19th Century Escapism

While most of the country tuned in for some pizza, nacho, and football action today, I instead turned to Netflix to watch Mansfield Park, a movie rendition from 1999 of Jane Austen’s novel. It, along with Sense & Sensibility  are the only two Austen novels I haven’t read. In truth, I find them all much the same- a young woman of character marries a respectable young man after some family turmoil and social conflict. She, endowed with a great mind but little money, stays true to herself and ends up marrying an agreeable match and living happily, though potentially without as much money as a more materially-minded woman would desire.

I realize that Austen’s novels can be both political and romantic, that they are not realistic by any means, and that the world they represent is indeed one of fiction. But at the same time, it’s quite nice to think of a world where upstanding moral character and some patience could bring about a lifetime of happy moments with someone who loves you. Sure, there are many modern conveniences that would greatly improve the conditions of the heroines in these novels, but what’s a little hardship when you know everything’s going to work out for good?

In the 200 years that have passed since the fictional setting of Mansfield Park women have gained many opportunities and freedoms that would not have otherwise offered themselves. The general condition of life has improved, and we’ve made some progress on social issues. Yet, even with these advances, we still look for a happy ending benevolently handed to us by fate or by God’s goodness. If only the most difficult decision I faced was whom to marry. Psh. If only the most difficult decision was whom to date. But no, no suitors here. And oddly enough, it seems like I’ll have to do a little more work than attract the right guy with my outstanding moral character if I’m to find some happily ever after.

I think I’ll stick to serving the poor and the needy. And when I need a break from that, there’s always Austen, the Brontes, and L.M. Montgomery’s famous redhead waiting for me a few page flips away.

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