I have written about Jane Austen here before, but I love her writing and the lessons of her novels so much that there is always more to write about.
Jane is never preachy, but her characters show or don’t show Christian values. It’s obvious who is leading a good life and who is not. The goodness of the heroines shines forth. And the men show or don’t show, as the case may be, valor.
This virtue and valor is necessary for love (and provides us modern ladies and gentlemen with valuable lessons to consider on our own roads to happily ever after).
For example, in Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen gives examples of marriages that foster the development of love, such as those of Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy and Jane and Mr. Bingley.
Lizzy found true love because she recognized the depth of Darcy’s character (shown most visibly in his help with the Lydia-Wickham scandal, which proves his love for Lizzy; praise by those who know him best doesn’t hurt either). “I am the happiest creature in the world,” she says. “Perhaps other people have said so before, but not one with such justice. I am happier even than Jane; she only smiles. I laugh.”
After Darcy’s second proposal, Lizzy tells her father, “I do, I do like him. I love him. Indeed, he has no improper pride. He is perfectly amiable. You do not know what he really is.”
This emphasizes the importance of knowing a person well when contemplating marriage.
Lizzy knows what Darcy really is, which is needed for love: Love means knowing who someone truly is and loving them because of it, strengths, weaknesses and all.
Then there’s Mr. Knightley, from the novel Emma, who rescues Harriet, in the process showing he lives up to his name, as does his care of Emma: He makes sure she lives up to the goodness he sees in her and even agrees to move in with her father to make everyone happy once they are married.
And who can forget Captain Wentworth in Persuasion? He admired Anne’s loving care of others. “No one is as capable as Anne,” he observes.
“I have loved none but you … too good, too excellent creature!” he writes her in what may be the most romantic letter in literature.
His letter leaves her feeling “overpowering happiness.”
These lessons are so important for us: Knowing someone’s depth of character is so key to discerning marriage, as is knowledge of what love is (1 Corinthians 13) and true compatibility.
Thanks for the reminders, Jane!
Amy Smith is the associate editor for the National Catholic Register.