Review Fridays: Eligible

The details:

Title: Eligible
Author: Curtis Sittenfeld
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Pages: 512
Where to buy: Barnes & Noble link

Despite the press surrounding Eligible, it might be best to forget that it is supposed to be an update of Pride and Prejudice. Curtis Sittenfeld is a good writer, but she is no Jane Austen. It is unfortunate that the connection between the novels forces the reader to compare them. Where Austen’s novel is light, bright, and sparkling, Eligible is too long and has a heroine who thinks she is more witty and clever than she actually is. The modern-day Darcy comments on this latter point, that Liz Bennet thinks she’s funnier than she is, and that is a problem.

In Eligible, Liz Bennet is a journalist. The charm of Pride and Prejudice is that the heroine is confident and smart, but she is young enough that she still has a lot to learn about herself. Instead, we have a heroine in her late thirties who accepts that, although she is dating a married man, it is excusable because his marriage is supposedly over. He and his wife are staying together for the sake of his wife’s mother who would disinherit them if they divorced. Liz is completely taken in by this excuse. Jane Austen’s clever and intelligent heroine would never have fallen for something so preposterous.

Jane is a yoga instructor, living off of her family’s money, and is trying to have a baby through anonymous donation. I wasn’t completely convinced that ever-optimistic and kind Jane would have given up hope of finding someone she loved or a career that could pay the bills. Bingley is a doctor and reality TV star on a show called Eligible that is like The Bachelor. Yes, Bingley is a big pushover in the original, and perhaps he could be talked into reality TV (surely Darcy would convince him not to do it?), but, by the end, even Jane is talked into it, which seems wrong.

Jasper, our Wickham, is a journalist just like Liz, but it is never quite clear what Liz sees in him. He is not charming enough. It was difficult, as a reader, to care about him at all, and part of what made Wickham so dastardly in the original was that he was initially likable and believable. Instead, in Sittenfeld’s version, the reader can only wait impatiently until Liz realizes she is just wasting her time with him.

Liz’s relationship with Darcy is just as unsatisfying. Liz and Darcy, a doctor who works long hours, start a physical relationship purely because they hate each other. I have seen some other reviewers cheer on this development, but to me it screams very awkward plot device. The scene that mirrors Darcy’s first proposal feels hollow. I do not understand what Darcy sees in Liz, besides physical attraction. Why she eventually falls for Darcy is more obvious, but it does not make sense for Liz to hate him as much as she does. Darcy’s moment where he redeems himself in helping Lydia feels unnecessary and strange, and Lydia certainly is not grateful for it.

Even Jane and Liz do not seem as close. Couldn’t Liz have talked Jane out of doing a ridiculous reality TV wedding? And I won’t even get into the drama involving the rest of the Bennets who occupy a run-down mansion in Cincinnati.

Added to all of the faults is the fact that this book is twice as long, page-wise, as my paperback copy of Pride and Prejudice. The writing isn’t bad, so it’s a shame that the plot is so convoluted and tries so hard to follow the original. I hope that the last two novels of the Austen Project will keep with the spirit of Jane Austen’s novels rather than trying to tediously update each and every single plot point.


Three tips for taking risks in your career

I am experimenting with a series about the intersection of literature and career advice. I have read a lot of novels, and I have read a lot of career advice. The two surprisingly have a lot in common. Today is Edward Ferrars and what he can teach us about taking risks in our careers. 

Edward Ferrars from Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility might not seem like the most obvious choice for a risk taker. He is a quiet, mousy sort of character, unobtrusive, someone you probably would never notice at a big party. In fact, he wouldn’t be at the party at all. This doesn’t bode well for him. After all, how can someone who doesn’t put himself forward achieve success?

Out of all of Jane Austen’s characters, Edward has the most to lose. He is from a wealthy family. His mother and sister have picked out a wife for him, have a vision of a clever career path, and would like to see him jaunting about town in elegant modes of transportation. His family wants him to be fashionable. If he chooses to go against their wishes, chances are very good that his mother will disinherit him.

But all Edward wants is a quiet country life as a clergyman. The safe route would be to do exactly as his family wants, to marry well, and to inherit the family fortune. Instead, his honor matters more to him than security. He is willing to risk everything for his happiness.

The way he takes risks, and how he rebounds from them, can tell us a lot about taking risks in our careers while still maintaining a safety net.

