In Britain, they officially put Jane Austen on the ten pound note, replacing Charles Darwin. I love this, and must rush there immediately to collect one.
Tag Archives: Jane Austen
Right so. I was thinking about the notion of the independent woman the other day. Don’t ask why. Not sure how it came about. I think it started because I was talking to someone about boyfriends. Whatever.
After the conversation ended, it stuck in my mind. I wound up thinking about literature, as I usually do. After this came the idea of archetypes and stereotypes and how women have been portrayed in literature over the years.
Don’t laugh. Sometimes I do think of these things on my own.
The debate nowadays is that many of the principal female characters of old are spineless. This mainly springs from the conventions of the times and the ideals women were expected to live up to. It is only natural then, that heroines would embody the ideas of the times. Plus, most really old classic lit was penned by men. Of course they are going to want to make their own gender seem superior in literature. How hypocritical to live one way and write another!
Some say that women in classic lit are meek. They are humble. They have no backbone. They are simmering simpletons who do nothing but swoon and wait for their men to sweep them off their feet, save them from the villain’s clutches and marry them.
I say bollocks (one of my favorite British words).
Classic literature is full of strong female characters. Jane Austen. All of her heroines. Sure they all want to get married. What girl doesn’t want to get married? Also remember the time period in which she wrote. There were no real career options for a woman in her day. Marriage was really the only path. And yet Jane still managed to have a career for herself anyway. Of course there are elements of her spunky, independent self in her characters.
Scarlet O’Hara. You don’t have to like her. I don’t. But she’s a very strong woman.
I must credit Jane of All trades for a brilliant and more in depth post about this subject a while back. I urge you to check it out.
But I’m not done with you yet. I haven’t even gotten to the independent woman thing yet. And naturally anything here has to relate to my writing somehow. Bear with me for a while longer.
So after I disproved many great a scholar’s thesis about sappy women, I returned to the “product of the times” thought and came to the conclusion that nothing about that has changed. Women then were portrayed in such a fashion because that was how they were seen at the time. People wanted women to be virtuous, quiet and dependent. It was in demand. The reason we raise such an outcry against this nowadays and don’t see many new characters represented as such is because that’s not what we want.
Writers give the people what they want. They don’t get published otherwise.
Now women have careers. Now they are loud. Now they don’t give a damn about female limitations (at least in Western nations). Now readers want independent women who dominate every page and can generally be a total pain in the tookas and pass it off as a backbone. Instead of Ken saves Barbie at the end we get Barbie saves Ken.
As I thought about this and how to reach my target audience, I began to panic. I’m a hopeless romantic. Every single one of my stories involves a daring rescue of the woman by the man in the end. Cue hyperventilation. My readers won’t like it. Enter sharp pain down left arm. No one will read it. Come on numbing of left ear. My women are too weak and no one will love them and I’ll never get published and even if I do no one will read except my mom. People don’t want this anymore
they want this
And then I stopped myself. Just because my women get ensnared (haha! get it? Sorry, bad joke) in a whole mess of trouble, does not mean they are weak characters. They are also not simpletons. They are convincing. They are real. They get caught because the antgonists are out to get them; that’s what antagonists do. Bad guys have to be very good at being bad guys otherwise no one will believe they are bad guys. Duh.
Sometimes the villain is one step ahead of the protagonist. This has nothing to do with the character herself. She can still be in a predicament without being meek. It is her qualities that make her strong. It is her ability to out-wit a college professor when he refuses her admission. It is her determination to run away from an abusive arranged marriage. It is her survival skills keeping her and her father afloat after financial disaster. That makes her strong.
And let’s be honest here, who doesn’t like it when Ken saves Barbie and they have a fancy wedding with poofy dresses in the end? A knight in shining armor is just plain great. Come on now.
- Iconic Romantic Heroines – Intro (writingiscake.com)
Creative Writing Stats
I have wonderful news! I was this very day struck as if by lightning with a BRILLIANT new idea for a novel! So I don’t give too much away, I won’t post too many details just yet. The other reason is I don’t really have all the details worked out. I’ve got the title and the general plan but the little things need to be tweaked. So here’s a small teaser taste … title: Prince Charming (maybe).
