaptations that seek to remedy the situation, and I think this sort of thing requires some, uh, research. Or, more specifically, a poll. Here are seven ending scenes from relatively recent Austen adaptations, all of them containing some sort of kissy-kissy true-love moment. Inquiring minds want to know: Austenacious readers, which is your favorite, and why? If there’s one that isn’t listed here, what is it (and why couldn’t we find it)?
Pride and Prejudice 1995
Mansfield Park 1999
Pride and Prejudice 2005
Northanger Abbey 2007
Mansfield Park 2007