1. Stay patient.

At first, it looks as if Edward isn’t on his way to success. He has engaged himself to a woman he doesn’t love, and he intends to marry her anyway because this is 19th century England. Many of us view our careers this way. We don’t really love them, but they offer security and, anyway, we committed to them. Most of us are inclined to stay the course.

Sometimes, the first careers that we choose when we are young and lack life experience will not make us happy. Know that you will make mistakes, but no situation is irrevocable. It is important to stay patient and meet new people and try new things until you find the career that seems right.

2. Pursue the things that make you happy.

Edward’s first scheme for happiness is a total disaster. He goes against his family’s wishes, but he ends up engaging himself to a woman who would never make him happy. He is completely seduced by the glittery, cunning option, only to realize too late that she lacks substance.

Despite his youthful mistake, Edward makes his scheme for happiness in another area. He will be a clergyman, and he will find at least one point of happiness in a quiet life. But it turns out the woman he was engaged to was just after his money. In your career, don’t chase money. Trust that pursuing the things that make you happy will attract the people you want to have in your life–and drive away those you’d rather avoid.

3. Build a network.

Edward can afford to take risks. He doesn’t need to worry about where money will come from because he has friends who care about him and his future. Colonel Brandon, an acquaintance through the Dashwoods, hears about his predicament and wants to help. He gives Edward a living on his estate, saving him from destitution. It is far less likely that you will fail if you have a network to fall back on if your risk taking doesn’t pan out.

If the idea of networking fills you with existential dread, just remember that no one likes networking. Think of it instead as making friends with people who happen to have the same career as you. And if that doesn’t help, don’t think of it as trying to exploit other people to get their help. What can you contribute to the careers of other people? Chances are if you help them, they will be willing to help you later in your career, too.

Five steps to get your career back on track

I have been thinking lately about the intersection of literature and career advice. For instance, Jane Austen was wise before her time, and a lot of her characters’ choices mirror those of job hunters in the modern world.

Most career advice will tell you that pursuing your passion is stupid. The top priority, apparently, should be to make money and to forget about happiness. There will be time for hobbies in your free time, they say. Focus on making money. In literary terms, be more like Charlotte Lucas and less like Elizabeth Bennet.

Even though Jane Austen wrote about courtship, she actually has a lot to say about careers. I am going to give you five steps for getting your career back on track inspired by Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

1. Make a list of any values you would never go against.

In Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth Bennet turns down not one but two very lucrative offers. In modern terms, it is like she was offered jobs but decided that they didn’t quite fit in with her principles. Charlotte Lucas accepts the first man who shows any interest in her. This is practical. She is doing the thing that most of us do in our career searches.

Elizabeth is the heroine because, despite her mother yelling at her for making such stupid decisions, she is not really making stupid decisions. She is willing to hold out for perfection and so gets her happy ending. Most of us get scared before reaching this point because we value security over perfection. And that is OK as long as we are honest about it and stop making ourselves unhappy because our jobs aren’t perfect.

2. Gain self-knowledge.

Charlotte is comfortable, but she’s also likely extremely bored. She has chosen to hole herself off in the countryside with her pompous husband and his overbearing, snooty patroness. But she values security over everything else. She knows this about herself, and she is able to make the decision to marry Mr. Collins without being miserable about it.

On the other hand, Elizabeth would never make that decision. She is self-aware enough to know that she cannot sacrifice her happiness to guarantee financial security for herself, her mother, and her sisters. She is willing to risk that either she or one of her sisters will make a suitable match to give them a place to live when their father dies. Although they take different paths, both Charlotte and Elizabeth possess enough self-knowledge to pursue what will make them content. You can’t know which path is right for you unless you have that self-knowledge.

3. Take inventory of your skills.

Lady Catherine, one of the main antagonists of the novel, believes that she could be proficient at anything if only she would devote time to it. So would her daughter, if her health allowed it. What she is saying is that she doesn’t think it is worth her time to become that good at anything because she is already rich and doesn’t value learning for learning’s sake.

There is nothing inherently wrong with that point of view. Becoming very, very good at something takes a lot of time and effort. Really exceptional athletes, for example, spend most of their free time on training and practice to the exclusion of everything else. Most of us will never achieve that kind of persistence. We try once and fail and binge watch TV. Even Elizabeth Bennet isn’t the best pianist. You have to be able to honestly answer whether you are willing to put in the time and energy that a new path requires.