So I’m all thrilled about this new idea, until I had a more cynical thought: I have unrealistic expectations about men. And I’m not the only one! After all, I’m sure many a woman can relate to the constant struggle of sorting through the assortment of jerks, pigs, players, downers, Negative Neds, obsessers, and spineless lazy asses just to maybe find one who might not be a sleazeball and have it come oh so close but no cigar, or have it work out well for a while only to have it fail and consequently spend weeks crying heartbroken into her pillow every night. But why do we as women expect to find The One right away and have everything work out splendidly right away? Is it Hollywood’s portrayal of sexy hunks? Is it the romance novels we read? Is it Jane Austen and her assortment of Mr. Darcyesque characters? While these undoubtedly contribute, they are not the true cause. Nope, not really. They cannot shoulder most of the blame. But fear not! I know where we must point our fingers!
That’s right, ladies. Disney is the reason we have our future husbands placed on an impossibly high pedestal and a cheesy romantic daydream about how we’ll meet him. Think about it, it’s the impressionable age when we watch the movies and what we romanticized at that impressionable age that carries through to our adulthood.
Here’s the breakdown.
Prince Charming from Snow White – dashing young man who sees her once and becomes enamored and spends months thinking about her and searching for her and doesn’t rest until he is able to sweep her into his arms and whisk her away to his white castle in the clouds. This makes women believe that love is easy and nothing needs to be done to sustain it. False. The truth of the matter is, while a man might think about you and nothing else for months and want to whisk you away to his studio apartment, love is a two-way street. You BOTH have to get through thick and thin TOGETHER. Just seeing each other once is not enough. And honey, if he’s that obsessed after one day, be careful, it’s not healthy, speaking from experience.
Prince Phillip from Sleeping Beauty – a handsome young rascal to say the least. He and Aurora form a quasi-relationship at least, but again the one day syndrome. His epic battle to rescue her is wonderful and sets the heart racing but let’s be honest, girls, we’re probably not going to need to be rescued from a fire-breathing dragon any time soon. Most of us lead normal lives where this would be superfluous, and yet we still find ourselves pining for it anyway.
Prince Charming from Cinderella – why, oh why, couldn’t Disney come up with a name for this poor man too? This classic Disney icon reinforces the instantaneous deal. There was no working at this relationship. Just one dance and then he’s going to scour the kingdom until he finds her. Yeah, no. After a while, if a girl walks out on a guy after one drink in the bar and he can’t seem to get in contact with her, he gives up. Watch He’s Just Not That Into You.
Prince Eric from The Little Mermaid – we’re getting better with this one. At least they spend three whole days together instead of one. But come on, he nearly misses her because of his obsession with finding her voice. He tells girls to let little episodes with other women slide, just because she has been just as obsessed with him from the beginning. Tsk, tsk. Player!
Beast from Beauty and the Beast – now this one I really didn’t have anything to say about since she’s the only reading princess (and we all know how I feel about books) until I learned the original fairytale was written to encourage Victorian Era women to look past their husband’s beastly qualities, bite their tongues, and let him to whatever he wants. Enough said. Fail.
Aladdin – not bad, not bad … until you realize he’s too perfect. He’s a flawed show-off but sees the error in his ways when he almost loses her and then comes to her daring rescue and they live happily ever after. Problems like that can’t be resolved in an hour and a half.
I could go on, but now, being a hopeless romantic who eats all this stuff up even though she sees all the flaws and still wants to be a Disney Princess to hence automatically get a Disney Prince, I’m in the mood to watch a Disney movie. I’ll go plant the idea in my little sister’s head so I’ll feel like she came up with this plan, not me.
Creative Writing Goals
My friends and I had a lovely day in NYC today. We made it in to Rockefeller Center by noon (ok Gabs, 12:45) and spent the rest of the day wandering, window shopping, seeing a great movie (though I really couldn’t believe I spent $12.50 on it, there goes the Christmas money), and, of course, eating. As we were meandering back to Grand Central we naturally had to duck into the fabulous Barnes and Noble where I purchased my very own copy of the Complete Works of William Shakespeare. That’s right. Every word the man ever penned is now sitting on my bookshelf next to the Complete Jane Austen and Sherlock Holmes.
When I got home and placed the legacy of the greatest writer in the history of the English Language between two other great writers of the English language, I got to thinking. Between the three of them, they take up about a foot of space on my top bookshelf, single spaced. That’s a TON of words. Billions of words, millions of sentences, thousands of paragraphs. And all of them wrote at least over a hundred years ago and people still clamor to buy and collect their works. Talk about legacy. It’s awe-inspiring. It almost physically moves my hand to my pen …
On that note, Thomas’s daring rescue of his damsel in distress from the clutches of an evil villain is long overdue.