4. Know when to try something new.

Mary, the middle Bennet sister, devotes a lot of time to gaining accomplishments. She does so to the exclusion of spending more time with her sisters, going for walks to the village, and building relationships. Yet, we know that she is wasting her time. At the Netherfield Ball, she embarrasses herself and her family by putting herself forward to play complicated piano pieces, and she is not good at it.

You don’t have to be a natural at the thing you want to do, but if you are devoting a lot of time and energy to it and not improving, maybe you should try something else. It might be that you will never be good at calculus or weren’t meant to be an engineer. Maybe you are like a fish who is trying to climb a tree. It is futile, and you would be better off finding a place where you can swim instead.

5. Decide when to take risks.

For most people, the answer to this step will be never. You will likely be best off in your current job, boring but stable, but maybe try tweaking small aspects. Find a shorter commute or a better boss. In other words, most of us will value security, and we can find that in our boring career path.

If, after taking inventory of your life and skills, you decide that you do want to take risks, I have three tips for you in the next post. Those tips come from Edward Ferrars, Jane Austen’s ultimate risk taker (yes, really).

Rest in Peace, Alan Rickman


My God, that voice. “The air is full of spices.”

I was a preteen when I first began reading Jane Austen, and naturally I went for the adaptations soon after. I remember getting a VHS (which makes me practically a dinosaur) of the elegant 1995 version of Sense and Sensibility. When I first read the book, I hated Colonel Brandon, and I thought it a grim fate indeed that Marianne should marry him at the end. Colonel Brandon in his flannel waistcoat was no hero for a young girl, and I rejected him heartily.

And then there was Alan Rickman.

Colonel Brandon: What can I do?
Elinor Dashwood: Colonel, you have done so much already…
Colonel Brandon: Give me an occupation, Miss Dashwood, or I shall run mad.

Sense and Sensibility (1995)

From the moment I watched that adaptation, I thought that perhaps Marianne and Colonel Brandon had more in common than I assumed. He was a romantic hero with a deep voice and commanding aspect, and I was subconsciously drawn to him. He managed to make me care for a character who otherwise seemed boring, dull, doomed to flannel waistcoats. Each time I saw him in a movie, he impressed me, and that voice. What a gift of a voice to bring to the world.

I am not much of a crier, but I have to admit that I shed tears when I heard today that Alan Rickman died at the age of 69. I had not read anywhere that he was ill, so it was a shock for me to lose my first Colonel Brandon. He was a magnificent actor and shall be missed by scores of fans.

Rest in peace, Alan Rickman.



Happy Jane Day!

On this day 240 years ago, December 16, 1775, Jane Austen was born at Steventon rectory in England. I have written before on this blog of my great admiration of Miss Austen. She was a brilliant writer, one who rivals all of the greats of English literature and one who continues to be beloved with each passing year. Best of all, like most great writers, Jane Austen enjoyed nothing so much as a good novel:

“The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.”

Many of her characters were avid readers, as Jane was herself during her lifetime.

“It is only a novel… or, in short, only some work in which the greatest powers of the mind are displayed, in which the most thorough knowledge of human nature, the happiest delineation of its varieties, the liveliest effusions of wit and humour, are conveyed to the world in the best-chosen language.”

How does a Janeite properly observe Jane Day? I have made a list of the best ways to celebrate:

  1. Hide your feelings for your currently unavailable love interest while your sister spouts her love for a man at the top of her lungs. Comfort her when he dumps her for a wealthier woman.
  2. Attend a party where your looks are slighted by a haughty, reserved man who will eventually come to admire your fine eyes.
  3. Quietly but faithfully love a man who is blinded by the charms of a beautiful, but not altogether good, woman. Wait patiently until he becomes disillusioned with her.
  4. Play matchmaker! After you make a number of assumptions, you discover that you were completely wrong and have inadvertently made a mess of your friend’s life. Oops.
  5. Read as many Gothic novels as you can get your hands on. What horrors! Unfortunately, your overactive imagination nearly ruins your chance at happiness.
  6. When the man you love proposes, you turn him down because your family doesn’t think he’s good enough. In time, you realize your mistake, but will he forgive you?
  7. Drink tea while re-reading your favorite Jane Austen novel. That’s what this list is all about, after all.


Cassandra Austen and the destroyed letters

Not much is known today about the life of Jane Austen, largely because her beloved sister, Cassandra, reportedly destroyed two-thirds of Jane’s letters. The ones that she kept are as sharply funny, observant, and well-written as any Janeite could hope, but the fact remains that Jane Austen is a shadowy figure. Some have tried to recreate various periods of her life. One such work is Becoming Jane, in which the biographer speculates about a romance between Jane and her neighbor’s nephew, Tom Lefroy. It makes for a nice story, but it is unsubstantiated. We simply cannot know for sure.

Some Janeites mourn the loss of the destroyed letters. Cassandra Austen loved and wanted to protect her younger sister, but in the process she destroyed a connection with her readers. I have been thinking more about this as I read The Silent Woman, which is about the attempts at writing biographies of Sylvia Plath and more generally about the difficulties of the genre of biography. It discusses how Ted Hughes and his sister Olwyn had been turned into villains by biographers, set against the helpless Plath. Hughes destroyed her last journal and claimed that another had disappeared. Hughes and his sister were the gatekeepers, the inheritors of an intangible legacy. And, like Cassandra Austen, they chose what they wanted the public to know and what they did not want them to know.

The situations, however, between Plath and Austen could not be more different. Plath was separated from Hughes at the time of her death. She had discovered that he was having an affair. Olwyn Hughes apparently did not like Plath, but she became the literary agent of Plath’s writings. On the other hand, Cassandra Austen was and remained until death the beloved sister of Jane. Where the similarities lie is that both Hughes and Cassandra Austen inherited after the deaths of Plath and Jane, and both chose to destroy a portion of those writings. Why, as readers, do we protest against this? Why do we feel that we know better, that we have a right to read and know all about the writers we venerate?

Perhaps it has something to do with the intimacy of writing. When we read, another person is inviting us into their world. When we read another’s personal journals and letters, the gap is further lessened. It is as if the letters or journals were written specifically for us, despite the fact that they are completely private and should be considered separate from the public novels and poems and short stories. The line becomes less clear to some readers, and they feel the need to attack the idea that something about the writer’s life has been hidden or destroyed.

When I meet another person who loves Austen’s works, we gush about our mutual admiration of Jane. We feel as if we know her from the words that she wrote, from her characters and wry descriptions. But it is interesting to think about why we try to dig deeper, why we look for letters or journals or anything else to tell us more about the writer’s life.

Jane Austen Week: Finale

Today, I am wrapping up Jane Austen week with a quick overview of a minor character from each of the remaining novels.

Mansfield Park: Tom Bertram is the eldest son, set to inherit Mansfield Park. He regularly makes poor decisions, incurs nearly-ruinous debts, and has friends of the sort who would abandon him at the first sign of trouble. Yet, he still has John Yates, my favorite minor character of the novel. He makes quite an entrance:

The Honourable John Yates, this new friend, had not much to recommend him beyond habits of fashion and expense…. Mr. Bertram’s acquaintance with him had begun at Weymouth, where they had spent ten days together in the same society, and the friendship, if friendship it might be called, had been proved and perfected by Mr. Yates’s being invited to take Mansfield in his way, whenever he could, and by his promising to come; and he did come rather earlier than had been expected…. He came on the wings of disappointment, and with his head full of acting, for it had been a theatrical party; and the play in which he had borne a part was within two days of representation, when the sudden death of one of the nearest connexions of the family had destroyed the scheme and dispersed the performers. To be so near happiness, so near fame, so near the long paragraph in praise of the private theatricals at Ecclesford, the seat of the Right Hon. Lord Ravenshaw, in Cornwall, which would of course have immortalised the whole party for at least a twelvemonth! and being so near, to lose it all, was an injury to be keenly felt, and Mr. Yates could talk of nothing else.

Jane Austen likes nothing so much as letting us laugh at human nature, and here she sparkles with glee. In one paragraph, a character is built entirely in a series of deft descriptions. Mr. Yates is Tom’s theater-obsessed friend, the one who brings intrigue to Mansfield Park with an inappropriate play. And, with the play, he manages to disrupt relationships and turn over the solid stability of the conservative country house. Because of him, Maria’s relationship with Henry Crawford progressed further under the guise of theatricals than it might otherwise have. Mr. Yates finishes with a flourish, eloping with Julia Bertram and thereby becoming an official part of the circle of Mansfield Park. I like to imagine them living quite happily ever after, visiting a reformed Tom occasionally at Julia’s childhood home, and hosting merry parties and plays for their friends.

Northanger Abbey: Mr. and Mrs. Morland, who appear hardly at all in the novel, are the parents of our heroine, Catherine. They seem to be one of the better sets of parents written for a heroine in Jane Austen’s novels. Think, by comparison, of Sir Walter Elliot, Mr. and Mrs. Bennet, Mrs. Dashwood, Sir Thomas and Lady Bertram, and Mr. Woodhouse. Mr. and Mrs. Morland do not cause the drama of the novel. They do not interfere, are not overly anxious or emotional, are not downright neglectful, do not intimidate their children, do not demand that they marry rich. They are simply ordinary people with a few too many children, but who do their best to help and support them and allow them to have their own adventures. Indeed, Catherine, with her happy childhood, hardly seems born to be a heroine. Most of the action takes place away from home, in a world where Catherine cannot imagine people having hidden bad intentions because she was raised by good, honest people. Mr. and Mrs. Morland are, in my opinion, the best parents any heroine could have.

Persuasion: Captain Harville is a friend of Captain Wentworth, the hero of the novel. He has many deep conversations with Anne Elliot, including the one which led Captain Wentworth to hope that Anne might still care for him and brought about The Letter, one of the most stunningly gorgeous romantic letters in all of literature. According to Anne, good company is being with “clever, well-informed people, who have a great deal of conversation.” Captain Harville fulfills that requirement perfectly. Persuasion is a novel full of exceptional minor characters, a masterpiece that was finished but not yet polished, with plot ends not convincingly tied up before Jane Austen’s death. The characters do truly carry the novel, and Captain Harville is one of the most outstanding.

Jane Austen Week: Nancy Steele

This week, I am going to explore some of Jane Austen’s secondary characters, one from each novel. Today, I am focusing on Nancy Steele from Sense and Sensibility.

As much as I love the 1995 film adaptation of Sense and Sensibility, the exclusion of Lucy Steele’s sister, Nancy, does not make a whit of sense. In the novel, Nancy is the silly and irrational foil to her controlled and manipulating sister. Nancy loves nothing more than to chat about “beaux”, and her nonsensical speeches bring comic relief to what is at times a very dark book. However, she is also necessary to the structure of the novel and removing her somewhat impacts the integrity of the plot and Lucy Steele’s character.

It is difficult to think of what environment could possibly have produced the Steele sisters. Lucy is clever, but she is also calculating. Cold-heartedly, she holds onto a man whom she knows loves another woman. But she does not care. She wants to make a good marriage, and it does not seem like she is much interested in whom she marries or whether his feelings change as long as he is rich. Only caring about her marriage prospects, she pretends to want to be friends with Elinor, but secretly is out to tell her to back off of what is hers. She is the exact opposite of what a heroine should be. Her sister, similarly, lacks moral substance. She has very little of either sense or sensibility and is in fact the one who ruins her sister’s plot.

I think it is a fault of that otherwise brilliant film adaptation to exclude Nancy. Lucy is smart and can read others well. She would know better than to tell Fanny Dashwood that she was secretly engaged to Edward, who was due to inherit as the elder son, though he had no interest in gaining wealth or power. Nancy is absolutely required, Nancy who cannot control her tongue and does not have the sense to stay quiet. She is needed to advance the plot, to reveal the secret to the entire cast of characters, and to set in motion the events that will lead to a happy ending for Edward and Elinor.

As I have been thinking about Austen’s minor characters, I have found that so many of them are essential to the plot. Foolish Nancy Steele is the one who outs her sister Lucy’s secret engagement, and it is that which eventually leads to Mrs. Ferrars disinheriting Edward. Without Nancy, there is a possibility that Mrs. Ferrars might have been persuaded to accept Lucy as a match for Edward, if given time. She was already well on her way to doing so, but not quite there, when Nancy gave away the secret. Lucy finally won that approval after marrying the other brother, Robert, who benefited from Edward falling out of grace and inheritance.

As readers, we know that Lucy is cunning, but she also possesses an immense power to make a good impression on important people. Without Nancy, it is impossible to say how the novel would have turned out. Thinking about the minor characters and the amount of planning that went into them has given me a new appreciation for Jane Austen and her masterpieces.

Jane Austen Week: Mary Bennet

This week, I am going to explore some of Jane Austen’s secondary characters, one from each novel. Today, I am focusing on Mary Bennet from Pride and Prejudice.

Oh, Mary. Out of all of Jane Austen’s characters, you were meant to be born into a different era. There are plenty of women today who would prefer to stay home and read rather than go to a party. You are a classic introvert. You’d totally find a small group of friends who understands you instead of being forced to stay home all of the time, playing the piano for people who don’t appreciate it and making extracts from the books you read. I think that, today, Mary Bennet would be a PhD student, very book smart and focused on her research topic, but ultimately not very people smart or social.

Mary Bennet tends to be the forgotten Bennet sister. While the others are out dancing and flirting with men, Mary is dedicated to learning things. Out of all Jane Austen’s characters, isn’t Mary Bennet the most modern in that way? She seems to care more about what she knows than how many partners she can acquire at the latest ball. She is the extreme opposite of Lydia and Kitty; she is serious and bookish, but she has forgotten how to have fun and relate to other people. The very modernity of her character has made her interesting to novelists writing sequels, with varying degrees of success.

Jane Austen later said that Mary Bennet would have married one of her uncle’s clerks and lived out the remainder of her days in Meryton. There she could no doubt rule, prim and proper, intelligent and willing to play music, but not to dance. Mary could have been something quite spectacular if she had been truly gifted, if she had been allowed to give voice to all that she discovered in her books. I am torn about Mary. On one hand, I sympathize with her, destined to be in the shadow of her prettier and livelier sisters. On the other hand, she does not possess the natural talent to shine in London or on a larger stage. She is no Jane Fairfax. Meryton is just about right for her.

With a preternatural sense of character, Jane Austen always creates satisfying endings for her characters, even the minor ones whom no one seems to notice much.

Jane Austen Week: Jane Fairfax

This week, I am going to explore some of Jane Austen’s secondary characters, one from each novel. Today, I am focusing on Jane Fairfax from Emma.

Was there ever a character better born to be a heroine than Jane Fairfax? Doomed to be a supporting character to Emma Woodhouse, she is far more accomplished and likeable than the heroine. She is clever and beloved by her friends, forced to leave them to make her own way in the world. Her one fault is entering into a secret engagement, of which, from the likes of Lucy Steele, it does not seem Austen entirely approves. Where Emma is selfish and has little patience for her silly neighbors, Jane Fairfax borders on perfection.

I am going to preface this by saying that I adore Emma Woodhouse. Really and truly, she is one of my favorite heroines in all of literature. However, I can see quite clearly that she is not perfect. It is her imperfection that makes me like her even more. She sometimes does not say the right things, her judgments regarding others are faulty, and she makes lists of things to do for personal improvement and rarely follows through on them. Emma is good at planning, good at figuring out the ideal way to behave, but she will not do the required amount of work. On the other hand, Jane Fairfax does.

Jane is accomplished at singing and at playing the piano, but it is clear that this is not simply natural talent. Miss Fairfax is a hard worker. When Emma would give up at things as being too time consuming or not worth the effort, Jane not only perseveres but achieves a true proficiency. Her work ethic is the exact opposite of two of the other major female characters: Emma and Mrs. Elton. Emma plans to be the best at things, but soon forgets about her lists. She is a true dilettante. Mrs. Elton is far worse than that. She slyly puts into conversation that her friends think she is just the best at everything and waits for all around her to agree. She is often disappointed.

From a writing perspective, it is interesting to think about why Jane Austen chose to focus on Emma rather than Jane Fairfax. She admitted that she thought, in Emma, she was creating a heroine whom no one besides herself would like much. The hidden engagement causes intrigue in the story, but Jane Fairfax has more in common with previous heroines. Where Emma is wealthy and declares that she has no intention of ever marrying, Jane is poor and will have to rely on her accomplishments in order to earn a living. Jane is kind, but will speak her mind when she feels compelled to, such as during her answer to Frank Churchill at Box Hill. Her story is hidden within the larger text of Emma, but Jane is still allowed to shine. She shines so strongly, in fact, that Emma is jealous and refuses to make friends with her, choosing instead the easily manipulated Harriet Smith.

I think that the ending Jane Fairfax is given is a bit unfair to her. I will assume that it is impossible to spoil a 200-year-old book and add that Jane Fairfax deserves better than Frank Churchill. I sometimes wonder about their past in Weymouth, what led practical Jane to enter a secret engagement with a man whose entire fortune depended on the whims of an unpredictable aunt, and I wish that Jane Austen had chosen to write that story as well. The Frank Churchill of Emma is not worthy of her. But perhaps the Frank Churchill with whom she fell so desperately in love at Weymouth would have appeared to better advantage.